March 1, 2016

Dear CNN:

On February 25, 2016, a few hours before the tenth debate of the Republican primary, a man in Hesston, Kansas went on a shooting spree, killing 3 and wounding 17. Twitter, Facebook and news outlets across the country were abuzz with the news of yet another mass shooting.

After all the television networks ignored the February 20 shooting in Kalamazoo during their Sunday morning programs, CNN had the opportunity on February 25  to set an example for how a network should cover and address such an incident with presidential campaigns.  However, the CNN-moderated debate completely ignored the developing news story from Kansas and the issue of gun violence altogether. While the network might defend this decision by noting that Americans already know where the candidates stand on stronger gun laws and gun policy, that reasoning would have eliminated almost every question asked.

CNN had the opportunity — and in fact, the responsibility — to ask these men running to be president to weigh in on a tragic story as it unfolded. They were not asked to defend their positions on what the Second Amendment does and does not allow; nor to explain why we enable convicted felons and domestic abusers — categories into which we now know the shooter fell — easy access to firearms.  

By ignoring the issue, CNN perpetuated the notion that these shootings are the new normal, something we have to accept as the cost of living in the United States.  CNN should have asked the candidates to identify the point at which those costs become unacceptable. That’s a question that can’t be easily answered by citing fealty to the Second Amendment.  That is a dialogue the American people deserve to hear.

CNN holds itself as the standard bearer of objective, fact-driven news coverage. The network had an opportunity to have an important conversation about a real, unfolding tragedy and a critical issue facing this country.  CNN squandered this opportunity.

As leaders of the gun violence prevention movement, we hold CNN accountable for this failure on February 25. We hope it will not be repeated. Indeed, an opportunity to do better has already arisen: while this letter was being circulated for signature Friday evening February 26, the country learned of a mass shooting in Belfair, Washington.  And the network has an opportunity to correct its error at the upcoming debates on March 6 and March 10.

Thank you for your attention.


States United to Prevent Gun Violence

Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence

CeaseFire Oregon

The Safe Tennessee Project

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence

Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action

Iowans for Gun Safety

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

Nebraskans Against Gun Violence

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence

Wisconsin AntiViolence Effort

CT Against Gun Violence

Arizonans for Gun Safety

North Carolinians Against Gun Violence

Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort

Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence

Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence

Georgians for Gun Safety

Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence

Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws

Rabbis Against Gun Violence

Facing the truth about gun violence in PA