The Australian Herald Sun claimed that Australia’s firearms lobby was “trolling” and that “gun-lobby bullies have tried to ‘intimidate, shout down and abuse'” the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, which was established after a mass shooting in the 1990s and has the mission of “to keep children safe from violence.”
The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, a gun industry group, complained about the article, saying it implicated the association in bad behavior and “misleadingly and unfairly implicated individuals and organisations that promote the sensible and lawful use of firearms,” the Australian Press Council reported. Further, the association noted it wasn’t contacted for comment and the article didn’t have the perspective of any other “body that is part of the gun industry.”
The SSAA provided iMediaEthics with its press statement in response to the ruling. In that statement, SSAA Victoria called the Herald Sun “lazy” and “biased,” noting it is “Australia’s highest-circulating daily paper.”
“The story was an outright attack on all firearms users and the organisations and industry that support them,” SSAA Victoria CEO Jack Wegman is quoted as saying. “Sadly, this level of anti-gun owner bias is all too regular, but we have now shown that we don’t have to stand for it and that the Australian Press Council and other media regulators are there to protect us from this level of bias.”
Wegman also called the ruling a “great result” and claimed, “Nearly every week we see in the media biased, hysterical and irrational attacks on firearms, firearm users and the industry that supports them.”
Herald Sun editors argued that the article was acceptable because it didn’t name the association or any other group, and it indicated the “bullies” were “fringe elements of the gun industry,” according to the press council. iMediaEthics has contacted the Herald Sun for its responses to the ruling.
The press council disagreed though, finding that the article implied the gun industry, not “online trolls,” were responsible for the bullying. “The Council considers that the article claims that there was ‘aggressive trolling’ from the firearms industry and drew no distinction between reputable orgainstions in the firearms industry and online trolls, and that the criticism in the article applied to all parts of the industry,” the council ruled. “Accordingly, the Council considers that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the misleading implication that reputable members of the firearms lobby may have been involved in the abuse.”
The council ruled that the Herald Sun‘s article was misleading, required “remedial action,” and was unfair for not attempting to get comment from any gun group.