Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Today, Jesse Jackson, the Brady bunch — not the TV folks but the anti-gun lobby — and other liberal activists will rally against “the national scourge of illegal guns” in cities around the nation.

The real target is the legal sale of guns. Mr. Jackson has made that quite clear by going after gun shops and accusing them of abetting crime.

One of the rallies will be in Newark, N.J., near the park where four students were shot in the head. Although two of the suspects are illegal aliens, it’s doubtful that the protesters will take a shot at illegal immigration as a factor.

As far as media attention, the anti-gun activists are counting on good coverage. And why not?

Liberal journalists, like other liberals, don’t like guns. Or, rather, they don’t like private citizens owning guns.

How do we know? From the loaded coverage night after night on the networks and each day in major newspapers.

A new study released yesterday by David Neidrauer from the Culture and Media Institute, where I am director, documents seven months of media coverage of gun issues, explaining the media’s potshots at the Second Amendment.

The media had a field day during the week after the Virginia Tech campus shootings on April 16. The major broadcast networks ran nearly 30 total stories promoting gun control, with another 24 from CNN, nine in the New York Times and 20 in The Washington Post. The message was delivered with machine-gun regularity: Lack of gun control led to the massacre, so more gun laws might prevent another massacre.

Armen Keteyian of “CBS Evening News” quoted the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and noted that Virginia Tech (which had recently imposed a total gun ban on campus) had fought Virginia’s “hunting culture” in a desperate effort to “safeguard the student population.” Seung-Hui Cho clearly was not deterred by Tech’s gun ban.

Conspicuously absent from the coverage were the many documented cases of guns used by citizens to thwart criminals. According to a survey by the U.S. Journal of Criminal Law, more than 2.5 million people annually use a gun in self defense. You’d never know it from the media’s preference for lurid murder pieces.

From Jan. 1 to August 2007, ABC, NBC and CBS ran a total of 650 murder stories. During the same period, self defense cropped up once on ABC, once on NBC and was absent on CBS. ABC’s John Stossel referred to two cases of armed self defense on the May 4 edition of “20/20,” and NBC’s “Today Show” on April 23 featured former Miss America Venus Ramey, 82, who wielded a shotgun to chase off an intruder.

During the Tech aftermath, talk radio and Internet blogs filled some of the information gap by noting relevant incidents like the two Appalachian School of Law students in 2002 who grabbed their own guns to capture a man who had killed three people on campus. The networks showed little interest in the possibility that a similarly armed Virginia Tech student or professor might have stopped Cho before he slaughtered 32 souls in Blacksburg.

Another tactic that the media are using in their assault on gun ownership is making selective, misleading comparisons to other nations. NBC anchor Brian Williams noted on April 17, the day after the Tech massacre, that Great Britain “outlawed handguns, and anyone caught with one faces a minimum prison sentence of five years. They are so opposed to guns here that not even police officers on routine patrol carry them. Now gun violence is rare.”

Mr. Williams ignored the rise in knife violence and other crime amid Britain’s long history of strict gun laws and unarmed “bobbies.” He also declined to mention countries like Switzerland, where male citizens are required to be armed with assault rifles and ready for militia duty, but where there is little gun violence. Or South Africa, which has some of the most stringent gun laws but has a rate of gun homicides of 74.57 per 100,000 population, contrasted with New Zealand, with weak gun laws and only a 0.18 rate of gun homicides per 100,000 people.

Even after the Virginia Tech story cooled, the media continued its portrayal of lawless cities in need of more gun control.

A classic example was a hit piece by “ABC World News Sunday” on July 8 blaming “rural” Pennsylvania’s law makers for a 2007 crime wave of shootings in Philadelphia. After Rep. Steve Capelli, the single pro-gun rights legislator featured in the story, gave a statement, the camera went to a crime scene, followed by a gunshot, and then this from reporter David Kerley:

“That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate. And cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death.”

Rural people, bad. Rural people with guns, worse. Rural people with guns cause Philadelphians to shoot each other.

Will the anti-gun lobby get good coverage for their rallies today?

You might as well ask, “Does the Brady bunch have CBS, NBC, and ABC on speed dial?”

“That’s the view down our media gun sight, good luck and goodnight.”

Robert Knight is director of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute.

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