Following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, where a lone gunman opened fire on a country music festival crowd, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500, heated discussion has erupted on social media about gun control in the U.S. As the number of victims continues to climb, celebrities like Mindy Kaling are calling for action—and pointing their followers in the direction of must-read Twitter accounts like @igorvolsky.
Every time this happens the only satisfaction I can get is from @igorvolsky‘s twitter feed holding our leaders accountable. Check him out.
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) October 3, 2017
Igor Volsky has been a journalist and self-proclaimed “professional advocate” for a long time, but it was his reaction to the 2015 shooting San Bernardino, California that turned him into the man behind a must-read Twitter account.
“After this particular shooting in San Bernardino, I saw members of congress who had voted down background checks tweeting their thoughts and prayers and it just really got to me,” says Volsky. “I thought, ‘These folks had an opportunity to really do something about gun violence and they chose not to, and now they’re pretending to care about it by tweeting how about how hard they’re praying.'”
Volsky says that “in a reflex,” he decided to quote tweet the condolence message of these lawmakers, adding the total amount of money that the representative had received from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
NRA dumped $922K into McConnell’s re-elect bid, so when it comes to preventing gun violence all u get is this tweet https://t.co/RsSvFRDlZr
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
Volsky, who is now the vice president at the Center for American Progress, crunched the (disturbing/infuriating) numbers using publicly available data from Open Secret, a site dedicated to making the money involved in U.S. politics more transparent. By searching the representatives that were tweeting their “thoughts and prayers” and sorting the data by election cycle, Volsky was able to add up the final count for how much each person received from the NRA and tweet that out to his growing list of followers. The 72 Republican politicians he publicly called out in 2015 received a total of more than $12.5 million USD from the NRA.
“What I think about is: how can I present this argument in a compelling way that encapsulates what people might be feeling, but I’m adding a little fact to it to put it over the top,” he says.
In 2016, Volsky found himself repeating this method after a gunman entered Pulse nightclub in Orlando and killed 49 people. Once again, lawmakers tweeted their thoughts and prayers, but had no plans for changes to gun control laws. So, once again, Volsky quote tweeted their sympathies with how much money they received from the gun lobby—this time, catching the attention of celebs like Tyler Oakley.
go read @igorvolsky‘s timeline right now. powerful. insane. infuriating.
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakley) June 12, 2016
Volsky, who also co-hosts a podcast called Thinking CAP, says that he sees a significant increase in followers after each of these mass shootings. (He currently has more than 176,000.)
“Unfortunately, how I appear to grow my followers is in the aftermath of these tweet storms,” he says. But he adds that celebrities like Oakley play a crucial role in fuelling these important discussions. “What really grows the account and, more importantly, what gets the message out there, is actually the tweets of celebrities.”
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, Volsky is at it once again—and Kaling is just one of the celebs taking notice.
“My goal here is to kind of wake folks up with how a special interest group that’s controlled by the gun industry has hijacked their democracy, outrage them—because it’s literally killing people—and push them into action and show them that change here is actually possible because we’ve seen it here within this short period of time,” says Volsky.
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) October 2, 2017
.@NRA spent over $30,000,000 to elect Donald Trump.
Trump spoke at @NRA convention
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) October 2, 2017
Even though this is now Volsky’s third tweet storm, which means America has experienced three events classified as the “deadliest mass shooting in history” in just a few years, he says he does believe that, with enough support, gun control laws can and will change. He cites the fact that despite President Donald Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—it remains “the law of the land” because people called their representatives, showed up at town halls and held rallies. Volsky hopes that in some small way, his tweets can do the same for gun control.
“I want people to know that they have the power to change this,” says Volsky. “The NRA gives a lot of money to these lawmakers, but that’s nothing compared to the people’s power and the pressure they can be putting on their elected officials to actually do something about gun violence.”