Editor’s Note: The second of three articles excerpted from the new book “Emily Gets Her Gun but Obama Wants to Take Yours” by Emily Miller, senior opinion editor at The Washington Times.
I am a member of the mainstream media, but I’m also pro-Second Amendment. There are few in the journalism profession who share my beliefs. The public, therefore, gets a heavily biased view of firearm ownership and gun violence in America.
The anti-gun media bias has had a serious impact on the public’s understanding of the issues. Most tellingly, the majority of Americans don’t know that gun violence has been going down every year. Firearm-related homicides in the U.S. have declined 39 percent in the last 30 years, according to the Justice Department.
However, over half of the public wrongly believes gun violence is higher now than 20 years ago, according to a recent Pew Research poll. Only 12 percent of Americans know that firearms-related crimes are down.
The media are largely to blame for this misconception. There are two main reasons for the distortion of the facts. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a saying that originally described local TV stations that started their news broadcasts with stories about violent-crime victims, but it also applies equally to the national media after a mass shooting.
The Sandy Hook massacre was particularly horrific because the victims were innocent school children, but it was a rare event, not a sign of an increase in mass shootings. Nevertheless, the media went wall to wall with coverage from Connecticut for weeks.
The big three broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, and CBS — ran 216 segments on gun policy on their evening and morning shows in the month after the December 2012 Newtown shooting, according to a Media Research Center study. Of these, the stories advocating more gun control outnumbered stories featuring opposition to new restrictions by a ratio of 8 to 1. CBS was the most biased with a 22-to-1 ratio of gun control to gun-rights stories.
Once the airwaves and newspapers had been saturated, Mr. Obama and his money man New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg used the terrible crime to launch their plans to bring back the “assault weapon” ban.
But the media distortion goes beyond the fact that shootings and grisly deaths interest viewers and boost ratings. Anti-gun bias also plays a role. Mainstream media outlets are based in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Few reporters are gun owners or have any familiarity with firearms. As a result, they are constantly making mistakes about simple gun terminology and functionality.
Their ignorance of basic types of firearms was widely exposed after the White House released a photo of President Obama skeet shooting. Major print media outlets, including the New York Times, incorrectly labeled the gun a “rifle” instead of a shotgun.
Just to be clear, a rifle shoots a single bullet straight, while a shotgun fires a shell that usually has many pellets that scatter in a wide area. Skeet shooting — which Mr. Obama claimed he does “all the time” — is done with a shotgun in order to have a chance at hitting the small fast-moving clay target.
Rifles are what the gun-grabbers want to take, not shotguns. Well, at least not yet.
Almost every newspaper uses the term “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazine (or frequently “clip”) without putting quotation marks around those loaded terms.
Reporters use words such as “stockpile,” “arsenal” and “weapons of war” for the kinds of firearms and amounts of ammunition in the average gun owner’s possession. The media are continually astonished at unremarkable quantities of ammunition.
A New York Times editorial in July 2012 entitled “6,000 bullets,” questioned why bulk Internet purchases of ammunition aren’t monitored by the government. A Washington Post editorial that same month mentioned the “astonishing 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition” that Aurora shooter James Holmes purchased online and asked, “Should online sales of ammunition be prohibited or more carefully scrutinized?”