WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) - Earlier this year, the nation was embroiled in passionate debate regarding a divisive presidential election, with the vast majority of citizens firmly supporting either Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Social media users were especially exposed to the glut of opinions that surrounded the hotly contested election, perspectives that came not just from their friends, but from celebrities as well. Actors, musicians, athletes and other famous personalities took the Internet to make their voices and political sentiments heard – and often.
But during Friday’s press conference hosted by the National Rifle Association, many of those voices were uncharacteristically quiet, from typically socially engaged personalities like Lady Gaga to generally outspoken famous folks such as Charlie Sheen.
Controversy was sparked when the NRA declared Friday that guns and police officers in all American schools are what’s needed to stop the next killer “waiting in the wings,” essentially taking a no-retreat stance in the face of growing calls for gun control after the Connecticut shootings that claimed the lives of 26 children and school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, the group’s chief executive officer.
The statements drew widespread ire from many social network users and fierce support from others, most of whom took to the Internet to protest or celebrate LaPierre’s proposals. Politicians and journalists were especially active in the online discussion. All was mostly quiet in Hollywood during LaPierre’s comments, however.
Mostly, but not entirely – some, including controversial rocker Ted Nugent, have made multiple statements over the past few days regarding their opinions on gun control in the United States.
“Tell me more how mass murderers will obey another gunlaw [sic]. Definition of insane,” Nugent, an ardent supporter of gun rights, wrote in one Tweet yesterday.
He added soon after, “What kind of soulless evil monster would actually want more gunfreezones [sic] & guaranteed victims?”
Several other celebrities also spoke out, but in favor of drafting and enacting more stringent gun legislation.
Comedians and “Saturday Night Live” alumni Chris Rock and Ana Gasteyer both took aim at pro-gun culture.
“There’s no such thing as assault weapons.[P]unching somebody in the face that’s an assault. If this guy had assault weapons those kids would still be alive,” Rock wrote. “Lets [sic]start calling these weapons what they really are – “PEOPLE KILLERS.’”
“So glad we’ve waited all week for the #NRA to prove that they are even more hateful and obtuse than we’d thought,” Gasteyer added. “The #NRA must be what the Mayans were talking about.”
And musician Akon wrote a Tweet earlier this week urging Obama to consider reinstating the expired assault weapons ban – a Tweet which was shared by the likes of Lindsay Lohan.
But before Friday’s statement, even the NRA had adopted an official silence, breaking with their outspoken tradition of gun rights advocacy.
The nation’s largest gun-rights lobby broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a defiant presentation. The event was billed as a news conference, but NRA leaders took no questions. Twice, they were interrupted by banner-waving protesters, who were removed by security.
Some had predicted that after the slaughter of a score of elementary school children by a man using a semi-automatic rifle, the group might soften its stance, at least slightly. Instead, LaPierre delivered a 25-minute tirade against the notion that another gun law would stop killings in a culture where children are exposed daily to violence in video games, movies and music videos. He argued that guns are the solution, not the problem.
“Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else; as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work,” LaPierre said. “And by that I mean armed security.”
Obama says his administration has received an outpouring of support for stricter gun laws following last week’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut, telling respondents to an online petition, “We hear you.”
The president said in a video released Friday that he has been encouraged that many gun owners have said there are steps the nation can take to prevent more deadly shootings, “steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids.”
“I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts because if there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try,” Obama said.
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