Ignorance Fuels Media's Anti-Gun Stance
Michael S. Brown
gun owners have complained for three decades that the media are biased against them. The
media have either denied it or simply refused to address the issue.
A report released
in January 2000 by the Media Research Center found network news stories about guns
supported more gun control ten times as often as they questioned it. The study evaluated
over 600 news segments on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN over a two-year period.
The networks ignored the
report. They no longer bother to refute the charge that they are biased against gun
rights. This bias has become institutionalized, especially in the major national news
The way in which the media
have chosen sides on this issue has disturbed many people, from civil rights advocates to
conspiracy theorists. Is it part of a sinister conspiracy to install a totalitarian
regime? Perhaps there is a simpler explanation.
Quotes from journalists
blatantly announcing their personal opposition to guns are now archived in large numbers
on the Internet, so there is little doubt that their personal beliefs match the agenda of
their employers. Why do journalists, as a group, tend to hate guns? Let's ask some
Popular columnist Jill J. R.
Labbe of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said:
"Journalists are not
different than other people - they have a tendency to fear what they don't understand. I
look around the newsroom and I see predominantly young reporters, more women than men,
most who grew up in urban areas, few who served in the military, absolutely no hunting
tradition. They have had little or no exposure to firearms beyond their use as tools of
crime. I also see men and women who have a naive faith in law enforcement, that the police
will be around to help them in their time of need."
In 1993, USA Today
ran an in-depth analysis of the gun issue. Journalist Tony Mauro wrote that in the USA
Today office, "which prides itself on drawing its staff from a cross section of
the nation, it was hard to find editors and reporters who had ever pulled a trigger."
Retired journalist Larry
spent their youth listening to Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw expound upon the evils inherent
in gun ownership. To them, the tool bears the stigma - not the person who misuses the
tool. With the disappearance of military conscription, these kids aren't exposed to
weapons except for what they hear and see on TV and in the movies. They buy into the
fictions because they've not been taught about gun use and gun safety."
The definitive statement on
this topic was written by William R. Tonso in Reason magazine: "Most
journalists know very little about guns and are not interested in learning."
A few brave reporters have
actually decided to learn something about firearms. The resulting articles are often very
Al Giordano produced an
excellent article for the Boston Phoenix (7/21/95) after he accepted an offer from
gun rights activist C.D. Tavares to visit a shooting range to learn about so-called
"assault weapons." He discovered that many of his ideas about these weapons and
about gun owners were wrong.
Phillip Weiss wrote in the New
York Times Sunday Magazine (9/19/94) of his first shooting experience. His
well-written story explores the strong emotions and internal conflict that guns can invoke
in someone who has been taught to hate and fear them. Accompanied by experienced shooters
at the range, Weiss begins to absorb the essence of what it means to be a responsible gun
owner. "Issues of trust, individualism and community started to transform
themselves," he writes. For a moment, he seems to realize that the gun owner's logic
was correct but then states, "I wasn't ready to give up the social contract I'd
already bought into."
All journalists who write
about firearms issues owe it to their readers to educate themselves. There are numerous
firearms training centers around the country that offer many levels of instruction, from
quick introductions to weeklong training sessions. Unfortunately, journalists are rare in
these classes. Perhaps they are afraid of the gun owners they've demonized, or perhaps
they fear that their elitist beliefs will be changed.
There may be some signs that
the bias is moderating outside the first tier of networks and newspapers. The relatively
young Fox News Network has taken its commitment to unbiased coverage seriously and aired
an occasional gun-neutral or pro-gun news report. The anti-gun Seattle Times
recently announced in an editorial that the Second Amendment does indeed protect a
citizen's right to own a handgun.
Philadelphia's City Paper
ran a cover story on April 6 that was headlined: "What if the Gun Nuts Are
Right?" Portland's Willamette Week ran an unbiased story on concealed weapons
permits, and the Tacoma Reporter sent a correspondent to visit a range with a gun
rights advocate. Apparently, open minds are more common at smaller newspapers, but they
can't offset the overwhelming influence of the national media.
Many observers have
suggested that the fight for the right to bear arms is a dress rehearsal for the next
fight, for freedom of the press. Gun owners have proven to be a formidable political
group, and they have long memories. Which side will they support in that future conflict?
How The Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate
Tonso, "Shooting Blind," Reason Magazine
Comments by Jill "J.R." Labbe and Larry Palletti
The Great American Gun Debate
By Don B. Kates, Jr. and Gary Kleck.
The Gun Control Debate: You Decide
Edited by Lee Nisbet.
More Guns, Less Crime
By John Lott
Politically Correct Guns
By Alan Gottlieb
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