Here is the NBC News headline: “The state of Alabama took his gun away. When authorities gave it back, he shot and killed his wife.” Here is the sub-head: “Alabama authorities took his gun away after a violent domestic incident. Nine months later they gave it back, and he used it to shoot and kill his wife.”
And this is what readers don’t learn until, (let’s see) 17 paragraphs into the story:
“On the night of Feb. 23, 2019, [Megan] Montgomery and [Jason] McIntosh got into a physical altercation at their home. Fellow officers from McIntosh’s department responded to a 911 call from McIntosh, who reported that Montgomery had a gunshot wound. According to the responding officers, Montgomery said she had grabbed McIntosh’s duty weapon with her right hand for her own protection. The two began to struggle for the weapon. Montgomery, 5’8″ and 135 pounds, was shot in her upper right arm. McIntosh, 6’4” and 225 pounds, told the responding officers that during the struggle he thought Montgomery had his cell phone in her hand. According to the report, McIntosh said it was only when the gun went off and the bullet hit his wife that he realized they’d been fighting over a gun. Because McIntosh was a police officer, the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) ordered Special Agent Vince Cunningham to investigate the incident….Cunningham took McIntosh’s firearm as evidence. He interviewed Montgomery on Feb. 26, 2019. She told him that during the incident “she was afraid,” according to the investigative summary written by Cunningham…The ALEA summary says that when Montgomery was asked if the shooting was an accident, she said yes. The summary also says that the officer who took Montgomery to the emergency room told Cunningham that when doctors asked Montgomery what happened, she told them, “He shot me.”….The district attorney did not file charges, concluding in a letter there was “no evidence of the commission of any felony offenses by either Mr. Mcintosh or Ms. Montgomery.” The DA left open the possibility that the City of Hoover could file a misdemeanor offense against either one of them. That never happened. Meanwhile, McIntosh was repeatedly texting ALEA Special Agent Cunningham asking to get his gun back, according to documentation reviewed by NBC News. McIntosh claimed he needed the gun to get a new private security job….Though he had used it as a duty weapon with the Hoover Police Department, the gun was his personal property.”
That is all material information necessary to understanding the tragic incident, isn’t it? Indeed, if the story is really intended to let readers know what happened and why, that part of the story needed to be part of the narrative, right at the beginning. Instead, the reporters set out to spin the facts to maximize anti-gun rights sentiment. An estranged wife with a history of physical altercations with her husband was shot and killed by him after an earlier incident involving his gun, after she had filed for divorce, after a restraining order, and after he had been given his gun back by the backwards state of Alabama. Outrageous! How could that happen?
“[D]omestic abusers often end up keeping their weapons,” the story’s authors, Laura Strickler and Kate Snow—hmmm, no likely bias there!—write. “Experts say the reason is a combination of deference to gun rights on the part of judges and other officials, the absence of a defined procedure to remove the guns, and a lack of awareness by law enforcement about just how lethal the risk can be.” Uh, ladies, the reason judges and other officials defer to gun rights is that they are rights, like “in the Constitution.” Only in an ideological anti-gun screed would deferring to rights be cited as a problem. There’s no procedure to remove the guns because “pre-crime” is also unconstitutional, and in the absence of an applicable law, it doesn’t matter what the risk is. In a competent news story, a lawyer or expert on the Constitution would explain this. But Laura and Kate don’t want to enlighten readers, they want to upset them, and indoctrinate them.
Along the way to the essential facts of the story—when questioned, his wife said her shooting was an accident, there were no charges, the gun was seized as evidence in a potential trial that never took place, McIntosh had a legitimate need for his weapon for future employment—the reporters make outright false statements. I think my favorite is “Megan Montgomery did nearly everything experts say you’re supposed to do to get away from a domestic abuser, and still she died.” Nearly–except that when she had been shot in her arm with her husband’s gun and he was facing charges and prosecution, she told investigators that it was an accident. Nearly—except that after the court order that she and her husband should stay away from each other, they kept getting together anyway. “Montgomery’s filing asked the court to remove Mcintosh’s firearms. In response, the local judge issued a mutual restraining order telling the couple to stay away from each other. The order did not specify that firearms be removed,” the story says. Yes, that’s because an American citizen cannot lose the right to own a gun because someone says they are afraid. If that were the case, the anti-gun zealots would have them all removed. A felony conviction for shooting his wife would have allowed Montgomery’s gun to be taken away, but she made sure that didn’t happen. But readers aren’t told that until paragraphs after the story tells us she did “nearly” everything possible to get away from her abuser.
The facts of Megan Montgomery’s murder raise many policy and legal issues, complex ones, but the reporters don’t want them to seem complex. They want converts to anti-gun rights measures, so they present the story as an example of a gun-crazy system that cares more about letting abusers keep their weapons than it does about abused women. The fact that Montgomery ended up murdered was moral luck: the result wasn’t inevitable, and many parties in the process made decisions that can be questioned in retrospect. In order to consider how such dangerous situations should be handled in the future however, the public needs to know and understand all of the facts and factors, trade-offs and risks without activists pretending to be journalists rigging the narrative.
Apparently, we no longer have a news media that can be trusted to do that.