As the voices of survivors of the Florida school shooting continue to reverberate around the world, there is one phrase that keeps coming up: this is different.
This time, it feels different.
Shootings usually fall into a, sadly, predictable cycle. The news breaks. Politicians share their condolences. The NRA declares it is ‘too soon’ to discuss gun violence. Interest spikes for two days. And within a week – maybe two, at best – it begins to fade into the oblivion of Wikipedia, providing little more than heated dinner party conversation and hurling the fight for gun control back to square one.
We saw this pattern when a white supremacist killed nine people in a historic Charleston black church in 2015. We saw it when a masked gunman opened fire in 2012 at cinema screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, killing 12. We saw it when a man shot dead 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016. We even saw it at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when 20 little children and 6 staff were murdered.
But it has now been almost two weeks since a 19-year-old allegedly walked into his old school in Parkland, Florida, with a semi-automatic rifle and began shooting students and staff. Seventeen people, including 14 students, lost their lives. Another 14 were injured. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested shortly after he shuffled out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, pretending to be just another terrified teenager. The Valentine's Day massacre became the 18th school shooting of 2018.
Google search data provides a snapshot into how public attention evolves. The below graph shows the number of searches in the US for "gun control" versus "gun shop" over a month-long period around the Sandy Hook school massacre, which occurred on December 12, 2012.