Several media outlets that covered a Florida shooting making national headlines showed an old mugshot of the Latino victim taken after an unrelated past arrest, even though other pictures of the victim were available.
On July 23, Candelario Gonzalez was shot to death in front of his family, allegedly by Robert Doyle, following a road-rage dispute in Beverly Hills, Florida. Doyle was arrested at the scene and charged with second-degree murder.
According to a report by New York's Daily News, both Doyle and an occupant in Gonzalez's car called 911 following a conflict between the two men on the road. "Florida grandfather" Gonzalez told the operator that he was going to follow Doyle to his house to learn his address. In his call, Doyle told the 911 operator, "My gun is already out. It's cocked and locked," and said he was going to shoot Gonzalez in the head. When both cars arrived at Doyle's residence, Gonzalez exited his vehicle. According to a recording of the 911 call, Gonzalez's wife yelled, "Don't shoot!" before Gonzalez was shot multiple times in front of his daughter and granddaughter. Doyle allegedly then held Gonzalez's family at gunpoint. Witnesses say Gonzalez was backing away from Doyle when he was killed.
The tragedy was covered by both English and Spanish-language media, some of which showed a mugshot of Gonzalez in their reports, despite the apparent availability of other images. (Court records show that Gonzalez pled guilty to two nonviolent misdemeanors in 2014.)
Tampa Bay's ABC affiliate, WFTS, and its website, ABC Action News, as well as Los Angeles' Telemundo affiliate KVEA, all showed Gonzalez's mug shot. The July 27 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 went even further, showing a side-by-side picture of both the shooter and victim's mugshots. These same outlets also showed images of the victim with his family, proving that other pictures were available.
Negative imagery in the media reinforces existing negative stereotypes about minorities. According to a nationwide 2012 study conducted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, people exposed to negative portrayals of Hispanics in the news "are most likely to think of Latinos in association with a culture of crime and gangs." Media Matters has documented how news outlets exacerbate the problem.
Under Florida law, Doyle can choose to avail himself of Florida's controversial and expansive "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law. This particular Florida law, which was signed by then Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005, will give Doyle the opportunity to participate in a pre-trial hearing to determine if the charges against him should be dismissed. If he ends up on trial and the case goes to a jury, instructions given by the judge to the jury will include "Stand Your Ground's" wide-ranging definition of justifiable homicide.
As reported by ThinkProgress, a 2014 Urban Institute study on "Stand Your Ground" found that "in cases with black or Hispanic victims, the killings were found justified by the Stand Your Ground law 78 percent of the time, compared to 56 percent in cases with white victims" - a lopsided finding that underscores the importance of responsible media coverage of incidents like this, before the suspect goes to trial.
Authorities say that Doyle was in possession of a valid permit to carry a concealed gun.
Image of Candelario Gonzales via screenshot
UPDATED: In another continuation of the dismaying trend of media portraying minority victims with negative imagery, NBC, BBC, CNN and Univision chose to use a mug shot of Sam Dubose -- the victim of a July 19 fatal police shooting. Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been indicted for the killing. Social media users pointed out that there were other available images that could have been used in the coverage:
As outrage continued over the killing of tourist attraction Cecil the lion by a hunter in Zimbabwe, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent called the controversy "a lie" and a "joke," adding, "God are people stupid."
The 13-year-old lion was killed by an American hunter after reportedly being lured outside of the confines of Hwange National Park sometime in early July. Cecil rose to fame and became a major tourist attraction after his participation in a scientific study that involved GPS tracking of his movements.
The BBC gave an account of the hunt, which involved wounding Cecil with a crossbow before killing him with a gun more than a day later, and noted that Cecil's cubs will now be killed:
He is believed to have been killed on 1 July but the carcass was not discovered until a few days later.
The ZCTF said the hunters had used bait to lure him outside Hwange National Park during a night-time pursuit.
