By Robert Waters
On September 11, 2001, after two jets crashed into the Twin Towers in New York, the major television networks were faced with a crucial decision. Should they show the frightful scenes of victims jumping to their deaths from upwards of eighty stories?
NBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS chose not to. Whether or not you agree with the networks, there is little doubt that their refusal to show all the news affected our attitudes about the attacks. Had those scenes been shown, American resolve to crush the terrorists might have dug even deeper.
The major networks affect opinion by what they don't show as much as by what does appear on our television screens. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the unseen side of the gun issue.
For instance, when was the last time the networks interviewed someone who used a gun in self-defense? Since these cases are almost never shown in the national media, millions of viewers assume that they never happen.
School shootings, stories of employees going postal and gunning down co-workers, and even gang-related shootings are regular fare on television news. But because stories of armed self-defense are unseen, the implication is that guns are only used for harmful or criminal purposes.
Here are a few examples of stories you never saw.
On March 14, in a case that seemed a natural for national news, a football star was gunned down while trying to hold up a liquor store. Derrick Breedlove, a talented tight end, had recently signed a scholarship to play for Hampton University in Virginia. Scouts were already touting him for an NFL career. But when he entered the liquor store wearing a ski-mask and brandishing a sawed-off shotgun, Breedlove was shot and killed by a clerk.
On April 2, Virginia "Sue" Devoe was attacked in her Clintonville, Ohio home. Her former boyfriend, James Ryan McVey, kicked in the front door, dragged her through the house by her hair, and repeatedly kicked her. Then he attempted to kidnap her. That's when Devoe's 91-year-old neighbor came to her aid.
Shirley Becraft drew his handgun and shot the intruder. McVey's death ended years of violent assaults on Devoe. A local investigator praised Becraft, saying, "It's hard to know where she would be now if he hadn't [shot McVey]."
On March 18, in Orange City, Florida, Robert Shockey waited inside Blockbuster Video for his son, who worked there, to close the store. The store had been the scene of a violent armed robbery a month before. Shockey, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, saw two ski-masked robbers burst through the doors. One carried a hunting rifle and threatened an employee.
Shockey pulled his handgun and shot the gun-wielding assailant. When the second robber reached for the rifle that his accomplice had dropped, Shockey shot him.
Police not only ruled the shooting self-defense, they stated that they planned to give Shockey a "good citizenship award."
And so it goes.
On March 5, Bethan Scutchfield, a 71-year-old invalid from Colville, Washington fatally wounded a stranger who broke into her house and knocked her to the floor.
On March 6, an 83-year-old San Antonio woman shot a teenager as he tried to break into her home.
On March 3, in Pembroke Pines, Florida, two robbers pointed semiautomatic weapons at businessman Corey Dacres but the victim pulled his own gun and shot both of them. Dacres, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, was not injured.
Cases of armed self-defense occur thousands of times each year. What is the price we pay for the black-out of such stories by the networks? Like a shadow war, viewers who aren't shown both sides of the issue remain uninformed.