Right-Wing Media Exploit South Carolina Church Shooting To Push Pro-Gun Myths And Attack Obama

Conservative media outlets are using the mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church to push myths about guns and criticize President Obama for highlighting the need for responsible gun safety legislation.

Nine Killed In Shooting Of Historically Black Church In South Carolina

Wash. Post: Hate Crime Suspected After White Shooter Killed Nine Black Church Members. The Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice opened a hate crime investigation of an attack on the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left 9 dead after 21-year-old suspect Dylann Roof “made racist comments before he started shooting inside the church” on the evening of June 17. The Post laid out further details of the deadly events inside the Charleston, South Carolina, church that has deep roots in African-American history:

[Dylann] Roof sat in the back of the room for about an hour, these officials said, and some people at the church encouraged him to join the discussion. Before he began firing a semiautomatic handgun, Roof said something that the officials described as hateful racial epithets.


Six women and three men were killed and at least one other person was injured in Wednesday's attack, which began about an hour after the white assailant entered the historic black church and observed the service, authorities said. “We believe this is a hate crime; that is how we are investigating it,” [Charleston Police Chief Greg] Mullen said. [Washington Post6/18/15]

President Obama Expressed “Deep Sorrow” And Urged Action On Gun Safety Laws

President Obama Mourned The “Senseless Murders” That Americans Have The “Power To Do Something About.” At the White House on June 18, President Obama spoke about “the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel” after massacre in Charleston, saying “Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.” Obama called the shooting “particularly heartbreaking” and urged legislative action to prevent further violence:

We don't have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. 

Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let's be clear: 

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.

I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it's going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals. [White House, 6/18/15]

Right-Wing Media Use Shooting To Attack President Obama For Advocating Gun Safety

Fox's O'Reilly: “Obama Was Misguided In His Gun Comments Today.” On the June 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly scolded President Obama for bringing up the issue of gun control after the Charleston shooting.

O'REILLY: Pundits who can say they can prevent individual acts of terror are misleading you. No one can do that. Unfortunately, President Obama strayed into the theoretical today.


Talking Points believes President Obama was misguided in his gun comments today, but that is a debate for another time. Tomorrow, on The Factor we'll present you with facts about crimes committed by guns. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor6/18/15]

Fox's Hannity: The President Used The South Carolina Shooting To Divide Americans On Gun Control. On the June 18 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity criticized “people racing to politicize a massacre” before the victims' “bodies are even cold.” Hannity singled out President Obama's remarks: 

HANNITY: It was not a surprise today when the president was among the first to use the incident not to unite Americans in a moment of grief, but to divide Americans over a hot button issue like gun control. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show6/18/15]

Fox's Tantaros: Obama Turned The Shooting Into A “Divisive, Two-Sided, Nasty Political Debate.” On the June 18 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, after spending the morning calling for looser gun regulations in wake of the shooting, host Andrea Tantaros criticized President Obama's remarks, claiming they were a part of a “divisive, two-sided, nasty political debate”:

TANTAROS: We have a shooting in this country and then what happens is they usually give that 24-hour grace period. I think, judge, you made the point, the president a little surprising, he came out talking about gun control very quickly, which some may find to be insensitive, they're going to debate that, I'm sure, and point fingers. But we know how this goes, Congress will act, people will step up, they will make statements and then this will drive a news cycle, Harris, where it seems like the only time we talk about mental illness is in the 72 hours that follow and then we forget about it. But nothing is really done permanently and I do think the biggest issue here is not guns, it is mental illness. [Fox News, Outnumbered6/18/15]

Matthew Vadum Called Obama A “Hateful Sicko” And A “Fascist” After His Comments Condemning The Charleston Shootings. Right-wing author Matthew Vadum released a series of tweets attacking Obama:


[Twitter, 6/18/15; 6/18/15]

Breitbart: “Obama Politicizes Charleston Shooting.” In an article published on June 18, Breitbart writer Joel Pollak attacked President Obama for proposing potential policy solutions to address tragedies like the Charleston church shooting. 

