(RNN) - As the gun control debate heats up in America, several conspiracy theories have gained traction online claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax and even that President Barack Obama has ordered assassinations of gun rights advocates - all so the government can take away people's guns.
The theories have little if any hard evidence backing their claims. But with the power of social media, blogs, and a growing fear among gun rights activists that the Second Amendment is under attack, the claims have proliferated and many online have expressed belief that the charges are credible.
The Sandy Hook hoax has been propelled by a video that has gone super-viral with approximately 10 million views in just one week.
The video claims that there was at least one more shooter in the attack, that the grieving parents are actors playing a part, and web pages making reference to the shooting - including Facebook memorial pages for victims - were created before the attack took place.
The claims have been debunked on several websites, including Snopes.com, mainly by simply pointing to the lack of evidence.
But another theory has been circulating, and it is about as strange as the Sandy hook hoax conspiracy.
The other theory floating on the internet has not drawn as much attention as the "Sandy Hook hoax," but it has become a staple topic on websites and blogs that often talk about government cover-ups and conspiracies, such as Infowars.com and NaturalNews.com.
This theory centers on the recent deaths of two popular personalities among gun enthusiasts: John Noveske, the owner of Noveske Rifleworks and a well-respected figure in the gun industry and Keith Ratliff, a gun manufacturer and weapons importer who helped produce FPS Russia, a YouTube channel featuring weapons demonstrations that has had more than 500 million views - good enough for top 10 on the social media site.
The two men - both only in their 30s - died within two days of each other.
Noveske died in a car crash on Jan. 5. And two days before that, Ratliff was found dead in his weapons-making business with a bullet in the back of his head.
Infowars.com has been at the center of the rumor. It is a site run by Alex Jones, a popular radio host who has been praised for his coverage of U.S. drone activity but has also drawn ridicule for making claims about such things as juice boxes being part of a government plan to turn kids into homosexuals. He has devoted much web space to this theory, as has NaturalNews.com, a site devoted to news about alternative theories to politics and health, and EUTimes.com, a site that the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges has ties to white supremacists.
The theory argues that Noveske and Ratliff were targeted because they had great influence in the gun industry and were public about their beliefs that the Obama administration wants to restrict gun rights.
The EU Times goes one step further, claiming "Obama death squads" made the hits, citing an unnamed and unlinked to report by Russian security forces.
The publication claims that in the weeks before his death, Noveske made several Facebook posts critical of gun control talk in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. He also posted a statement by a friend arguing that mass shooters were under the control of psychotropic drugs - a statement several proponents of this theory claim to be the "post that got him killed."
Ratliff's death was ruled a homicide by authorities in his home state of Georgia, but no official explanation has yet to be delivered.
According to the EU Times, the death squads aim to send a "chilling message to all who oppose their plan to totally disarm the American people."
The belief that a Sandy Hook hoax and two deaths of gun rights proponents were conducted as a plan to create more gun control to disarm the American public has attracted support from many corners, including Infowars and Natural News commenters. And Noveske's Facebook page is full of people arguing that he died as a result of a conspiracy.
One commenter wrote: "It's a [expletive] government conspiracy to make guns look dangerous so they can come take them from us! I live out in the sticks and raised on shotguns and so is all my family. Come and get it boys. I will die before I disarm! DONT TREAD ON ME!"
Another wrote: "…Noveske was murdered by the government because he spoke the truth about the government and Big Pharma being corrupt psychopaths and the government murdered him because the government does not want people to wake up and realize that the government and Big Pharma are in fact lying to the public all the time."
Many of the comments and articles point fingers at the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which has been roundly criticized for allowing citizens to be detained indefinitely and, some argue, allows the president to maintain a "kill list" that can include American citizens.
But even though Ratliff's death was no question a homicide, there seems to be little talk of a conspiracy to kill him outside of NaturalNews and EUTimes. A look at their FPS Russia's Facebook page hardly mentions anything about a conspiracy.
And the star of the videos, Kyle Myers, tweeted: "…lots of crazy rumors out there."
No matter what one thinks of the rumors, they have had consequences outside of the gun control debate.
According to Hartford, CT, TV station WFSB, Gene Rosen, a 62-year-old man who took care of six children after they escaped the Sandy Hook carnage, has been harassed and threatened by conspiracy theorists.
Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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