Guns, Hate, and Social Media Warfare

There are several other special interests that do not have a high level of organization but rely heavily on grassroots support to perpetuate a perspective on an issue. Guns are an example of such a special interest. There are certainly well-organized gun advocacy groups, but there is no central organization that directs all activity. Unfortunately, the love of guns is another example of something that self-perpet- uates without the need for a central command.

There are an estimated 300 million guns in the United States and almost one in three Americans own at least one gun. The owners of these weapons are most likely white, married men aged 55 and older. Gun ownership in America is considered normal by many people; others view gun ownership, especially of automatic weapons, as a social problem that leads to violence and crime. People in the United States frequently use guns to harm each other; in 2013, gun violence killed 33,636 people and injured 84,258 others in the United States [4]. Gun ownership is increasing in the United States with robust gun sales year after year.

The primary mission of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is to protect the right to own guns in the United States, and it does a very good job of this. The NRA actively lobbies the U.S. Congress and contributes considerable sums of money to the reelection campaigns of congressional members who vote the way the NRA wants them to vote. The NRA is also active in state-level politics and exerts considerable influence in most states.

When gun ownership issues arise in websites, blogs, or social media pages, there is often a flurry of activity. This happens frequently after a mass shooting in the United States. Mass shootings are happening in the United States at an alarming and increasing frequency. Social media warfare tactics are used by both gun ownership advocates and by advocates for greater control of guns, especially automatic weapons. Both sides use self-validation tactics and a variety of approaches to influence opinions and actions and to recruit and indoctrinate people. Both sides also troll opposing social media posts and post adversarial comments in return.

There is a strong relationship between hate and gun ownership in the United States. This relationship is manifested in acts of violence by domestic terrorists. Domestic terrorism cases often involve firearms, arson, or explosives; crimes of fraud; and threats and hoaxes. Domestic terrorism includes acts within the territorial United States that are dangerous to human life, violate federal or state criminal laws, have no actual connection to international terrorists, and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence domestic government policy through intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of the government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Current domestic terrorism threats include animal rights extremists, eco-terrorists, anarchists, antigovernment extremists such as sovereign citizens and unauthorized militias, black separatists, white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists, and other unaffiliated disaffected Americans, including lone wolfs [5].

Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change. Special interest extremists continue to conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the public, to change attitudes toward issues considered important to their causes. These groups are at the extreme fringe of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other movements.

Some special interest extremists, most notably within the animal rights and environmental movements, increasingly have turned to vandalism and terrorist activity in attempts to further their causes [6]. These groups use social media warfare tactics to recruit and indoctrinate people and when possible use social media to expose the undesirable activities of their targets. Social media warfare tactics used by supporters of gun rights include

  • ? Self-validation to support the validity and legitimacy of a gun rights supporters’ position.
  • ? Influencing like-minded gun rights groups to adopt a position. use the same or similar rhetoric and justifications on an issue. and rally around the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • ? Reinforcing gun rights group partners’ position on an issue.
  • ? Recruitment and indoctrination of new members to a gun rights group.
  • ? Deception of the facts about guns and gun rights.
  • ? Trolling social media posts and debating the anti-gun viewpoint of the poster.

An informal survey of social media posts on gun rights conducted on September 2, 2016 revealed that it is easy to find pro-gun posts just about anywhere on the Internet and that they can be scary, and very often lack any sensible thought. The following list shows the essence of these posts:

  • ? Leftists have no limit to how far they will go to take our guns
  • ? Ban radical Islamists! Not our guns
  • ? Guns don’t kill people but Islamic terrorists do
  • ? Radical Democrat Party trying to strip citizens of their natural rights of gun ownership
  • ? If a radical Muslim kills people why blames guns?
  • ? Donate to the NRA and support a radical right-wing fear-mongering organization
  • ? Democrats push talk of radical gun control while Americans stockpile for civil war
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