The Media's Anti-Gun Bias

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The Colorado Freedom

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For release: March 8, 2001

High school shooting and car massacre: Ultimate proof of media's anti-gun bias?

WASHINGTON, DC -- The media's anti-gun bias is showing loud and clear this week as the latest high school shooting (two dead in California) is plastered all over every front page in America -- while last week's murderous college car rampage (four dead in California) was virtually ignored, charge Libertarians.

"A disturbed 15-year-old California high school student kills two classmates with a gun, and it's front-page news and around-the- clock TV coverage," said George Getz, the Libertarian Party's press secretary. "Last week, a disturbed 19-year-old California college student kills four classmates with a car, and it's a minor blurb in newspapers and a 10-second clip on the news.

"What's the explanation for this, unless journalists are almost 100% opposed to the Second Amendment -- and eager to jump on any opportunity to demonize guns and exploit gun-related tragedies, while ignoring other, equally horrific, crimes?"

On Monday, a 15-year-old boy opened fire on his classmates in Santee, California, killing two and injuring 13 others at the Santana High School.

The suspect, Charles Andrew Williams, was described as a "scrawny" kid who had been picked on by bullies. Over the previous weekend, he had joked about shooting up his school.

The story made the front page of almost every major American newspaper, was the lead item on the nightly network news, and is generating around-the-clock discussion on cable TV networks. The crime also prompted new demands to restrict or outlaw guns.

Meanwhile, on February 26, a 19-year-old student at the University of California at Santa Barbara plowed his car -- traveling at 60 miles an hour -- into a crowd of college students in Isla Vista, killing four and critically injuring one.

The suspect, David Attias, shouted, "I'm the angel of death!" as he was taken away from the scene. He was described by fellow students as troubled, and was known in his dormitory as "Crazy Dave."

That story was relegated to the inside of most newspapers, and generated scant attention on network or cable news shows. The crime prompted no demands to restrict or outlaw automobiles.

Why was one a major story in the eyes of journalists -- and the other an afterthought? The only plausible explanation is media bias, said Getz.

"Journalists are taught to revere the First Amendment, but most appear to scorn the Second Amendment," he said. "So they use their First Amendment rights to slant and distort the news to attack the Second Amendment.

"As America rightfully mourns the two dead students in Santee while unfairly ignoring the four dead students in Isla Vista, that media bias is on display for everyone to see."

Unfortunately, the Santana High School coverage isn't the only example of the hostility the media has towards gun rights, said Getz.

In January, the Media Research Center released the results of a two-year study examining how the four major networks covered gun- related news stories.

The study, "Outgunned: How the Network News Media are Spinning the Gun Control Debate," analyzed 635 stories on gun policy by ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC. It found that stories with an anti-gun perspective outnumbered pro-gun stories by 357 to 36 -- a 10-to-l ratio. Another 260 stories were classified as neutral.

Such a pattern is troubling -- not just for the Second Amendment, but for the First Amendment, too, said Getz.

"Libertarians are distressed by the media's anti-gun bias, but we recognize journalists' right to broadcast whatever they want," he said. "However, journalists need to understand that when they attack one basic right, they attack all rights; when they give politicians more power in one area, they give politicians more power in all areas.

"In the long run, the media's hostility to the Second Amendment -- and the exploitation of tragedies like the one at Santana High School -- will help undermine the right they hold most dear: The First Amendment. That's a lesson journalists need to learn before it's too late."

The Colorado Freedom