Mr Palmer is said to have shot Cecil with a crossbow, injuring the animal. The group didn't find the wounded lion until 40 hours later, when he was shot dead with a gun.
The animal had a GPS collar fitted for a research project by UK-based Oxford University that allowed authorities to track its movements. The hunters tried to destroy it, but failed, according to the ZCTF.
On Monday, the head of the ZCTF told the BBC that Cecil "never bothered anybody" and was "one of the most beautiful animals to look at".
The six cubs of Cecil will now be killed by the new male lion in the pride, Johnny Rodrigues added, in order to encourage the lionesses to mate with him.
Controversy over the killing grew in recent days with the identification of Cecil's killer as an American dentist, leading to widespread condemnation of the man. The hunter, who previously pled guilty to a hunting-related crime in the United States, has said that he did not intend to kill Cecil. Still, the man is reportedly now wanted for poaching in Zimbabwe and may be the subject of a congressional inquiry.
On Facebook, Nugent attacked those upset by Cecil's killing on July 28, writing, "the whole story is a lie. ... I will write a full piece on this joke asap. God are people stupid."
NRA figures have previously defended controversial hunting practices. In September 2013, widespread outrage occurred after the host of NRA-sponsored hunting show Under Wild Skies, Tony Makris, shot an elephant in the face. Makris, who has longstanding ties to the NRA, responded to outrage over his hunt by comparing his critics to Hitler. NBC Sports canceled the show, citing Makris' "outrageous and unacceptable" comments.
Following last week's mass shooting at a Louisiana movie theater, Republican presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed that because of "tougher laws" in his state, the gunman's mental health record would have been entered into the national background check system, which would have prevented him from legally buying a gun. The New York Times unquestioningly repeated Jindal's claims, even though Louisiana has submitted less than 3 percent of eligible disqualifying mental health records into the system, and Jindal has presided over a weakening of Louisiana's already lax gun laws.
The National Rifle Association debuted the third season of its web series Noir with the claim that singling out assault weapons for bans is a "form of tactical Jim Crow-style segregation."
Launched in 2014, Noir is the flagship program in the the NRA's "Freestyle" network, a digital platform that seeks to attract a younger audience to replace the NRA's aging demographic. The show is hosted by Colion Noir, a popular gun blogger turned NRA News commentator, and is sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg.
During the show's July 22 season debut, Noir warned about the prospect of a future assault weapons ban following a high-profile shooting, and claimed that selecting which guns fall within a ban is a "form of tactical Jim Crow-style segregation -- where if you don't shoot that kind of gun, you don't care what happens to it -- that will cause us to all lose our rights."
"Ironically, most guns are separate but pretty equal," Noir added.
NOIR: Let's not forget that in '94, the assault weapons ban would have banned all of these guns, the same ban they tried to reinstate in 2013. I can see the hunting guy in his fluorescent orange-colored Gucci hunting vest shrugging his shoulders like, "I give two shits about a tactical AR[-15]," not realizing that all it takes for them to want to ban his beloved gun of choice is a D.C. sniper copycat and a bunch of clueless anti-gunners realizing that the .30-06 [caliber round] can punch a hole through space and time.
It's this form of tactical Jim Crow-style segregation -- where if you don't shoot that kind of gun, you don't care what happens to it -- that will cause us to all lose our rights. Ironically, most guns are separate but pretty equal.
This is not the first time an NRA News commentator has invoked racist Jim Crow laws when talking about guns. During a July 2014 commentary, NRA News commentator Dom Raso claimed laws relating to the buying, owning, and carrying of firearms are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws.
The NRA was also widely derided in January 2013 after a past president of the organization said on NRA News that the assault weapons ban proposed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was like racial discrimination because "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
To Fox News, civilians who show up toting assault weapons to voluntarily "guard" military recruiting centers -- as many have done since the recent attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- are "stepping up" in "a very patriotic move" and "protecting our military." But the U.S. Army reportedly says armed civilians who stand outside of these facilities may "mean well" but the military "cannot assume this in every case" and such situations should be reported to local law enforcement.
