Marion County, Florida Sheriff Billy Woods announced on Friday that his office has arrested two juveniles in connection with the murders of three teenagers in the county, but those arrests weren’t nearly as newsworthy as the sheriff’s comments about gun control… at least to NBC News. The network portrayed Woods’s remarks as a “wild rant against gun control”, even though it’s pretty clear that the sheriff’s remarks were more about putting the blame where it belongs; not on an inanimate object illegally possessed by the murder suspects, but on the trigger pullers themselves.
Here’s how NBC News reported what Woods had to say:
A Florida sheriff went on a rant against gun control Friday while announcing the arrests of two juveniles in connection with a string of shootings that killed three teenagers.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said during a news conference two minors have been arrested on first-degree murder charges. A third minor remains at large.
NBC News does not usually name minors charged with a crime, even those charged as adults.
“There are individuals out there viewing … who want to blame the one thing that has no ability or the capacity to commit the crime itself, and that’s the gun. These individuals committed the crime,” Woods told reporters.
“All the gun laws we got in place didn’t prevent it, did it? Neither will any new ones. Because here’s the fact: The bad guy is going to get a gun no matter what law you put in place.”
The coverage from NBC News makes it sound like Woods used this arrest as an excuse to go on a tirade against gun control, which is absolutely not the case. I’d encourage you to watch the sheriff’s entire press conference to see for yourself. Woods started out by thanking law enforcement and the community at large for helping to identify and locate the suspects, including the local news media.
Woods then appeared to get a little choked up as he talked his “emotions being all over the place”; expressing pride in his department for their work in solving the homicides before turning to the suspects and victims. In this case, Woods says that both the teen victims and the juvenile suspects knew each other, and had participated in burglaries and robberies together in the past.
“Basically simple terms, there is no honor among thieves. And at some point, these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them. Two of them right there. They fled the scenes, but left a lot of evidence in their wake.”
Woods said he and deputies were as “shocked and saddened” by the violence as the other residents of Marion County; not only because the victims were juveniles but because their alleged killers are as well. Only when discussing the problem of juvenile crime (and crime in general) did the sheriff bring up gun control, and only as a part of a larger point about existing flaws in the criminal justice system. Here’s a much longer excerpt of what Woods had to say, including what NBC News left out of its reporting:
“What is the problem? I’m going to go ahead and address the first thing that I know is going to come up. Because there are individuals out there viewing, and that includes some of you in the media, who want to blame the one thing that has no ability or the capacity to commit the crime itself, and that’s the gun. These individuals committed the crime. And what’s the solution? I wish I could give you that answer, because this world would be a whole lot better. But the fact is, society fails us. We do not hold juveniles accountable. We minimize their actions.
Let me tell you why I say this. Last night I had to stare into the eyes of two mothers. It’s not their fault. Because what I saw last night was two mothers who were willing to give their sons everything, do everything for them, and give them their own lives. But just like you and I, no matter how much we teach them, because I am a father and I cannot fathom what they were going through, these mothers and mothers across this nation need all of your help. Because here’s what infuriates me. I’ve got a particular media with putting photos of juveniles out. Now we do what the law says we can do, put these photos out. I put myself in the shoes of those mothers because I heard one of them say ‘I wish I would have known what this one was doing and who they were because my kid never would have hung out with them.’
And to think, to believe, to minimize any action that is criminal of a juvenile is a disservice, and frankly, stupid to think. We need to hold them accountable. And then hope that we can change them.”
Far from an angry rant, the sheriff’s remarks were a heartfelt plea to improve a broken juvenile justice system that’s far too often failing to rehabilitate young offenders. In fact, though NBC News lumps all of Woods’s gun control comments into one “rant”, his statement about the bad guy getting a gun came in response to a reporter’s question after he finished his prepared remarks.
Sheriff Woods is spot-on in placing the blame for these crimes where it belongs; on the individuals who decided to pull the trigger. But if you only went by the NBC News report you’d have no idea that rather than an unhinged rant about gun control, the sheriff was speaking from the heart and with the victims’ families in mind when he said it’s no solution to this type of violence and even offered up more substantive steps that can and should be taken instead. I know the anti-gun media is desperate to portray Second Amendment supporters as uncaring villains who love guns more than kids, so maybe I shouldn’t be shocked at such a shameless attempt to craft a narrative at the expense of the facts, but when you see such flagrant bias on display it still needs to be called out.