NZ SHOOTING FEDERATION AGAINST THE EVENING POSTThe tradition of using cartoons to make satirical comment on topical issues has been strongly confirmed by the New Zealand Press Council.
The Council has not upheld a complaint by the New Zealand Shooting Federation against a Tom Scott cartoon which appeared in the Evening Post on 12 December 1997.
The cartoon featured a depiction of an automatic rifle with the caption” “Take the drudgery out of blind carnage. Reach for a gun...it makes murder child’s play.”
The New Zealand Shooting Federation complained that the cartoon advocated the use of guns to settle disputes and further that it implied that using a gun to resolve an argument was a simple act which could even be carried out by a child.
The assistant editor of the Evening Post responded that the cartoon was in the tradition of using cartoon satire to make a point. In this case the cartoon appeared at the time of the trial relating to the Raurimu killings - though it was not intended literally as a comment on that incident - and it represented a timely observation on the wider issue of the availability of firearms and the ease with which they could be used
to kill indiscriminately.
The Press Council found the use of cartoons to make satirical comment on the issues of the day was a well-established newspaper tradition, which, so long as the cartoons did not go too far, must be strongly defended. In this case the cartoon was indeed a hard-hitting comment on an emotive topic, but it did not go beyond the bounds of what was acceptable.
The Council felt it was not unreasonable to assume that readers would know not to take cartoons literally. It seemed highly unlikely that any readers would imagine that they, or their children, were being urged by the Evening Post to settle disputes with a gun. Rather, the message was that guns - and particularly automatic weapons - could greatly increase the amount of injury caused by an individual with a grievance.