The entire country is discussing gun laws, legislation to stop mass shootings, and mental health issues as regarding the Second Amendment this week. And when I say “entire country” I mean newspapers and citizens, not the government. Additionally there’s been few calls for gun bans or the like and less passion for action than possibly ever before. So what’s going on here? Why hasn’t this taken off in the media the way Sandy Hook did?
My hypothesis is that this shooting doesn’t fit the usual media narrative which people have become familiar with. This wasn’t a middle class White male with a semi-automatic rifle or pistol or both. That’s been the narrative for years now…largely because it’s also been true. White males disproportionately commit these crimes. The gun culture in the US is also predominantly White males. So, media-wise, you have a convergence there. It’s factual and can be combined, White people like guns, White people commit mass shootings=White gun owners are murderers.
Don’t obfuscate, you know this to be true. You’ve read the same comments sections I have. You’ve read the same op/eds. You’ve heard the same culture war arguments about the need to ban large capacity magazines and get rid of AR-15s, the purposeful confusion created by calling it an “automatic weapon” which is in no way true.
So, what do we have here? Let me paint the picture. On Monday a Black male with a history of minor behavioral problems (more severe recently) shot and killed 13 people with a shotgun at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. That’s what happened and it fits none of the common media narratives we’ve heard for over ten years. But much of the media that covered this story desperately wanted it to fit and so you had the following false assertions being made. Bold or out of quotes is me:
- The New York Times claims the following: “The suspect in the killing of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday test-fired an AR-15 assault rifle at a Virginia gun store last week but was stopped from buying one because state law there prohibits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers, according to two senior law enforcement officials.” This is not true. Virginia does not prohibit the sale of the AR-15 to out of state buyers. The sources are incorrect so why is this being reported? Because, in order to re-establish the familiar narrative the AR-15 must appear in the story. That’s the only way to remind the reader of the narrative. Almost no one considers a pump shotgun to be a mass slaying weapon. The fact is that….
“a person may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a federal firearms licensee’s premises in any state, provided the sale complies with state laws, which it would in this case.”
- The New York Daily News ran a front page headline which read “Same Gun Different Slay” in reference to the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting and the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school. No AR-15 was used in the Navy Yard shooting. The Daily News ran with this before they had confirmation from authorities on what weapon was used. Sensationalism sells. It’s like the internet commenter sensation of getting to type “First.” They also ran this completely inaccurate op/ed by Mike Lupica falsely claiming an AR was recovered at the scene.
- Buzzfeed initially reported that the gun used in the shooting was an AR-15 but has since corrected their story so that it’s no longer even about the Navy Yard shooting. Instead, it’s about AR-15 shootings. Nice going there guys. Way to cover your tracks. I guess this shooting isn’t important anymore since a shotgun was used instead of an AR. This story entitled “Police Chief Agrees George Zimmerman Is A “Sandy Hook, Aurora Waiting To Happen” is prominently linked at the bottom of the page. You can practically hear the editor from his office. “Get back to the narrative! White men, assault weapons!”
- Piers Morgan repeated the bad reporting on Monday evening saying that the Navy Yard “was still infiltrated by a man with a legally purchased AR-15, who just committed the same kind of atrocity as we saw at Sandy Hook, and Aurora.”
It’s just bad reporting all around and it’s so clearly driven by the need to report in a vein that’s familiar to viewers and readers. It’s a desire to make the issue less complicated and it dehumanizes the victims and the victimizer by turning them into culture war pawns. That’s not right to them and it’s not right to the reader/viewers. Never mentioned is how much deadlier a shotgun is in close quarters like the inside of a building, how much less accuracy it requires, how long it takes to pump the action on a Remington 870 (hardly any), or how many rounds the 870 holds (5 or 7 depending on accessories). It’s never discussed that this is far less than the ten shot round maximum that’s been discussed by gun control advocates. It’s not been discussed because the idea that 13 people can be killed with a weapon that holds less rounds than a revolver nukes the entire concept of stopping these shootings with ammunition controls. Here’s the gun:
This sort of thing burns my butt. I’m not a big culture warrior for any side, I think it’s detrimental to our democracy. I think it just makes people hate one another. Then again, I guess it does sell papers…whether the falsehoods printed in them get forcefully corrected or not. So, understand one thing, this story doesn’t fit the narrative therefore it is not useful to interested parties. It will be gone before the month ends, likely by Thursday evening.