WASHINGTON -- There have been many instances of mass gun violence during the presidency of Barack Obama. Some faded away without much public recognition, while others grabbed the attention of the national press and motivated members of Congress to dust off long-shelved legislative responses.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., nearly one year ago was different than all the others, and not only because it involved 20 first-graders being massacred in their classrooms by a madman. It sparked an unprecedented public debate over gun violence in the United States. By wide margins, more Americans tuned into the ongoing discussion about gun control than they did after prior incidents, including the shooting at Fort Hood, the shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the near-assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
They continued to pay attention in subsequent weeks, as the president and Democrats in Congress began pushing bills to expand background checks, limit the availability of assault weapons and cap the size of ammunition magazines. None of those bills passed. And, over time, Americans' attention faded away.
For a sense of the political magnitude of the Newtown shooting, look at this chart comparing Google searches of "gun control," "gun violence" and "background checks" throughout Obama's time in office:
...and a chart showing the major instances of gun violence that took place in those years:
Here's a chart comparing Google searches of "gun control," "gun violence" and "background checks" in the year since the Sandy Hook shooting:
...and the major political and legislative moments that occurred in the past year:
Paige Lavender contributed reporting.