WASHINGTON - The powerful US gun lobby has turned silent on social media, apparently suspending its Facebook page, after last week's school massacre that took the lives of 20 small children and six adults.
The Facebook page for the National Rifle Association, which boasted on Twitter last week that it had 1.7 million "likes," was unavailable Monday.
The NRA, one of the most influential lobby groups in Washington, has been the target of intense criticism for its stand on easy gun regulations, blamed in attacks including the horrific slayings last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.
On Facebook, the NRA presence was reduced to several small fan pages and closed groups.
On Twitter, the main NRA account with some 63,800 followers has been silent since a tweet Friday about a giveaway. The group had been previously active on Twitter, tweeting news stories about weapons including one which said Florida was nearing one million permits for concealed weapons.
The trade publication AdWeek, which was among the first to report the missing Facebook page, said the gun lobby group appeared to want to avoid debate on its pages.
"Facebook news feeds and Twitter streams have been inundated with debate about whether the nation's politicians should enact federal gun-control legislation in reaction to the recent string of mass shootings," AdWeek said.
"The conversation has ranged from typically political to thoughtful to downright ugly."
On Twitter, pro- and anti-gun control proponents traded tweets, many using the #NoWayNRA hashtag.
"The 'right to bear arms' is not more important than a child's right to grow up," one Twitter user wrote.
But another tweeted: "when the politicians who kill babies, arm cartels & radical Jihadists and spend us to oblivion give up their guns, I will too."
Last week's crime, in which the shooter carried a high-powered, military style rifle and two handguns, may have spurred change in the political landscape regarding rules on weapons ownership.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California promised to introduce a bill to ban assault weapons on the very first day of the next Congress, January 3.
And on Monday, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut called for a broad commission that could bring opponents on the issue together to discuss curbing gun deaths.
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