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 theguns used by shooter James Holmes were purchased legally. But a reviewof the comment in question shows that CBS’s headline is misleading andinaccurate.
Romney appeared on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Wednesday.During the interview Williams raised the issue of gun control in lightof the Aurora, Colorado shooting. Williams suggested “perhaps they [theAmerican 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 andother devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those thingsalready.”
Romney is saying two things here. One, that James Holmes shouldn’thave had weapons and bombs. That’s a sentiment that everyone can agreewith, though in this case Romney doesn’t specify a legal mechanism forkeeping weapons out of the hands of Holmes or anyone else withundiagnosed mental illness.
The second thing Romney is saying is that many of the items Homes hadin his possession were already illegal. The CBS News article backs thisup, albeit in a fairly circumspect way, saying “The bombs and other explosive devices set as booby traps in allegedshooter 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 JamesHolmes’ 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 theheadline, CBS makes it sound as if Romney isn’t aware the guns used inthe shooting were purchased legally.
CBS News seems to be trying to bypass policy arguments about guncontrol 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.