President Barack Obama reacted to Wednesday's horrific massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by calling for gun control and criticizing the United States for the frequency of mass shooting events.


Mass shootings may be more frequent in the U.S., but terror attacks of the sort that apparently took place in Charleston are rare, and are not unique to the U.S. They are more easily prevented by an armed and prepared citizenry. [Breitbart, 6/18/15]

Conservative Media Also Used The Tragedy To Push Gun Myths

Fox & Friends: More Guns In The Church Could Have Stopped The Shooter. The June 18 edition of Fox & Friends exploited the Charleston shooting to call for more guns. Guest E.W. Jackson urged “pastors and men in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” and host Brian Kilmeade suggested arming pastors with guns to ensure church “security.” Co-host Steve Doocy added:

DOOCY: If somebody was there, they would have had the opportunity to pull out their weapon and take [the shooter] out ... If somebody in there had a gun. [Fox News, Fox & Friends6/18/15]

Fox Host: “If Someone Had A Gun In The Church Perhaps It Would Have Ended Differently.” On the June 18 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, guest host Heather Childers suggested that, “it sounded like the president was already bringing politics into the mix.” Childers also put forward her favored solution, noting the theory that an armed congregation member could have changed the outcome of the South Carolina church attack. [Fox News, The Real Story6/18/15]

But Research Shows More Guns Increases Violence

Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research:  “Right-to-Carry Laws Do Not Make Us Safer and Likely Increase Aggravated Assaults.” According to research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, right to carry laws have not led to decrease in crime and are actually associated with an increase in aggravated assaults:

A large body of research has been conducted to investigate the effect of RTC laws on violence. Most notably, research led by John Lott, Jr. suggests that RTC laws have led to significant reductions in violent crime. But the research showing crime-reducing effects of RTC laws, including Lott's, has been carefully reviewed by a National Council of Research panel of experts, and others, and has been found to have serious flaws. The most consistent finding across studies which correct for these flaws is that RTC laws are associated with an increase in aggravated assaults. Using various statistical methods, estimates range from a one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults as a result of RTC laws. [Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy and Research, The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America, October 2012]

American Journal Of Public Health Study: Correlation Exists Between Gun Ownership Rates And Gun Homicide Rates. A 2013 study that covered 30 years of data found a correlation between estimated levels of gun ownership and actual gun homicides at the state level, even when controlling for factors typically associated with homicides":

The study, covering 30 years (1981-2010) in all 50 states, found a “robust correlation” between estimated levels of gun ownership and actual gun homicides at the state level, even when controlling for factors typically associated with homicides. For each 1 percentage point increase in the prevalence of gun ownership, the state firearm homicide rate increases by 0.9 percent, the authors found.


Regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between state levels of gun ownership and firearm homicide rates, while controlling for a range of potential state-level confounding variables, including: age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted non-firearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate.

The regression model predicted that each 1 percentage point increase in gun ownership increases a state's firearm homicide rate by 0.9 percent, translating into a 12.9 percent increase in the gun homicide rate for each one standard deviation increase in gun ownership. All other factors being equal, for example, the model predicts that if the gun ownership estimate for Mississippi were 58 percent (the average for all states), instead of 77 percent (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17 percent lower.

The results of the research are consistent with previous studies that have demonstrated a correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher levels of firearm homicide. [Boston University, 9/13/13]

Harvard Injury Control Research Center: “In Homes, Cities, States And Regions In The US, Where There Are More Guns” There Are More Gun Homicides. According to a summary of available literature by researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, higher levels of gun ownership are associated with higher homicide rates:

1. Where there are more guns there is more homicide (literature review).

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Hepburn, Lisa; Hemenway, David. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. 2004; 9:417-40. [Harvard Injury Control Research Center, accessed 6/3/15]