March 1, 2016
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
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