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United States Gun control Massacre Donald Trump

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Florida shooting: #BoycottNRA campaign bears fruit

David Hogg, a student at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, during a rally calling for more gun control, 17 February 2018. Jonathan Drake / REUTERS

Student survivors of a shooting massacre in the US have launched a social media campaign which has already seen 20 companies cut ties with the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, where 17 students and staff were gunned down by a former student on 14 February, is set to reopen on Wednesday.

Since the massacre, in which dozens were injured, the debate over gun control has been reignited, fuelled by the activism of students who survived.

Several spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington, urging US lawmakers to curb or end sales of semi-automatic weapons like the one that was used to slaughter their fellow students.

Democratic Party represantives hailed the young activists as an inspiration.

Shock and sorrow has turned to sheer anger and the students' Twitter hashtag #BOYCOTT NRA campaign has begun to gain ground, especially in the business sector.

Advertisers cut NRA ties

The fact that big companies such as insurance broker Met Life, hotel chain Best Western, Delta and United airlines, have cut their ties to the NRA, illustrates the effectiveness of the social media campaign spearheaded by students, David Caplan, an editor at ABCNews.com told RFI.

He says the student messages are refreshing, they move away from the same old politicians and lobby groups who advocate gun control and give a new energy to the debate.

What is also interesting in this case, according to Caplan, is that even supporters of President Donald Trump are seeking a change in ways of handling gun violence.

The support base of die-hard Trump fans on the gun issue has begun to waver after this shooting, he says.

Polls are showing showing overwhelming public support for stricter gun laws, and even Trump, usually a supporter of the NRA, has begun taking small steps towards towards a compromise.

He recently called for closing gaps in a national background check system, and suggested raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for some gun purchases, a policy opposed by the NRA.

Trump has controversially pushed for arming teachers as a first line of defence, an approach favored by the NRA but widely criticised by teachers themselves as an impractical and unreasonable burden on them.

Will the Parkland tragedy change anything?

The massacre was the deadliest school shooting since 2012, when 26 people were killed in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Before that, there was the 1999 Colombine school shooting where 12 students and one teacher were shot dead. And this is just to name a couple of the hundreds of shootings over the past decade.

Caplan says Parkland is different, particularly because of the high number of casualties, as well as from a political standpoint.

"It's interesting because it also took place in an area which is pretty much pro-Trump, even though the sheriff is a Democrat," he points out. "One of the most vocal student fathers in the debate was wearing a Trump 2020 shirt, so it's not your typical polarising debate."

The students involved with the campaign "are a little bit older and more savvy with social media," Caplan says. "With Sandy Hook, the victims were too young to take on such a vocal role".

And, at the time of the Colombine attack, "we weren't as advanced at disseminating messages over social media", he adds.

These factors combined make a "perfect storm, so to speak, to make it be a viable movement and make it successful".

Today's advocates understand the power of social media to get their message across. This might just push the gun control debate to the next level.