Conspiracy theorists are harassing the families of women killed in mass shootings

Prior to the first vote on gun reform in the U.S. Senate, Jillian Soto (L), Miya Rahamim (2nd R) and Carol Gardner (R) join with other members of families of victims of gun violence as the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting are read aloud at the U.S. Capitol April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The families of young women who have been murdered in mass shootings have, in addition to their grief, other challenges to grapple with: “gun truthers,” or conspiracy theorists who believe mass shootings are staged events put on by actors orchestrated by the government. The family of Vicki Soto, the 27-year-old first grade teacher who was killed in the Newtown, Conn., shooting in 2014, has had to deal with their share of “hoaxers.” Vicki’s sister Jillian Soto told Cosmopolitan that during a race she organized in honor of her sister, a man named Matthew Mills approached her with his cellphone camera on and a photograph and began yelling about the shooting, asking Jillian why she was pretending her sister existed, saying the picture was Photoshopped.

“Never did I ever think that people could truly think things like Sandy Hook didn’t happen,” says Jillian.

The boyfriend and father of Alison Parker, a broadcast news reporter and anchor who was fatally shot along with her cameraman colleague on live TV in 2015, have also experienced the truthers. Chris Hurst, Alison’s boyfriend, said he got blasted on social media, including conspiracy theorist blogs, after talking about how in love the couple was during a TV appearance after the shooting. Alison’s father, Andy Parker, made his Facebook page private, but the comments and insults continued to come. And Sandy Anglin Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter Jessica Redfield Ghawi was killed in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, has been confronted by right wing radio host Alex Jones at a gun safety event they were attending.

Now, a social media strategist named Ryan Graney is working with the families of the victims, flagging and reporting comments to platforms like Twitter in an attempt to give the families some peace as they grieve.

Read the full story at Cosmopolitan.


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