Former DHS secretary says graphic images ‘required to awaken the public’ on mass shootings

Greg Nash

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in an op-ed published Wednesday argued that “something graphic is required to awaken the public to the real horror” on mass shootings after a deadly shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 dead.

“I lack the moral standing to tell a parent to accept and approve, for the greater good, the public display of photos of his or her dead child. Only they can judge the additional weight that doing so would place on them, at a time when they are already struggling with unimaginable grief,” the Obama-era official wrote in his op-ed, which was published in The Washington Post

“Nor do I suggest the release of any images in particular. But something graphic is required to awaken the public to the real horror of these repeated tragedies,” he added,

Johnson argued that certain images have had a major impact on Americans’ understanding of historical events, including photos of Black protesters in Birmingham, Ala., attacked with firehoses and dogs and footage of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, which reignited protests across the country around police brutality and criminal justice.

“Conversely, imagine if there had been no video of Floyd’s killing, leaving us with the initial Minneapolis police report, which was headed simply, ‘Man dies after medical incident during police interaction,’” Johnson wrote.

Johnson described the Uvalde elementary school, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers last week, as a “crime scene” and argued that legislators should see the evidence of the horror of the mass shooting.

“Robb Elementary School in Uvalde is a crime scene. If there were a case to go to trial, the prosecution would have to present publicly the shocking evidence of guilt. Put another way: Why must innocent schoolchildren, for the rest of their lives, carry the vivid memories of the executions of their teachers and classmates, while federal and state lawmakers (and the adult constituents who elect them) are spared?” he wrote. 

Johnson’s remarks come as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that a bipartisan group of senators met on Wednesday to discuss gun violence legislation. 

“Today a group of eight bipartisan Senators met to continue negotiations on a gun violence bill that can get a broad, bipartisan vote in the Senate. This follows a similar meeting yesterday,” he tweeted. “There is growing momentum to get something done and we agreed on a plan to keep working.”

Tags Chris Murphy George Floyd Jeh Johnson
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