New York Times Responds to San Bernardino Mass Shooting With Rare Front-Page Editorial

A move last invoked in reaction to Republican presidential candidate Warren G. Harding.

It’s been a long time since The New York Times previously felt the need to publish an editorial on the front page. In its Sunday, June 13, 1920 editions, the paper decried “The Nomination of Harding” at the Republican National Convention in Chicago.


Today, 95 years later, in the same top-left column location, an event even further away is the spark. In the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting, the paper’s Editorial Board is assailing “The Gun Epidemic:”

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

The Dec. 5 paper also includes a sidebar by Ravi Somaiya. Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told the reporter the placement is designed to “deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish.” He added:

“Even in this digital age, the front page remains an incredibly strong and powerful way to surface issues that demand attention. And, what issue is more important than our nation’s failure to protect its citizens?”

The more relevant companion piece in today’s New York Times is by Austin Ramzy, Michelle Innis and Patrick Boehler. The article is titled “How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings.”

Among those questioning the validity and value of the NYT move is National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg:

Given that gun ownership has skyrocketed while gun homicides have gone down, it’s hard to see how the premise of the editorial — never mind its nearly unprecendented placement — can be defended.

Earlier this week, Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire confirmed that all four guns used in the San Bernardino attack were obtained legally.