On the morning of July 16, a 24-year-old man drove to a military recruiting center in a Chattanooga strip mall and opened fire, spraying the storefront's bulletproof glass with dozens of rounds fired from an assault weapon. He then drove to a nearby naval facility and killed four Marines and one sailor before being fatally shot by police.
In the wake of the shootings, civilians in several states that allow open carry of assault weapons donned camouflage or tactical gear and "stood guard" outside military recruitment centers in what they call "Operation Hero Guard."
Fox News figures have applauded the phenomenon, but the U.S. Army Command Operations Center has circulated a letter, according to Stars And Stripes, saying that the "well-meaning" armed civilians may actually be detrimental to the security of the military facilities they think they're protecting.
Most national media outlets have covered the story of armed civilians at military recruitment centers but Fox News has gone further, endorsing the practice and twice inviting volunteer guards on Fox shows to be interviewed.
On the July 22 broadcast of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said "armed Americans now stepping up to guard recruiting centers across the nation" before interviewing one volunteer, who told him, "I have people on our Facebook page all the time that are a little bit further away that can't come here, and I said, 'Just go out and start it in your community, just one person can make a difference.'"
Later in the same broadcast, during a live report from a recruiting office in New York's Times Square, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. criticized current policies on who can carry guns at military facilities, and described "a citizen militia that is protecting our military across the country, showing up with AR-15s and weapons to say 'we stand with you.'"
The July 22 broadcast of Fox News' America's Newsroom saw host Martha MacCallum telling viewers, "In some towns, volunteers are already out there standing guard in a very patriotic move to protect those recruiting centers on their own because the military can't take any guns into those recruiting centers." (Current regulations would actually allow authorized military law enforcement to carry firearms at military recruiting centers, although in practice law enforcement have not been assigned by the Department of Defense to these locations.)
During the July 21 edition of The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly introduced her interview with one of the armed volunteers by saying that Obama "promised he can do what he can to keep our military safe, our next guest isn't betting on it."
But according to a policy letter reportedly issued by the Army Command Operations Center-Security Division and obtained by Stars and Stripes, armed civilians are not necessarily improving the security of military recruitment centers. The letter says that the Army is "sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior."
According to Stars and Stripes, the letter instructs military recruiters not to approach armed civilians and adds, "If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement." Recruiters are also instructed to file an Army security report following any interaction with armed civilians.
According to a spokesperson from Army Recruiting Command, instead of standing outside of recruiting centers with guns, "local communities can support our security by reporting suspicious activity, particularly around recruiting centers."
The Stars and Stripes report noted that civilians affiliated with the Oath Keepers and "3 percenters" have been spotted with guns at recruiting centers. Both of these organizations are associated with the radical far-right fringe. The "3 percenter" movement was founded by militia leader Mike Vanderboegh as a force to violently overthrow a supposedly tyrannical federal government.
According to an analysis of public mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, civilians with guns have never stopped attacks like the one seen in Chattanooga.
After a gunman killed nine people in a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, gun safety advocates responded with calls to expand the national background check system. Just as quickly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) reacted to those calls, slamming gun safety groups for "exploiting" the tragedy for "political purposes."
One month later, another gunman killed five members of the military at a naval facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The NRA was again quick to respond, but this time claimed the incident provided proof that firearm policies on military bases must be changed to loosen the rules about service members carrying guns.
So which is it? The NRA apparently thinks it is exploitative to discuss gun violence following mass shootings -- unless, of course, the discussion is about why we should loosen gun laws. Their stance on the issue changes based on how to best advance the organization's interests.
Following the mass murder at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, the NRA went into its post-mass shooting standard operating procedure -- shutting down its social media accounts and refusing to speak to the press. Two days later, the NRA's media arm addressed the shooting, with NRA News host Cam Edwards opining that it was "completely inappropriate" to discuss gun policies the day after the incident, adding, "I did not receive a single email communication chastising me or complaining that we should have been talking about policy and politics as opposed to remembering the victims in Charleston."
