In the wake of two horrific shootings sprees this week -- a Connecticut school massacre where the victims included as many as 20 children and an incident in an Oregon shopping mall -- the National Rifle Association kept its tradition of keeping silent after the tragedies.
And its opponents used the opportunity to attack in social media-- especially as the most recent communications on Facebook and Twitter, written before the tragedy, were promotional in nature. A Twitter search for "NRA" produced a tweet stream of invective that moved so fast it was hard to keep up with. In the comments of a Facebook post giving away an "auto emergency tool" as part of a contest, outraged people laid the blame for the shootings squarely at the feet of the NRA. Friday evening, the Facebook page disappeared. Whether it was hacked or taken down on purpose is unknown. NRA did not return calls or emails seeking comment on the matter. Facebook declined to comment as well.
But before it was taken down, the Facebook page made one thing very clear. Despite the attacks, the NRA has a massive support base. Indeed, a graphic on the page touted that the group had reached a milestone of 1.7 million likes. As part of that announcement, it thanked its friends and urged "Keep the Momentum Going! Ask Your Friends to 'Like' the NRA."
To put that number of fans into perspective, it's more than five times the number of Facebook fans that a brand like Zappos has and just shy of the number of fans Arby's restaurants has.
On Twitter too, its presence is growing. The NRA currently has over 53,000 followers. The group's website maintains a blog, and is currently running a 10-day promotion using both its Facebook and Twitter channels in a drive to gain new members.
On the other hand, with each instance of a mass shooting -- each more shocking than the previous -- the media and political outrage also seems to grow. Yet somehow, the organization and web presence of anti-gun advocates pales in comparison. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence had just 24,970 likes on its Facebook page on Friday and its Twitter page had about 17,500 followers.
In contrast to the NRA, it's been highly vocal about Friday's events, with 11 Facebook posts in a five-hour period and links on Twitter of a video of President Barack Obama delivering a tearful statement about the school shooting. Caroline Brewer at the Brady Center said she could not immediately comment or put us in touch with a social-media representative about extending the group's outreach. By Saturday morning, its like count on Facebook had grown to 32,869 and it had 18,193 followers on Twitter.
And while events like those of this week may re-energize pushes for stricter laws, the facts are that gun sales continue to climb. They rose during President Barack Obama's first four years in office, and Smith & Wesson posted record sales for its most recent quarter, up 48% over the year prior period.
Florida officials this week announced the state will be the first with 1 million concealed gun permits. Adam Putnam, Florida's commissioner of agriculture and consumer affairs, said the state had issued 993,200 active permits as of Nov. 30, and is expected to pass the 1 million mark next week. "Floridians have a great respect and appreciation for their Second Amendment rights," he said.--With reporting from Bloomberg News~