Inside NBC’s Libelous, Unethical and Illegal ‘Ghost Gun’ Hit Piece

Inside NBC’s Libelous, Unethical and Illegal ‘Ghost Gun’ Hit Piece IMG NRA-ILA

U.S.A.-( Our friends at Ammoland Shooting Sports News have done incredible work exposing the crimes – actual crimes – NBC correspondent Vaughn Hillyard and his crew committed while producing the liberal network’s latest hit-piece on homemade firearms. I was asked to take a look at the story from a different perspective. What I found was simply unbelievable – the worst news story focused on firearms ever produced for a network news program.

To be clear, NBC’s “Inside look at the rising ‘ghost gun’ market in the U.S.” is without a doubt the most unethical, factually bankrupt hit-piece I have ever seen. There is not even a close second. Its badness is unrivaled, without peer.

Most gun owners don’t even realize that journalists have ethics they must follow, because when it comes to gotcha stories about guns, most journalists throw the ethics right out the window. Hillyard and his production crew were no different. They certainly didn’t let ethics or even facts get in the way of the biased story they wanted to tell.

Here are my major takeaways:

Hidden cameras

The Poynter Institute is a journalism think tank respected throughout the industry. Bob Steele is Poynter’s Scholar for Journalism Values. He wrote this about the use of hidden cameras: “Because they involve deception, hidden cameras should be our last choice for reporting a story. It is appropriate to consider their use on stories where we have ruled out all other alternatives for obtaining the same information. We must exhaust traditional reporting methods of interviewing, observing and researching documents and databases.”

Steele is not alone in his opinion. The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) describes itself as “the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to broadcast and digital journalism.” The RTDNA honors the best of television news through its prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards. The association has a strict set of guidelines on the use of hidden cameras. All of the following criteria must be met before a hidden camera can be deployed:

  • When the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great system failure at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.
  • When all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have been exhausted.
  • When the journalists involved are willing to disclose the nature of the deception and the reason for it.
  • When the individuals involved and their news organization apply excellence, through outstanding craftsmanship as well as the commitment of time and funding needed to pursue the story fully.
  • When the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.
  • When the journalists involved have conducted a meaningful, collaborative, and deliberative decision-making process on the ethical and legal issues.

As you can see, none of these criteria were met – I doubt any were even considered – before Hillyard and his crew smuggled their hidden cameras into a Pennsylvania gun show.

Personally, I have never used a hidden camera or ever wanted one used. I believe people have a right to know when they are being filmed, especially if the footage is going to be used to their detriment – especially if it will be aired on a national news program.

Also, there was no reason to jump to the hidden camera, since the vendor selling the homemade firearm kits willingly submitted to an interview with Hillyard.

Biased statistics

Statistics themselves are ripe for manipulation by a biased journalist, but when biased statistics are used, the sin becomes even greater. For this story, Hillyard used stats provided by the Giffords anti-gun group. In other words, they got their anti-gun stats from an anti-gun group. How this made it through the normal vetting process, which most news stories undergo, indicates there was no vetting process. Hillyard’s “news” story was unvetted.

Staged photos

In the piece, there’s a still shot of an unfinished homemade handgun receiver laying on a sidewalk as if it was part of a crime scene. Staged photos are lies. They’re as bad as making up a quote. At a newspaper, they’re a fireable offense. If a photo must be staged to illustrate a point, they must be labeled as a “photo illustration.” To do otherwise is to lie to the viewers.

Biased experts

Hillyard never discloses to his viewers that one of the sources in his story, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has a grudge against the homemade firearm vendor. Shapiro’s bias should have been disclosed or he should not have been used in the story. Nothing is more indicative of a reporter’s bias than stacking the deck with biased experts.

Selective editing

Raw video gets edited before it is published. That’s part of the normal production process. However, in this story, most of the vendor’s comments – especially the explanatory and exculpatory ones – made during a parking lot “ambush” interview were never published. News stories usually have two sides. To be fair, both sides should get to have their say. Hillyard and his crew were clearly afraid of the vendor’s comments, because they shot holes in their “ghost guns bad” theory, so the viewers never got to hear the whole truth. This is a huge red flag that the reporter was afraid of the truth.

