Make Known Unknown (Blog 9)

A Bullet in the Gun Debate


Yesterday I was alarmed to see that my home state of New Jersey made national news for a shooting in a local shopping mall. Thankfully, no civilians were harmed. Nevertheless, it appears that every few months a new horrible story pops up where innocent lives are taken away by someone with a gun and the most evil of intentions. The media has not been shy about this, making mass shootings one of the most covered news stories today. As far as advocates for the second amendment are concerned, the message is clear: our media pushes for gun control.

Advocates of the right to bear arms have argued incessantly that the media is painting them out to be gun-wielding rednecks, whose hobby is causing the death of tons of innocent citizens. And until recently I may have agreed. Last week, I saw an article about a party in Arizona where a mass shooting was avoided by a partygoer who happened to be a concealed carrier. After being kicked out of a party, a man in his 20s returned to the house with a rifle and pointed it at guests, prepared to fire. A man on the scene took out his handgun and shot the potential shooter before any damage could be done. Had this man not had his gun on him, who knows the damage that could have occurred and the lives that could have been lost. This has been a main counterargument that gun advocates like the NRA have been pushing: guns in the hands of more responsible people, not less, can actually reduce violence.

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The problem? This story was hardly picked up by the media. If a friend hadn’t posted it on Facebook, I probably would have never heard about it. Had the gunman actually shot and killed people at the party, I am nearly one hundred percent positive that it would have made national news. But how many stories like this, where guns actually prevent tragedy, go untold? This is one of the most heated debates on one of the most delicate topics concerning our nation today, and I’m not trying to advocate for or against gun control here. But if the media is clearly favoring one side and isn’t presenting information on every aspect of the issue, isn’t that a problem?

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6 thoughts on “A Bullet in the Gun Debate

  1. It’s a valid point that had the scenario been reversed than the story would have hit the media. I am upset by these random acts of violence too, Jersey being my home state too in this case, but how often can we count on the armed spectator to do the right/best thing. It’s hard to imagine that across the country all the people who are approved to carry a weapon will be of the right mindset to act appropriately with it and prevent something like a shooting from happening. I wish it wasn’t the case but I just don’t think there is any way to guarantee that allowing citizens to bear arms will result in saving more lives.

    • Emily,

      It’s hard to imagine that across the country all the people who are approved to carry a weapon will be of the right mindset to act appropriately with it and prevent something like a shooting from happening.

      If the media spread reports like the Arizona one with the same intensity they did the mass murders; it would be easier to imagine. Time and time again people with concealed handguns, home owners with firearms stop, store owners with guns stop crime. Doesn’t make much news because it a.) doesn’t fit the narrative the media wants (guns=bad) and b.) few injuries or deaths result, meaning it isn’t spectacular.

      Gary Kleck and something Gertz, two anti-gun folks, did a study way back and found an estimate 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year. Bill Clinton followed up with that and found the same approximate numbers; 2,500,000 defensive gun uses per year.

      It really isn’t hard to imagine the right thing being done.

  2. How does coverage of mass shootings or school shootings equate to a mainstream media agenda to push for gun control?

    The coverage is driven by the tragedy, by the shock factor. You could look at how the story is presented to make a stronger point.

    For every thwarted crime by an armed citizen, there are, I’ll bet, hundreds if not thousands of accidental deaths. So, an equally or more under-covered story is the systematic deaths of massive gun ownership. By massive, I simply mean “a lot.”

    • Jordi,

      The coverage equates to an agenda by the fact they choose what to report, how much to report on it and what angle to take. The media also chooses not to push the times a crime is stopped or prevented. Look at the Arizona party report; look at how few outlets picked it up.

      If the media was truly bias free; there would be more coverage of crimes stopped.

      For every thwarted crime by an armed citizen, there are, I’ll bet, hundreds if not thousands of accidental deaths.

      Uh, NO.

      The lowest estimate of defensive gun uses (where a crime is stopped or prevented by the lawful use of a firearm) is the National Crime Victim Survey with 108,000 per year.

      The Center for Disease Control’s WISQAR program shows the highest number of NON-FATAL INJURIES — not deaths at 18,941 in 2003. From the same source, there were 802 accidental firearm related fatalities (in 2001) as the high. So 10 times as many crimes stopped as fatal accidents at the minimum.
      Even if suicide is considered, there were around 20,000 firearm related suicides in 2010. 5 times as many defensive gun uses as self inflicted fatalities. Suicides usually make up 2/3rds of all firearm related fatalities.

      The idea that there is ‘the systematic deaths of massive gun ownership” simply is part of the agenda and propaganda pushed by the media.

      Notice that the same media seldom repeats day after day after day articles about traffic fatalities where many people die at one time? Yet those events happen more often than mass shootings.

      • Thank you for the research. That is much lower than I thought for fatalities. 18,000 injuries is more substantial.

        I should have specified that I meant mass shootings prevented as that seems to be the way this is described in media conversations.

        “Attacker goes on spree, if only there had been someone there to shoot him dead…”

        I still don’t agree coverage is by itself evidence of a particular agenda. To observe an agenda in news coverage I would want to see an analysis of keywords, of language used and so on. Perhaps someone has done it.

        As you yourself point out, news of recurring events is under-reported. Traffic fatalities, non-crimes, and so on.

        So, the argument that coverage is evidence of propaganda is missing a link. Propaganda is promulgated by a group or entity. In fact, usually propaganda refers to government-created information meant to mislead or control its own population. So who exactly are the conspirators in this argument?

  3. Jordi,

    That is much lower than I thought for fatalities.

    And that doesn’t strike you as ‘off’? Most people know approximately how many traffic fatalities happen in their area or across the country. The media reports those numbers quite often. That is an aspect of the media bias and agenda; they hype the sensational stories and seldom put them into context. Look at what happens when an airliner crashes; we hear the casualty count and almost immediately are bombarded with information on how safe air travel is.
    Yet due to the persistent over dramatization of firearm related crimes, fatalities and injuries; people think the rates are much higher than they actually are.

    I should have specified that I meant mass shootings prevented as that seems to be the way this is described in media conversations.

    And there is a condundrum — the media covers the ‘spectacular’ events but chooses to down play the times lives are saved.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/10-potential-mass-shootings-that-were-stopped-by-someone-wit

    How many of the 9 incidents listed there, out of many many more, have you heard about? One or two…maybe the New Life Church shooting in Colorado?
    Check out the NRA-ILA’s “Armed Citizen” stories to see how many times criminals are stopped. Yet we hear of one person shot and one person wounded for days if it happens at LAX — but a woman shooting two robbers at her store? Barely makes a wave.

    Think that is the extent of it, not a chance. The media can be very subtle. Check out how lives are lost due to a drunk driver or a collision but people were killed by a gun man. Or how about the travesty that the media played out with George Zimmerman.. A national news program edited his 911 call to make it seem like he was racially profiling. The media still refers to Zimmerman as a murderer or someone who ‘got away with murder’ — after the court’s thorough review of the evidence and statements proved he acted in self defense.
    How would you want to be referred if you had been on the ground, your head pounded into the concrete and felt you had no other option?
    Agree with him or not, think he should have stayed in the car or not; just look at how the media refers to him. Look at the people the media chooses to interview, to highlight — and see the bias.

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