Providing viable coverage of Second Amendment rights, gun control, public safety and American values is a tricky business. The press, however, is taking a few liberties here.
Consider that their very language has changed: journalists appear to prefer term “gun reform” over “gun control.” There’s a reason for this.
“The American media have long supported gun control, but they have increased their attacks on the gun industry since the Newtown shooting in December with a careful shift in the language they use. The term is likely to gain even more use following the shooting in D.C.’s Navy Yard,”says Kristine Marsh, an analyst with the Media Research Centers Business and Media Institute who has tracked the patterns of usage through print and broadcast.
“While the commonplace ‘gun control’ has an aggressive connotation to it, and rightfully so, the liberals have attempted to replace it with the softer-sounding ‘gun reform’ to make their agenda more acceptable to the public,” Ms. Marsh adds.
And the numbers: The term “gun reform” was mentioned just 25 times in print in three top newspapers - The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post - from 1986 through April 14, 2012. From April though December 2012, the term did not make an appearance at all until the Newtown tragedy Dec. 14.
In the eight months since Newtown, these three papers have used the phrase “gun reform” 23 times, nearly as many times as they had used it in the 26 years prior, the analyst says. “ABC, NBC and CBS also adopted the politically correct term, using it in 10 different morning and evening weekday broadcasts since January. By contrast, there was only one mention of ‘gun reform’ in the weekday broadcasts since 1996.”
The sudden popularity of the phrase also extended into the entertainment realm; the study found that CBS late night host David Letterman also used it a dozen times.
Journalists and anxious TV anchors, meanwhile, were determined to report that an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was used in the Navy Yard shootings. ‘Same gun, different slay,’ read a New York Daily News headline, calling it a “Newtown weapon.” CNN, MSNBC and the Daily Mail featured similar accounts.
“The news media seemed to seize on one particular aspect of Monday’s reprehensible shooting,” says National Review columnist Alec Torres. “The FBI now says that he used a shotgun and two pistols, and no AR-15 at all. The lack of hard information didn’t stop the moral panic, and none of the outlets have bothered to retract their claims,” he notes.