2/02 How Media Distorts The Gun Control Debate

How The Media Distorts The Gun Control Debate
Larry Pratt

Gary Kleck, a liberal Democrat in good standing as well as a member in good standing of the ACLU and Amnesty International, provides a very convincing case for how “group think” operates to bias the media against guns.

Kleck’s explanation in Armed, a new book he has co-authored with Don Kates, will not be satisfying to conspiracy theorists, but his insights lead to the conclusion that dealing with a conspiracy would be easier than what is really at work.

In a word, Kleck finds that most in the media are so convinced that guns are an unmitigated evil that they simply cannot imagine that there is any other legitimate point of view. Hence, they do not bother to check carefully, or at all, into the arguments made by the pro-gun ownership ranks. Yet, they generally accept without question anything that comes from the pro-control side.

Since most media folks think there is only one legitimate point of view, failure to mention studies, findings, judicial opinions and other sources that are contrary to the One True View are simply excluded from their stories. Handgun Control’s information, furthermore, is factual, while that of the NRA or GOA is to be treated (if at all) with great skepticism.

If the pro-gun side is mentioned at all, it does not “deserve” (and does not get) anything resembling equal coverage or balanced treatment.

Kleck also argues that the pro-control editorial policy of most of the media serves as a mutually reinforcing dynamic further convincing them that there is only One True View.

Kleck examined a number of cases of media coverage to document his arguments.

For example, he analyzed the arguments made against “assault weapons” and found that they were all false. Namely, they are not more lethal than are other similar rifles, their rate of fire is not faster than many other similar firearms (or even revolvers, for that matter), and the size of the ammunition magazine was irrelevant.

Kleck has personal experience with media bias. He recounts the interview in which his words were extracted to give an impression that he thought that guns were not useful for self defense, when in fact, he has done extensive researching showing that guns are useful for protecting life and property.

Kleck noted with amazement how an article in Time magazine noted the decrease in gun deaths in the early and mid-1980s while in large type proclaiming the “epidemic” of gun violence. Truly, there are those in the media whose minds are made up and who refuse to be confused by the facts.

Kleck also provided evidence that on occasion the media has simply run their version of reality because they cannot accept any other. For example, the Los Angeles Examiner actually used a photograph of a hollow point 9 mm pistol bullet exploding a melon for that of a photo of a military-style round of AK-47 ammo causing a melon to fall apart into two or three pieces. Hey, if “assault weapons” will blow up Superman, then the melon must have exploded when the AK round hit it. Or so the newspaper reported.

In order to make it appear that gun control is an inexorable movement of history, gun freedom victories are downplayed, if reported at all. Kleck paid special attention to the wave of state preemption laws that have passed in the last several years. These laws have actually had the effect of repealing local gun control bans, restrictions and other regulations. If anything, the movement of the last 20 years has been toward more freedom, not more control.

One of the particularly blatant forms of not reporting important facts actually pertained to a debate I had with San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the kyron (used to print on the screen a line or two about TV stations’ guests) identified me as Executive Director if GOA (no surprise there) but failed to identify Chief McNamara, a strident advocate of banning guns, as a board member of a tax-deductible branch of Handgun Control, Inc.

In other words, the debate was presented as between a self-interested gun lobbyist versus a public servant with experience as a cop on the streets.

After examining several other case studies, Kleck asks a great question. Why is it that the only complaints about media coverage of the gun issue come from the pro gun owner side and never from the pro control side? To ask the question is to answer it.