Breaking the law

There are times when a journalist could ethically violate the law in order to get a story. However, it would have to be one hell of a story. Hillyard’s opus certainly doesn’t meet this standard. I asked an expert to review the story to determine whether laws were broken. Turns out they were, according to John “JC” Clark, cofounder of FFL Consultants. JC knows firearm law far better than I ever will.

“The Gun Control Act (GCA) permits an unlicensed individual to make a firearm for personal use, but not for sale or distribution. Although the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit a non-licensee from selling, giving away, or otherwise transferring a personally manufactured firearm, (i.e. ghost gun or homemade firearm,) to another non-licensee, it does stipulate that the original intent must have been for personal use. In addition, the GCA also restricts the transfer of handguns to an out-of-state resident and clearly states that it is not permitted as private party transfers require both individuals to reside in the same state.

Moving on to Pennsylvania law: To transfer an eligible firearm, more specifically handguns as required, both parties must accomplish the transfer through a Federal Firearms Licensee or a Sheriff’s Office so the transferee can undergo a background check.

Based on the scenario, it certainly doesn’t appear to be for “personal use.” Then you have the fact that the AG’s office manufactured firearms and are not a Federal Firearms Licensee and not a licensed manufacturer of firearms. (I also have issues with a public law enforcement agency participating with a private entity in this way, as there are most certainly conflict of interest issues that could result.) With regards to the referenced Philadelphia code, the statement referring to §10-2002 is accurate, however I believe there is currently a stay in place where enforcement of the referenced code is concerned, as the State of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) has a preemption clause which clearly outlines that counties, municipalities or townships may not create restrictions on firearms that are not prohibited by the laws of the Commonwealth.”

In conclusion

By violating even the most basic journalism ethics, in addition to federal and state law, Hillyard and his production team also broke one of journalism’s cardinal rules: Rather than simply telling a story, they became part of the story. I hope those who were libeled, defamed, and portrayed in a false light by this “news” story seek competent counsel. NBC has deep pockets, after all, and as a community, we need to stop accepting this type of mistreatment.

It’s time we start fighting back.

This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.

About Lee Williams

Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.

Lee Williams

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Truth is not a leftist value. Truth is not a friend of leftist ideologies. Truth is the antidote to New Left Progressivism. So when you are surprised when leftists engage in propaganda and outright fraud the joke is on you. Expect the worst from the left every time and you shall not be disappointed.


NBC ’nuff said. I don’t understand why anyone watches them. Their programing is old and stale, even their local shows are boring.

Wild Bill

I notice that the MSM did not report Joe Biden’s remark, from Poland, warning the American public of coming food shortages. FOOD SHORTAGES!? In America! Not just higher prices, but not available at all. I’d think that it was newsworthy.

Idaho Bob

Rather than a warning, it’s more like Senile Joe let the next phase of their plan slip out.


Yeah, well, yesterday Xiden announced that he would offer petroleum supplies to Europe to get them away from Russian supply. The irony is just palpable.


NBC are experts at presenting false narratives and then manufacturing the evidence to substantiate thier false claims . This has been thier mode of operation for decades . The rest of the main stream media use the same playbook and now wonder why nobody watches thier FAKE NEWS !

Idaho Bob

Lee wrote, “because when it comes to gotcha stories about guns, most journalists throw the ethics right out the window“.
I contend that most journalist threw their ethics right out the door when they supported Barrack Hussein Obama. They have only become more rabid, like the skunks they are, since. There are very few honest msm reporters out there, I can’t even name one, can you?