Soon, though, the NRA was forced to issue an official statement after one of its board members created controversy by blaming the shooting on the church's slain pastor, who was a supporter of gun safety policies.
While distancing itself from the board member's comments, the NRA claimed on June 20 that out of "respect" for the victims, "we do not feel that this is [a] appropriate time for a political debate," adding, "We will have no further comment until all the facts are known."
Three weeks later, the NRA did offer an additional comment on the Charleston shooting, following a push by gun safety advocates for expanded background checks. (It would later be revealed that the gunman was able to purchase a weapon despite being legally prohibited because of an NRA-backed loophole in federal law.) In a July 8 statement attacking gun safety groups, the NRA said, "gun control advocates are offering a solution that won't solve the problem. Even they admit that the legislation they are pushing wouldn't have prevented the tragic crimes they are exploiting for political purposes."
The NRA has continued to advance this narrative on the Charleston shooting and proposed gun law reforms. In a July 17 post on the website of its lobbying arm, the NRA lashed out at Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) after the South Carolina congressman proposed eliminating the NRA-backed loophole that helped arm the Charleston gunman.
Clyburn was "exploiting a recent tragedy" according to the NRA, which also said, "Gun control advocates are shameless in their willingness to exploit tragedy to achieve their agenda." The NRA re-published its attack on Clyburn at the conservative news website Daily Caller on July 19.
The very next day, the NRA's top lobbyist used the July 16 Chattanooga mass shooting to call for changes to gun laws, telling Military Times, "It's outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace. Congress should pursue a legislative fix to ensure that our service men and women are allowed to defend themselves on U.S. soil."
So when the NRA called for a policy change it claimed was justified by the Chattanooga shooting, was it exploiting those victims?
The fact is that after pretty much any high-profile national event, mass shooting or otherwise, policy debates are often triggered. In the NRA's hypocritical world view, however, calls for stronger gun laws are disrespectful, exploitative, and shameless -- while calls for less restrictions are sensible, timely, and relevant. Even worse, the gun group's post-shooting strategy operates from behind a façade of "respect" for the victims.
The NRA's doublespeak on Charleston and Chattanooga, however, reveals that its real concern is its own agenda.
The National Rifle Association is defending the loophole in federal law that allowed the alleged killer of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church to buy a gun without a completed background check by downplaying that thousands of dangerous people exploit the loophole each year to obtain guns.
On July 10, FBI Director James Comey announced that Dylann Storm Roof was ineligible under federal law to buy the gun used in the attack because of a prior admission to drug possession.
Due to paperwork errors, however, an employee at the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which processes background checks for guns sold by licensed dealers, was unable to locate and view Roof's arrest record, despite knowing that one existed somewhere.
Under the current background check system, if a check cannot be completed within three business days, it may proceed at the gun dealer's discretion in what is known as a "default proceed" sale. According to the FBI, this is how Roof's sale was completed.
In a July 17 post on its lobbying website, the NRA sought to defend the loophole it helped create by attacking a legislative proposal by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to eliminate "default proceed" sales, arguing that the congressman was "exploiting a recent tragedy."
The NRA described "default proceed" sales as "a critical safety valve" to shield prospective gun purchasers from undergoing delays in the completion of background checks. (More than 90 percent of checks processed by NICS are completed instantly.)
The gun group then offered a deceptive analysis of FBI data to downplay the thousands of gun sales to prohibited persons through "default proceed" sales each year, concluding that even in spite of these sales -- one of which supplied the gun used in the racially-motivated Charleston mass murder -- there isn't "a public safety crisis demanding congressional intervention":
According [to] the FBI's most recent NICS operations report, 9% of FBI NICS checks in 2014 were delayed "for additional review." The report does not go on to detail how many of those delays extended beyond three days. Nevertheless, based on the total number of NICS check the FBI ran in 2014, these delays affected some 743,102 people.
