Guns and Weapons

Americans' interest in gun control isn't going away

Key Points
  • Data from Google searches show Americans are still searching the words "gun control."
  • Those searches typically spike following mass shooting events, then fall off quickly.
  • Something could be different this time.
Americans' interest in gun control isn't going away

The storyline has become so commonplace it's almost numbing: A disaffected male shoots and kills innocent people. The media writes a series of breaking news pieces and next-day analyses. A few days later, most of us go back to our normal lives.

But something different is happening in the wake of last week's deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida. Interest in "gun control" has remained elevated for days after the shooting, according to a CNBC analysis of Google searches. Typically, searches for "gun control" spike a day or two following a mass shooting event and then fall quickly back to normal levels.

President Donald Trump's listening session at the White House and nationwide student protests have helped keep the topic in the public eye. On Thursday, a number of companies cut ties with the National Rifle Association amid pressure from customers. And shares of gun makers Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands are down 3.6 percent and 4.5 percent on Friday, respectively.

Google releases aggregated search data through its Trends site. The data are delayed a few days and can be broken down by location, date and topic. It's all anonymized and normalized so in a given time period, the highest search volume is indexed to 100. That means we can't tell how many total searches are being done for a given term, just how the trend compares with other time periods.

The data aren't granular enough for us to know the intention or political persuasion of the people searching "gun control," but the trend is striking. Since the shooting, Google published additional data on firearm-related searches, noting that typically "gun control" is searched more than "gun shop" in just a few states.

In the past week, every state in the union has searched "gun control" more.

Still, it's important to keep these data in context. Both "bitcoin" and "snapchat" were searched about three times as much as "gun control" on Feb. 21, the most recent data available.