The rumors are true. When my colleague Ranjit Singh reported on Wednesday that the Washington Post was planning on running graphic crime scene photos from mass shootings that have taken place over the last decade, I wasn’t exactly surprised, but I still held out some slight hope that the editors would come to their senses before sharing them with the world even though I knew that wasn’t likely to happen.
We won’t be linking to the WaPo story here. The images are easy enough to find, for those who really want to see them. But I do want to share executive editor Sally Buzbee’s attempt to justify the paper’s sensationalistic and shameless exploitation of these terrible tragedies to advance an anti-gun agenda. In a sidebar to the Post‘s big story, Buzbee claims the reason why the paper decided to splash these pictures and videos across its website and in its print pages is because “most Americans have no way to understand the full scope of an AR-15’s destructive power or the extent of the trauma inflicted on victims, survivors and first responders when a shooter uses this weapon on people.”
In other words, Buzbee and her team of reporters are hoping that these images will shock the consciousness of their audience. Given the liberal bent of the paper, though, I imagine most of its readers are already in favor of banning so-called assault weapons, so I doubt this story is going to have the impact they’re hoping for.
There’s a bigger issue with Buzbee’s attempt to justify using these photos and videos. For the Post (and the broader gun control movement), the problem boils down to what was used to perpetrate these particular attacks. According to the FBI, handguns are used more frequently than semi-automatic rifles in active shooter incidents, but the Post‘s coverage is exclusively focused on the AR-15 and other semi-automatic long guns. Buzbee claims that “while many types of firearms, including other semiautomatic rifles, are used to commit violent crimes, the AR-15 has soared in popularity over the past two decades and is now the gun used more than any other in the country’s deadliest mass shootings,” but as the FBI’s most recent report on active shooter incidents documents, handguns were used in 21 incidents in 2022, while rifles were used in 17 (another six incidents involved killers using both handguns and long guns).
Are the crime scene photos where a handgun was used any less shocking than those that the Post used in their story attacking AR-15s? Are the victims of those mass murders any less dead? Of course not, but no one is seriously suggesting we ban handguns these days, so why would the Post bother to bring them up?
If the goal is to prevent mass murder, focusing on the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles is a distraction, not a solution. If, on the other hand, the goal is to ban a particular kind of firearm by tying it exclusively to these mass killings, then the decision by the Post editors to run their story starts to make more sense. There is no nuance here, no attempt to fully understand why these heinous crimes were committed. They think they know the answer: it’s the AR-15. Ban the guns and you can stop the crimes. And if you have to exploit the pain and suffering of those who lost someone close to them, so be it.
Please , please do not share the Washington Post. My daughter being taken from this world wasn’t fair to begin with, it’s not fair how she was taken either. Amerie, her classmates, & her teachers don’t deserve this.
— Kimberly Garcia (@kim_amerie) November 16, 2023
We’ll be discussing the depravity of the Washington Post on Cam & Co later today with Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. As you can imagine, he has plenty to say about the paper’s despicable decision to publish these crime scene photos and videos in order to push for a gun ban, as well as what really can be done to prevent these horrific crimes against humanity from taking place in the future.