The Newtown Shooting Really Has Changed the Conversation on Gun Control, as Google Trends Can Show

For a long, sad time, with each mass shooting incident came a wave of passion about gun control -- a wave that pummeled the shore for a few days, before flowing out to sea with the arrival of another news cycle.

We can see this, easily, in the visualized data of our collective Google searches. With "gun control" on the national consciousness following a tragedy, the line spikes, but then it returns to about the same place where it was to begin with. Here, for example, are the U.S. searches for "gun control" during the 46 months of Barack Obama's presidency that took place before the Newtown shooting:

Compare that with this next graph, which shows the same 46 months *plus* the final month of 2012 and the first 11 days of 2013. The entire scale of the graph is different. What was once a series of tall peaks and deep valleys is now rolling hills, dwarfed by the spike following the Newtown shooting.

Now, let's zoom in on just the most recent period, from November 2012 to present. Here you can see not just how much greater the Newtown peak is, but how the rate has remained elevated since. (It seems that the bump at the beginning of December came on the heels of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide.)

As Hendrik Hertzberg wrote of gun-related sentiment in a recent issue of The New Yorker, "There is, for the moment, a perceptible change in the weather." The data bears that out. But, as he continued, "Even a change in the climate, though, may not be enough" to bring about a change in policy. Google, for its part, is silent on that matter.

Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Technology

Just In