Social media sentiment has spoken. 

America now stands at a major crossroads, reassessing Hollywood’s iconic fetish for gory bloodshed with the reality of gun violence in America. 

Pivotal in leading the public demand to wrest U.S. gun control policy away from the NRA—whose Capitol Hill lobbyists surreptitiously have shaped gun policy for decades—is Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which recently released a report detailing how NRA and other lobbyists effectively dictate current U.S. gun policy.  Further, and in a test of her own political mettle, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ)—who survived a mass shooting during a public meeting she held in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, near Tucson—also has launched a fund-raising effort to support legislation for better gun control. 

A raft of riders known as the “Tiahrt amendments,” named after former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS),  go so far as restricting the collection of gun data by such Federal agencies as the Department of Justice (which includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).  The extent to which Congress shamefully has allowed NRA lobbyists to dictate public gun policy is reflected in the 1996 NRA campaign against the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), wherein NRA lobbyists convinced legislators to pull $2.6 million spending on gun-related research.

 

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It comes as no surprise that such retailers as Walmart—the biggest gun retailer in the U.S.—had announced plans to send representatives to Washington to talk gun control in sessions organized and held this week by Vice President Joe Biden.  However, at the last minute they were a no show, citing scheduling conflicts.  While Walmart has engaged in dialogue with the White House since the horrific mass shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, historically the retailer’s gun sales policy has been capricious.  In fact, the Bushmaster AE-15—one of the weapons used in the deadly shootings—is sold at 1,700 Walmart stores nationwide.  The retailer sells guns in nearly half of its stores (1,750), reflecting an increase since its prior cutback to one-third of its stores in 2011.

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As the debate over gun control heats up in Washington, members of Congress should take heed of the social sentiment of their constituents similar to our monitoring of social discourse in NetBase.  Social discovery—particularly in politics—is neither rocket science nor a trick mirror reflection of constituent sentiment.  It is an authentic, unbiased dive into the hearts and minds of Americans, uncovering what U.S. citizens are feeling and saying and how they are emoting on the subject. 

The time has come for Congress to dialogue with their constituents—when and where the conversation is taking place, and in real time.  When Walmart is filtered in NetBase for “guns,” “gun control” and “Sandy Hook,” the constituent conversation breakdown is clear.  At minimum, U.S. voters should mandate their Congressional representatives heed Social Media 101: Listening.

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Social intelligence also can predict voter behavior, and never before have politicians been more obliged to be transparent as today. 

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As the Walmart word cloud reflects, netizens unquestionably have associated Walmart with Newtown.  Social responsibility demands that Walmart heed the social welfare of the communities it serves—and not hypocritically hide behind its yellow smiley face mascot.   The “big box gun store” finally is being held accountable in a mounting social effort. 

Social media doesn’t lie.