Following a weekend of numerous mass shootings in the U.S., a CNN report provided some much-needed context to gun violence in a noticeable shift from covering the issue predominantly as one-off occurrences. However, CNN’s coverage still showed a clear opportunity for improvement in discussing gun violence rates compared to previous years.
From May 21 through May 23, there were at least 12 mass shootings across the country that left a combined 10 people dead and 70 others wounded. The violence, which occurred in eight states, began on Friday night in New Jersey and continued through Sunday afternoon, when four people were injured on Chicago’s west side.
In a nearly six-minute-long segment on May 23, CNN’s CNN Newsroom covered the weekend’s violence and included statistics from the Gun Violence Archive that showed 7,500 people have been fatally shot this year. (According to the Gun Violence Archive, an additional 9,500 Americans have also died in gun suicides so far this year.) The segment included the latest news about a mass shooting at a house party in New Jersey, which left two dead and 12 injured, before discussing the “very young” victims of the weekend’s nationwide casualties. CNN’s Natasha Chen specifically highlighted a road rage incident in Orange, California, in which a 6-year-old boy was shot to death.
The following day, on May 24, CNN’s New Day aired a similar segment and included a package of interviews with witnesses and relatives of survivors, as well as statistics explaining that the number of people shot this year -- not including suicides -- marks a 23% increase over this time last year.
During the segment, host Brianna Keilar followed up the packaged report by interviewing Parkland parent and gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, who called the violence inevitable and slammed congressional Republicans for their inaction on the issue. Keilar added that the recent executive orders signed by President Joe Biden demonstrate the limitations on the White House’s authority to strengthen gun regulations nationwide without the help of Congress.
These segments are an improvement over typical mainstream media coverage, which focuses almost entirely on shooting incidents as breaking news stories, with no broader context on the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. But CNN still framed the gun violence as if it’s just starting to reemerge in a post-pandemic world. The reality is that gun violence never went anywhere. In fact, it increased; 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades, even with fewer high-casualty public mass shootings. Media have just started covering it again.