Meanwhile, the delays resulted in only 2,511 actions for firearm retrievals (or three-tenths of one percent of total delays). Thus, in over 99.6% of delayed cases, the delay was less than three days, the FBI could not substantiate the person was prohibited, or the FFL did not transfer the firearm. That hardly seems to indicate a public safety crisis demanding congressional intervention.
The statistic offered by the NRA that suggests "default proceed" sales to prohibited persons make up less than one percent of the total number of delayed sales does not actually assess whether those sales pose a public safety threat. The fact that the loophole was exploited by the Charleston gunman -- and according to FBI data by more than 30,000 prohibited individuals over the last decade -- suggests that "default proceed" sales do pose a danger to the public.
According to FBI data, more than 20 percent of "default proceed" sales where a final determination is made by the FBI involve sales of firearms to prohibited individuals. An analysis of this data by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found "default proceed sales are more than 8 times more likely to be associated with a prohibited purchaser than sales where the purchaser's background check is resolved within three days."
The NRA attempted a second tactic to attack Clyburn and protect the "default proceed" loophole it helped create by falsely claiming that Roof may have been a legal firearm purchaser. The NRA suggests that Roof may not have been prohibited by citing conflicting media reports regarding whether at the time of the gun purchase Roof had a pending misdemeanor or felony drug charge:
None of this matters to Rep. Clyburn, of course, who is hoping the recent tragedy in South Carolina will give his legislation the momentum it needs to succeed. Clyburn claimed in his press release announcing the bill that "[u]nder current law, the Charleston shooter should have been barred from purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer." That assertion is by no means clear, with media outlets now reporting that the suspect was arrested for a misdemeanor, not a felony, as originally reported. A single misdemeanor arrest, without more, is not cause for a denial under federal law (on the other hand, if the suspect had been formally charged with a felony, he would have been federally prohibited from buying a gun).
Under federal law, individuals under indictment for felonies are prohibited from buying firearms and should be flagged by the background check system. The NRA's citation of this fact, however, is a red herring because Roof was actually prohibited from owning a gun under a different provision of federal law.
According to the head of the FBI, police documents indicated that Roof had admitted to possession of a controlled substance. Under longstanding federal law, someone who "is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" (as defined by the Controlled Substances Act) is prohibited from buying a firearm. But because an investigator wasn't able to locate this record within three business days, Roof was able to buy a gun anyways.
Conservative media are claiming that President Bill Clinton enacted a policy that bans guns at military bases in the wake of the mass shooting at a military facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In fact, the policy was enacted in 1992 during the administration of George H.W. Bush and does allow guns to be carried on base under some circumstances.
Conservative media's false claim that Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases is back in the news after being repeated by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Following the mass shooting at Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard facility in 2013, conservative media sought to pin blame on President Clinton by seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation that they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under George H.W. Bush that became "effective immediately" in February of that year. (The Bush directive actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances and military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.)
Although this falsehood led to the National Rifle Association's news show issuing a rare correction, it's been given new life after being repeated by Trump and subsequently trumpeted by the right-wing media echo chamber.
In a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump was asked (emphasis original), "Would you have a problem allowing our military bases to set their own polices with regard to personal weapons and do away with the 'Gun Free Zones' death trap?"
In his response, Trump said, "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases" (emphasis and brackets original):
"[gun free zones] No, not optional. As Commander-in-Chief, I would mandate that soldiers remain armed and on alert at our military bases.
President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases. America's Armed Forces will be armed.
They will be able to defend themselves against terrorists. Our brave soldiers should not be at risk because of policy created by civilian leadership. Political correctness has no place in this debate."
Trump's false claim about Clinton was then repeated in conservative media. The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported,"Pistol-packing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump ripped a policy implemented by former President Bill Clinton making military bases 'gun free zones,' declaring that as president bases would no longer be defenseless against terror attacks."
The NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, praised Trump's vow that he would change military base policies in a July 14 post that excised Trump's false claim about Clinton.
This is not the first time that Trump has campaigned on falsehoods invented by conservative media. During a July CNN appearance, Trump falsely claimed that there are 34 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, a vastly overstated and false figure that had previously circulated in conservative media.
National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke defended a provision in federal law that allowed the alleged perpetrator of the Charleston church mass shooting to obtain a firearm without undergoing a completed background check, arguing that Second Amendment rights purportedly protected by the provision outweigh the negative consequences.
On July 10, FBI Director James Comey announced that Dylann Storm Roof, the man accused of killing 9 people inside of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was ineligible under federal law to buy the gun used in the attack because of his admission to police officers that he was an illegal drug user.
Due to paperwork errors, however, an employee at the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which processes background checks for guns sold by licensed dealers, was unable to view Roof's arrest record, despite knowing that one existed.
Under the current background check system, if a check cannot be completed within three business days it may proceed at the gun dealers discretion in what is known as a "default proceed" sale. According to the FBI, this is how Roof's sale was completed.
This feature of the background check law exists because of efforts by the National Rifle Association to weaken the 1993 Brady background check bill that created the current background check system. The provision appeared in an NRA-backed amendment introduced by Rep. George Gekas (R-PA). The Gekas amendment allowed a "default proceed" to occur after one business day, which was later lengthened to three business days with a compromise amendment in the Senate.
In a July 13 post, Cooke defended this state of affairs, arguing that no change should be made in the "default proceed" provision because on balance it is "a means of protecting the innocent" from government interference with Second Amendment rights where the benefits presumably outweigh any negative consequences (emphasis original):
But it should be acknowledged for the record that the three-day exception was not a drafting error or an oversight, but a provision that was deliberately included within the law as a means of protecting the the [sic] innocent. Just as the police are forbidden from detaining suspects without charge -- and just as one cannot be imprisoned unless prosecutors can prove one's guilt -- the government is not permitted to remove your Second Amendment rights without good reason. If they can't find that reason within three days of your attempting to purchase a firearm, they have to stop trying.
While Cooke wrote that the sale to Roof "seems problematic," he concluded, "As a matter of general principle, however, the legal protections from which he benefited are sound. We would not seek to do away with due process because the guilty are occasionally left free to offend again. We should not diminish the Second Amendment because the state screwed up either."
This argument, however, presents a false choice between protecting due process and Second Amendment rights and ensuring that dangerous people are flagged by the background check system -- and is further evidence of conservative media's rush to dismiss any changes to gun laws following high-profile shootings. (While also indicating a willingness to balance the consequences of gun sales to dangerous people with the fact that some, although very few, eligible purchasers will have to wait to complete their checks.)
While a system that allowed the government to indefinitely delay the completion of background checks without justification would raise constitutional concerns, several states have laws extending the three day requirement to give investigators a reasonable chance to determine if a potential gun purchaser is prohibited from buying a gun.
For example, in Tennessee a dealer must allow authorities 15 days to complete an inconclusive background check. If the check is still not complete after 15 days, a dealer may proceed with the sale. Similar laws exist in North Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Washington, with time ranges of 10 to 30 days.
Some states even impose waiting periods -- which comply with the Second Amendment -- on gun sales where the buyer has successfully completed a background check.
There is strong evidence that the current "default proceed" waiting period of only three days allows prohibited purchasers to obtain firearms. As a 2009 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns explained, "According to data provided by the FBI, default proceed sales are more than 8 times more likely to be associated with a prohibited purchaser than sales where the purchaser's background check is resolved within three days." Data collected by the FBI also indicates that in 2012 the "default proceed" provision put guns in the hands of 3,722 prohibited purchasers.
Polling has indicated strong support, even among gun owners, to extend the time authorities have to complete background checks.