As a public relations professional, I know it is important to get your side of the story out there, and often, releases and statements are written in an attempt to sway public opinion in your favor.
Often in emails or radical left- or right-wing sites, over-the-top headlines will entice readers to click on the story, only to find it’s full of speculations and basically nothing newsworthy.
News outlets, however, should avoid those biased styles and stay neutral - just reporting the facts. However, in today’s world of instant news, with agenda-led bias in many outlets, the “just the facts” mentality of Walter Cronkite is seemingly part of a bygone era of reporting. Reporters and editors often take the liberty to push their way of thinking onto the reader, instead of simply reporting the news as it happened, and they attempt to push a broader agenda from one side or the other.
This recently happened in the reporting of a case involving the ever-hot topic of firearms and accessories. A recent headline from ABC News read, “Supreme Court upholds bump stock ban in big win for gun safety advocates.” Likewise, Bloomberg News, a staunchly anti-firearms and anti-Second Amendment news outlet, boasted a headline that read, “Bump stock ban left intact as Supreme Court rejects challenges.”
Upon reading those headlines, one would think gun control advocates scored a solid win and weakened those in favor of gun rights. Problem is, the Supreme Court didn’t exactly do those things. Those headlines were two examples of how a public relations professional would write the story and headline, instead of a major new outlet.
When the case is researched, we find that in the case Aposhian v. Garland, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals did uphold the ATF rule and the plaintiffs petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case in August 2021. Likewise, in Gun Owners of America Inc. v. Garland, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the ATF rule, prompting the plaintiffs to also petition the Supreme Court. This past Oct. 3, the Supreme Court declined to hear either case.
While it sounds as if the courts have ruled, the fact the Supreme Court declined to hear the cases at this time is not exactly an endorsement of the rulings of the lower courts.
In a statement released by the National Rifle Association, there is a third bump-stock case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Cargill v. Garland. Again, the Circuit Court upheld the ATF rule in this case, but the difference is that in the appeal process, the appeals court agreed to hear the case in front of the full court, not just a panel of circuit judges like the other two.
It is very possible the Supreme Court is awaiting the outcome of the Fifth Circuit case to rule before entertaining the idea of hearing the cases on the bump-stock rule. At this point, that is only a possibility. What is for certain, however, is that the Supreme Court has not ruled at this time. Those should have been the headlines and the focus of the stories.
News outlets are there to tell the public what is happening in the world. The cases regarding the bump-stock ban from the ATF are very confusing, and reading headlines and slanted articles, like those mentioned above, make things even less understandable. Reporters should make things clearer, not more confusing for the public - and they should know better.
Randy Gibson is the CEO of RDG Communications Group, LLC, and the president of Maloy PR.