CBS: Did Romney Claim Aurora Weapons Were Illegal?

CBS News published an article on its website Wednesday afternoon with the misleading headline "Romney claims many Aurora weapons were illegal." This makes it sound as if Romney is keeping up with the news, since the guns used by shooter James Holmes were purchased legally. But a review of the comment in question shows that CBS's headline is misleading and inaccurate.

Romney appeared on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Wednesday. During the interview Williams raised the issue of gun control in light of the Aurora, Colorado shooting. Williams suggested "perhaps they [the American people] want to start a conversation" on the issue. Romney responded by saying "Well this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already."

Romney is saying two things here. One, that James Holmes shouldn't have had weapons and bombs. That's a sentiment that everyone can agree with, though in this case Romney doesn't specify a legal mechanism for keeping weapons out of the hands of Holmes or anyone else with undiagnosed mental illness.

The second thing Romney is saying is that many of the items Homes had in his possession were already illegal. The CBS News article backs this up, albeit in a fairly circumspect way, saying "The bombs and other explosive devices set as booby traps in alleged shooter James Holmes' apartment appear not to have been legal." What an odd way to say Holmes' homemade bombs were illegal.

Getting back to that misleading headline, Romney never said James Holmes' weapons were illegal. He said "it was illegal for him to have many of those things." By leaving out the mention of "bombs and other devices" in the headline, CBS makes it sound as if Romney isn't aware the guns used in the shooting were purchased legally.

CBS News seems to be trying to bypass policy arguments about gun control and instead portray Romney's statement as a factual gaffe. That's simply not supported by the facts. Given that Romney's actual meaning is not that hard to parse, CBS' headline appears to be intentionally misleading.


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