Last night: Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly crafts an on-air editorial that expresses deep skepticism toward gun control. Though he did concede that the country had a “gun culture,” he said. But: “Simply passing laws against gun possession will not stop mass murder. It would be like England banning knives after Jack the Ripper’s killing spree,” he declared.

Friday Night: O’Reilly strikes a tone of resignation: “There is an evil in the universe and you can’t stop it. You can’t stop it, and we just have to deal with it.”

What happened to O’Reilly’s views on this topic?

Have a look at the history here: On July 24, in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater massacre, O’Reilly did a segment about the implications of mass murder. He played a video clip of a victim’s family member saying essentially what O’Reilly himself said after Newtown: “If somebody’s to do harm to somebody, they are going to find a way to do it,” said the person.

O’Reilly, however, challenged the sentiment, saying:

Then of course that’s true. But it also makes sense for Congress to pass a new law that requires the sale of all heavy weapons to be reported to the FBI. In this age of terrorism, that law is badly needed.

The host welcomed Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz to spar on the topic of gun regulations, and a shouting match unraveled. Speaking of alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes, O’Reilly continued:

That kid’s purchase on the Internet wasn’t reported to any federal agency. That’s why he was able to assemble that armor that he had. And you are telling me you — you object to this? This doesn’t intrude on any hunter, anybody with a handgun to protect themselves.

More: “This guy in Colorado got all this stuff and nobody knew about it.”

What happened to that Bill O’Reilly?

Who knows. Perhaps he’s merely adjusting to the changing circumstances of the massacres. The alleged Aurora shooter, after all, bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, raising questions as to whether that freedom jibes with public safety; the Newtown shooter, on the other hand, appears to have procured weaponry legally registered to his mother. Those distinctions notwithstanding, O’Reilly appears to have slid from a massive believer in the mayhem-preventing power of the FBI to something of a resignationist on the matter. Viewers could benefit from an O’Reilly explanation on how he has evolved on the issue.
Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine reported yesterday that Fox News had banned discussion of gun control and such policy talk in the immediate aftermath of Newtown. It’s unclear whether that sentiment applies to O’Reilly’s highly influential program.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.