On the early morning of April 10th, 2017, families in San Bernardino were in shock as they heard the news of a shooting at one of their elementary schools. This incident marks the twelfth school shooting of 2017 and the fear of another shooting is on the rise amongst more families in the US. Tragedies like this one may make people wonder if gun violence could’ve been prevented if gun laws were strengthened – or even if guns were banned all together. Political figures and media outlets, in times like what happened in San Bernardino, most often jump to one side of the argument and provide their opinion on what should be done to reduce the gun violence rate. While news sources leaped to cover the event, President Donald Trump, who proposes that the US removed gun-free zones in schools, has remained silent. The topic of gun control is a very controversial issue and the media will usually try to influence political discussions when these tragedies arise.
Sam Levin of the left-wing news outlet, The Guardian, wrote about the tragedy in San Bernardino in his article, “San Bernardino school shooting: child and two adults dead, police say.” He said that the shooter’s name was Cedric Anderson, who entered the school with a revolver and opened fire on his wife in her classroom, killing her and injuring two of her students. Levin states that Anderson then killed himself, and the two students who were shot were taken to the hospital where one of them later died. Parents weren’t reunited with their kids until hours after the shooting; many were in tears when they finally found out their son or daughter was okay. Levin did an excellent job with his article because there was no clear political bias present and he really focused more on the families and students that had to endure this traumatic event.
The Washington Post, another left news source, also covered the incident in its article written by Christopher Ingraham, “The San Bernardino attack is the 12th school shooting of 2017 — and the second in a week.” Ingraham talked about the school shooting in San Bernardino, though quite briefly, and mainly focused on the rise of gun violence in the US. He first stated the facts of the shooting, two dead and two others shot, but then went into detail of a pro-gun-control group that arose after the Sandy Hook shooting, known as Everytown for Gun Safety. Ingraham outlined many of the shootings that have happened in 2017 so far and stated that there has been a school shooting usually once a week since 2013 with a total of around 200 incidents, with his information retrieved from Everytown for Gun Safety. Ingraham also mentioned a group of researchers from John Hopkins University who said that the right-to-carry laws increase gun violence, and then concludes the article with the statement “More guns, more crime.” Although the article states facts about gun violence, it seems to be more along the political agenda to push gun control rather than discuss the tragedy itself and Ingraham is not very subtle with these motives as his closing statement seems very “shoe-horned” into the article. The article was published hours after the shooting but it almost seems insensitive of what the families suffered here, treating the event and those affected as more of a statistic.
One of the more neutral news sources, CNN, had an article regarding the San Bernardino shooting called “Student one of 3 dead in San Bernardino school shooting,” written by Sonya Hamasaki and Darran Simon. In their article, they focused on the attack and how it unfolded, saying that the shooter had his weapon fully concealed and that he didn’t even say a word when he reached his wife’s classroom. His wife was teaching a special education class where the shooter then opened fire on her and hit two students that were behind her, which was believed to be unintentional. Hamasaki and Simon then went on to talk about the community and how they came together during this emotional time, where families prayed with one-another and cheering on and giving high-fives to their kids when they were all reunited. I thought this was a perfect way for the writers to close their article, showing that a strong community can never be driven apart, leaving the reader with a sense of hope. Hamasaki and Simon also did try to push any form of political agenda in their article, and instead treated the situation with delicacy and care in respect for those affected.
CBS is another neutral news outlet and they also had an article titled “Student killed in San Bernardino shooting endured great deal in short life” but its writer is unknown. The writer of this article took a different approach than the other news sources; they decided to honor the student who was caught in the crossfire of the shooting and talk about his disability that had him placed in special education. The eight-year-old student’s name was Jonathan Martinez and he was born with Williams syndrome, which is a gene related developmental disorder that causes heart disease, learning disabilities, hypertension, and issues in the kidney. One of the quotes from the Williams Syndrome Association mentioned by the writer stated this: “In a world where individuals are against one another and taking deadly actions every day, we could all learn a great deal from those with Williams syndrome whose most extraordinary gift is the gift of natural joy and understanding, and their incredible ability to share their joy with everyone they meet.” This quote really hits hard because I was fortunate enough to have worked with students with special needs and I got to experience that joy. The article even mentions that their community started up a fundraiser for Jonathan’s funeral and it just shows how supportive families are of each other, treating each other like one whole family in a way. CBS took no direct political stance on the issue and instead may have left others inspired by kids like Jonathan. Although the article does not push a political agenda, it does instead appeal to the reader’s emotions which may lead them to make their own decision on the matter.
Breitbart, a right-wing media source, had an article written by AWR Hawkins called “Gabby Giffords: Murder-Suicide at Elementary School Proves CA Gun Control Insufficient.” Hawkins responds to gun control activist Gabby Giffords and her proposal to strengthen gun laws after the San Bernardino school shooting. California is the state with the strictest gun laws and Giffords proposes that the US will never be safe from shootings unless they implement the “smart gun laws.” There is a good sense of fear-mongering within her statement and Hawkins responds to her by talking about how gun control can never fully solve the issue of gun violence. He goes on to say that strengthening gun laws will only make it more difficult for a law-abiding citizen to acquire a firearm that could be used to defend themselves or others against an active shooter. Breitbart and The Washington Post both had political motives in their articles but I feel that Breitbart did a better job with it because it was a counter to a Griffords’ attempt to use tragedies like San Bernardino to push people to support gun control out of fear.
Fox News is another right-wing media outlet and they had an article written by Katherine Lam titled “San Bernardino school shooting suspect was ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ murdered teacher’s mother says.” In her article, Lam talks about how the shooter, Cedric Anderson, was able to sneak a revolver into the school and open fire on his wife. Anderson’s wife, Karen Smith, noticed a change in his behavior after they got married and left him after he began to start trouble in the relationship. No one knew of the troubled marriage because Anderson’s Facebook page had a different narrative; all that was seen were positive posts about their relationship, but what was really happening was Anderson was being abusive and making threats towards Smith after she left. When Anderson showed up at the school Smith taught at, he did what any normal person would do and went to the front office, telling them that he had to go give something to his wife. The school was unaware of the situation, due to Smith keeping her personal life private, and didn’t notice anything threatening about Anderson, leaving him with an easy path to her classroom where he opened fire. Surprisingly, the article did not have any clear political bias to it and only gave the facts about what led to the shooting.
I learned quite a bit from researching different political views on the San Bernardino school shooting; the story from each news outlet was the same but was told differently, some even with political motives backing it. The Washington Post’s article stood out to me the most because it had clear political bias within it regarding gun control and the same could be said about Breitbart’s. Both of those articles did not focus on the victims of the tragedy but instead used the situation to push a political argument. CNN and CBS were the best because they focused more on the emotions that were being felt by the families and students of the school, making the reader wonder what could’ve been done to prevent this horrible act. This approach is better when it comes to starting a dialogue about a controversial issue, rather than the “I told you so” method that The Washington Post and Breitbart went. Fox News’ article also did a good job at remaining neutral, providing unbiased facts about the shooting that could prove vital to the gun control debate and The Guardian’s article did the same. All in all, it is important for an informed citizen to research unbiased news because it allows them to focus on the situation as a whole and make their own decision in controversial debates, such as gun control.