Will this time be any different?
As Americans try to process another horrific mass shooting, many have asked whether anything will change, given all the shootings that have come before. In one measurable way, however, the murder of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School is already different.
It is driving the largest organic push for gun control in many years. In fact, by Monday afternoon, calls for gun regulation on the White House website had eclipsed every other topic over the past year, including the previous record-holder, a petition advocating that Texas secede from the Union.
In roughly three days, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on the White House to back legislation limiting access to guns. That is the most support that any petition has drawn since the White House launched its “we the people” platform. The concise petition states that gun control is the “only” way to reduce “the number of people murdered in gun related deaths.” Striking a cooperative tone, it also advocates a “bipartisan discussion” to advance gun regulation constistent with the Second Amendment.
Under new rules instituted by the Obama administration, any petition submitted online that garners 25,000 supporters is entitled to an official response from the administration. Sometimes the official responses are dismissive—like the president’s announcement that he still opposes legalizing pot—but the mechanism can also advance neglected issues.
The unusually strong support for this White House petition comes as other online efforts are breaking records of their own.
Staci Sarkin, an activist in New York, wrote her own petition calling for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook shooting.
“How many more senseless and entirely PREVENTABLE shootings have to occur,” she wrote, “before we do something about Gun Control.” Sarkin used SignOn.org, an organizing hub run by MoveOn.org. When her petition began “spreading rapidly” this weekend over e-mail and Facebook, MoveOn says it decided to circulate the impassioned appeal to its e-mail list. (MoveOn has about 7 million members.)