Parents of mass shooting victims condemn graphic photos released by Washington Post

Parents of children who died in mass shootings in Uvalde and Parkland said releasing the graphic images of the shooting scenes was triggering

Ariana Baio
Thursday 16 November 2023 22:06 GMT

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The parents of mass shooting victims are criticising The Washington Post for releasing a report on the aftermath of devastating shootings that contains extremely graphic images depicting destruction and blood.

The report, released on Thursday, was intended to show Americans “the full scope of an AR-15’s destructive power” to illuminate the danger of the increasingly popular firearm, The Post explained in a separate article.

“We realize this story will be disturbing to readers, but we believe that publishing these images gives the public a new vantage point into the pattern of AR-15 mass killings in the United States,” the news outlet wrote.

However, some parents felt that showing the images of the scenes where their children were killed was not necessary and triggering.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland high school shooting said that he told reporters the article’s impact would be “traumatic” to gun violence victims.

“I spoke with the reporters months ago and shared my opinion that this was unnecessary and will be traumatic to those of us who have been impacted by gun violence,” Mr Guttenberg wrote on X. 

Kimberly Garcia, whose 10-year-old daughter Amerie Jo was killed in the Robb Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas, asked people not to share the article.

“We would like to issue a statement asking everyone NOT TO SHARE instead share our loved one’s pictures [sic],” Ms Garcia wrote on X.

While The Post’s article does not feature any images of identifiable dead bodies, it does contain images of Uvalde victims sealed in body bags and a picture, taken from a distance, of dead and injured victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas.

Many images contain extremely graphic images of the bloody aftermath of some of the US’s deadliest shootings including the Newton Elementary School shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting and others.

Before publishing, The Post said they provided “advance notice to many families of the victims, their representatives and community leaders so they could choose to avoid the coverage if they preferred.”

As mass shootings become a part of life in the US, there have been debates about how news organisations should cover the aftermath with concerns that too much detail can spark copycat shooters while not enough coverage downplays the severity of the violence.

However, some gun control advocates say that publishing horrific images will not advance legislation to restrict access to AR-15-style rifles.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, wrote on X: “Sharing images of the damage an AR-15 does to the human body won’t change GOP lawmakers’ minds. Making the sacred profane won’t change GOP lawmakers’ minds. Only consequences will.”

But others believe that sharing the horror of mass shootings will help people understand their impact and motivate lawmakers to enact change.

Brett Cross, a father whose 10-year-old son Uziyah “Uzi” Garcia was killed in Uvlade, said he advocates for more public attention to the horrors of mass shootings, despite the disturbing photos.

“The blood you see in the photos are the result of children’s lifelines, painting the floor because our government deems my son’s life less than a gun. The body bags containing 10 year olds is a hallway our congress passes through daily, looking away in disgust,” Mr Cross wrote on X.

Enacting gun control legislation has been an uphill battle in the US as Second Amendment advocates have managed to block any sweeping federal laws that restrict AR-15 purchases or large-capacity magazines – which many studies cite as a major contributor to deadlier mass shootings.

Over the last few years, some federal gun control measures have been adopted including implementing background checks, prohibiting firearms near schools and more. Most recently, the Biden administration has cracked down on the manufacturing and selling of “ghost guns.”

But still, anti-gun violence advocates have called for greater restrictions – using the devastating consequences of mass shootings to depict the urgency and need for more legislation.

It is this exact reason that The Post said they were publishing the graphic images.

“While many types of firearms, including other semiautomatic rifles, are used to commit violent crimes, the AR-15 has soared in popularity over the past two decades and is now the gun used more than any other in the country’s deadliest mass shootings,” The Post said.

They added: “In the end, we decided that there is public value in illuminating the profound and repeated devastation left by tragedies that are often covered as isolated news events but rarely considered as part of a broader pattern of violence.”

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