The American attention span for a gun control debate? Quite low, in fact

Danny Hayes offers a sober assessment of the probability that gun control will stay in the news for long after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre:

This phenomenon – the media’s intense interest in, and subsequent boredom with, a public policy problem – is known as the “issue-attention cycle.” A dramatic event, such as a shooting, brings an issue to the media’s attention, prompts an avalanche of news, and then an inevitable decline in coverage. Coverage of natural disasters is a particularly good example. Unless new events continue to draw journalists’ attention, they move on to other, fresher stories. The public then turns its concerns elsewhere, too.

But might this time be different? Perhaps. After all, the slaughter of innocent schoolchildren has no doubt gripped the media and public in a way that even the attempted murder of a member of Congress didn’t.

In time, however, the images of Sandy Hook will fade. And if gun control remains in the headlines a month from now, it will likely be only because Obama and the Democrats have taken up the political fight.


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