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No Trace Of Truth | Turning Gun News Into Bad News

No Trace Of Truth | Turning Gun News Into Bad News

Photo credit: Sipa via AP Images

In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on “The Trace,” Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site. 

There’s a theme throughout the content of The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” service, and it goes something like this: 

All gun news is bad news. The Trace writes, “Uber banned guns from its vehicles in June after a well-publicized incident involving a Chicago driver the month before.” The Trace is being very coy here: The driver they referred to used his legally owned shotgun to bring down a man who was firing a handgun into a crowd, possibly preventing mass murder.

A quick review of the website reveals more than a few traces of anti-gun bias. In a piece titled, “Uber Driver Fired After Tussle With Passenger Leads To Gunfire,” The Trace reports that an Austin, Texas, Uber driver was fired for discharging a firearm “during an altercation” with a passenger. This sounds like an argument that escalated into gunfire, but The Trace fails to mention that the driver, Deven Garza, is a CHL instructor and a former military policeman. While driving, Garza was attacked by a drunken couple he picked up at a bar. As he struggled for control of the gun he lawfully carried, it discharged into the car. The couple fled from the car unharmed, but Garza did himself a solid and reported the incident to police. The headline, “Uber Driver Fired After Using His Gun To Ward Off Attack by Drunken Passengers” must have been deemed unsuitably charitable toward guns.

In the same piece, The Trace writes, “Uber banned guns from its vehicles in June after a well-publicized incident involving a Chicago driver the month before.” The Trace is being very coy here: The driver the statement referred to used his legally owned shotgun to bring down a man who was firing a handgun into a crowd, possibly preventing mass murder. The state of Illinois found that the driver “was acting in self-defense and in the defense of others.” But you wouldn’t know that from reading The Trace, where it was cast as yet another story of irresponsible gun ownership. If gun news isn’t bad news, at least it can be alluded to as such.

“A Former Neo-Nazi On What Hate Groups See in Guns” stretches guilt by association to the breaking point in an effort to smear guns. Will The Trace publish a feature about, say, what Olympic trap shooters or Secret Service agents see in guns? 

In a piece titled “Chicago Police Have Been Seizing An Illegal Gun Every 75 Minutes This Year,” The Trace keeps the focus on the gun as the driver of Chicago’s escalating homicide rate, despite police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s admission that the justice system turns criminals out onto the streets as fast as his cops arrest them. The Trace also neglects to report that Chicago ranks 90th in the number of federal gun prosecutions—dead last.

An objective reader can see a pattern here: Any news about guns must be, by definition, bad news.

Last Thursday, The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia mined this “bad gun news” vein in a feature titled (for maximum emotional impact), “People Were So Stunned That A 12-Year-Old Could Have Been Possibly Holding A Gun.” It’s a mash-up of Internet stats and local interviews that Mascia calls stories of “Americans living in the midst of the nation’s urban gun violence epidemic.”

Despite admitting that smallish North Omaha is home to 29 drug gangs; that unemployment hovers around 25 percent; that half of the residents live below the poverty line; and that her own obtuse math appears to prove that only half the murders in Omaha involved firearms, Mascia sees an “epidemic of urban gun violence”—not an epidemic of crime, drug abuse, economic woe, broken families, or even just your garden variety violence. 

The 12-year-old mentioned in Mascia’s headline is Jarrell Milton, a suspect in a gang-related shooting in Omaha. Influenced by his 17-year-old brother Jamar, he is only the latest horrific example of what Omaha Police Chief Tom Schmaderer calls “the downward pressure of some of the older members for the younger ones to do dirty work.” 

Mascia also brings up Nikko Jenkins, who killed four people after being released from prison in 2013, despite telling officials he planned to kill. Jenkins comes from an extended family, the Leverings, who have terrorized Omaha for generations. Omaha.com writes: “An investigation into the family’s history reveals patterns of violence, child neglect, and drug and alcohol abuse. The behavior has escalated from generation to generation, making the Leverings one of the city’s most notorious crime families.”An objective reader can see a pattern here: Any news about guns must be, by definition, bad news.

But to Mascia, these aren’t records of the ultimate in dysfunctional families: They’re proof of an “epidemic of gun violence.” 

For perspective, we talked to our own local expert: Sergeant Jacob Betsworth of the Sarpy County (Neb.) Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Betsworth patrols the Omaha metro area—adjacent to the area where officer Kerrie Orozco was murdered in May while serving a warrant on a known gang member.

“Kerrie was known for working with the youth of the area where her life was taken,” Betsworth said. “Trying to be a role model and steer kids away from the drugs, gangs and violence, she was making changes at the ground level. That is how this violence—not just gun violence—gets fixed. Anti-gunners want to fix a leaky pipe by shutting off the water instead of fixing the crack. It’s easy to go after guns, but they aren’t the issue. Fixing the real issues takes intervention and hard work at the community level.” 

The Trace can, at times, sound reasonable, scientific, credible and even balanced. But when compared to Sgt. Betsworth, who is actively engaged on the ground in Omaha, The Trace is revealed as just one more cog in Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun machine, grinding away at firearm freedoms by reporting all gun news as bad news.

Even when it’s not, The Trace’s mission is to make you think it is.