A meteorologist's Facebook comments about guns and kids alarm his audience
When Stefani Seeley moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area seven years ago, she was not used to the area's notoriously unpredictable weather.
So she turned to iWeatherNet, a Facebook page and website that posts regular updates about Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta-area weather for a loyal following. The website lists a number of contributors as part of its team, but founder Chris Robbins appears to run the entire Facebook account, with more than 115,000 followers, and posts frequently.
Lately, Seeley's once reliable weather resource has turned into something completely unsettling.
This week, Robbins wrote in a Facebook post that has since been deleted, "A child just rang my doorbell. Folks you do NOT ring doorbells in 2023. My 6 was loaded," he said, referencing a gun. "Keep your kids away."
Robbins didn't respond to NPR's repeated requests for comment.
Seeley took a screenshot of the post and shared it on Twitter in a tweet that has since been reshared thousands of times.
Later on, Robbins wrote in a separate update, "Folks, it is a bad idea to allow your kids to go around ringing doorbells in 2023. Read the news. Stop it."
His follow-up post went on to say that the girl had been looking for her lost kitten and that Robbins warned her that he "might pull her hair" if she rang his doorbell again. He ended with, "Others out there will cause harm. Please teach your kids to stay away from doorbells."
The comments disturbed Seeley and some of Robbins' other followers — especially as the remarks came just weeks after tragic shootings involving gun-wielding homeowners.
The social media posts show fear and paranoia in America, expert says
Last month, Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old in Kansas City, Mo., was shot and seriously injured after ringing the doorbell of a wrong house. Days later, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis, who was on her way to a friend's house in rural New York, was shot and killed after the car she was in pulled into the driveway of the wrong house.
Many of Robbins' followers who commented on these posts perceived his comments as disturbing threats. Some even urged him to get professional counseling.
The feelings portrayed in Robbins' social media messages are an example of the fear and paranoia that exist nationwide and push many Americans to reach for their guns, said Mark Bryant, the executive director of Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks cases of gun violence.
In the last decade, "propagated by escalating rhetoric of the [National Rifle Association] and their acolytes we are seeing an underlying fear and paranoia that isn't abated by social norms and counter thought," he wrote to NPR in an email. "Folks live in their echo chambers and that fear is reenforced that there is a bad guy around every corner."
The NRA didn't immediately respond to a request for a response.
Bryant added, "We should be enjoying the fruits of exploding technological advancements and instead, a third of the country is cowering behind their firearms, sure that danger is just around the corner."
Robbins doubled down on his feelings in subsequent posts.
On Tuesday, he wrote in a since-deleted post, "Little girl got a pass. Do not ring doorbell. Please," along with a link to an Inside Edition story on the shooting of Yarl. He shared that same link in another post that said, "my 6 is right over there. ... I know the Fulton County police chief."
Robbins said in another update that he was joking, and he alleged that he was receiving death threats and had the police called on him.
Seeley said Robbins has made questionable comments on this Facebook page before. "He likes to rile people up, but then paint himself as the victim," she told NPR via Facebook Messenger.
But these comments were different and unsettling in light of the incidents involving Yarl and Gillis, she said.
"My kids have been on lockdown at school multiple times this year. They are living in fear, and parents are just getting used to the idea that it will happen and it will happen to people you know, including their own kids," Seeley told NPR.
Seeley said she had lost a child in a "senseless car accident. I'm used to feeling like another one of them could be taken at the hands of another AGAIN. Kids and parents deserve to feel safe. I just don't want to see other parents go through burying a child."
Fernando Alfonso III contributed to this story.
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