Bob – that unrestrained support for candidates and/or biased viewpoints has been going on for a lot longer than their support for barky. Off the top of my head – ‘the war is lost’ (Cronkite) – the rigged explosion of a Chevy pickup (NBC) – Ralph Nader and his hit job on the Corvair. I could go on but will stop with them ‘assisting’ (along with the DNC) in getting JFK ‘elected;.


remember the Maine, Spanish American war prime example media is all propaganda seldom posts things that you need to know


Can I name one? Think of the jeopardy song. Now think of it never ending. LOL There’s your answer.


NBC wrote an article years ago that truck drivers are addicts to cocaine and drugs. That after interviewing Mexican and Porto Rico truck drivers in Florida. I don’t trust any news media especially NBC.

Wild Bill

Whatever the MSM says … the opposite is probably true. Just a rule of thumb.

Pa John

Anyone old enough to clearly remember the 1970’s can remember how widespread public trust in media USED TO BE in those days. If it was on TV it must be true was a very common opinion. I capitalize USED TO BE because that public trust has very largely been lost, and the bulk of US corporate media uniting in their collective efforts to eliminate Trump was simply the last straw in breaking the camel’s back, so to speak. All pretense of journalistic integrity was dropped and the war was on and fully out in the open: Eliminate Trump at all… Read more »

Wild Bill

And it isn’t very far wrong.

Wild Bill

Used to watch the Huntly-Brinkley hour everyday.


Somebody conduct a citizens arrest immediately. Do it now,


I have no problem with hidden cameras. It usually shows the truth. Just as long as it isn’t edited footage. I in fact would love to see some real footage of these politicians behind closed doors. It is all to easy to prepare for a interview. One good example is Project Veritas. Funny the things people say when they have no idea they are being filmed. lol


Arny – I would agree overall, PV has already likely exhausted legitimate attempts to get those folks to be truthful via legitimate (are there any left?) reporting methods.


my thoughts exactly.


First, most of us here have been “fighting back” for a long tim Mr. Williams, what do you suggest we additionally do?

As far as NBC goes, they’re just doing what admitted liars do! Remember this little gem from the past from Dateline and that loser Jane Pauley?


Bob, most on the right have been fighing phantoms and straw men in the partisan Kabuki theater of partisan politics. Most are still not aware of the real ideological battles going on in American and in the West in general. In 1974 the Progressive New Left emerged from the swamp muck of the 1960’s and declared war on American culture and the American Republic. The Prairie Fire Manifesto and other documents published at that time made clear the terms of battle and the means. They have incrementally deconstructed not only our political institutions but our cultural institutions as well. The… Read more »


nr – the only point I will disagree with you on is “incrementally” – they are now taking giant steps as NONE (or very few) of their supposed peers are doing anything to restrain them or hold them accountable.


Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has a grudge against the homemade firearm vendor.” Explain please!


Shapiro is antigun nut.


Read the other Ammoland stories regarding this AG, the Pennsylvania gun shows, and JSD. Those stories show his enmity towards the FFL, gun shows, “ghost guns”, and law-abiding firearm owners in general.


The “main stream” media is working hand in hand with the CIA to make every effort to cause the common not shooting public to clamor for more gun control. PROJECT MOCKING BIRD is in force and effect as I type.

Wild Bill

Project Mocking Bird?


Sorry I meant OPERATION Mocking Bird.


NBC and other mainstream media all journalist are controlled by the editor today most have lost their way. The landscape of where people get their news as also changed Alternative media controls can now be called influencers as they control what is allowed on the platform. Post the wrong comment your first amendment constitutional right is no longer guaranteed. A long time ago when the world was a little smaller news took days to reach you newspaper or television there was a term on how the media behaved. The term Fourth Estate has been used to describe the role of… Read more »


People with integrity either don’t want to be part of the system of can’t infiltrate the system.


I think a combination of both, to be honest and in government you are attacked and lied about remember big government is about a free ride ,hire more people to do less. a business with this type of employee would go broke in no time. Our government runs bigger and bigger debts for this reason. need to shrink both federal and state governments get back to basics
This may be what they fear someone looking behind the drapes and seeing how much waste there is and start cleaning house

Last edited 9 months ago by swmft