I’m a rare combination: a trained journalist who grew up understanding the value of guns.
My dad taught me how to shoot and made sure I understood safety, my rights and my responsibility – namely, that the government wouldn’t be around if I suddenly needed protection.
I’ve been rather queasy reading and hearing journalists’ take on the Virginia Tech shooting.
One of the worst articles I’ve seen was purely coincidental. Marie Claire magazine’s May issue – which would have gone to press before the tragic rampage on April 16 – featured a stomach-turning essay by Sarah Liston, a woman who used to enjoy firearms ownership.
She, like me, grew up in the gun-friendly South and moved to a big city on the East Coast. But our similarities end there.
Liston chronicled her journey to supposed enlightenment in the most clichéd of ways, describing her Texan roots in a “throwback environment” that kept women down. She found “exhilarating” power in wielding a gun, until she left the “Wild West” for modern New York. Predictably, she found “compassion” in her new liberal surroundings and was horrified to see, with new eyes, the culture she’d escaped when she eventually visited Dallas again.
“I realized I no longer needed a gun to feel powerful,” Liston wrote. “If anything, my willingness to be vulnerable makes me stronger.”
No crime victim ever reveled in, or gained strength from, his or her vulnerability. But the way Liston talked about exhilarating power as a leading purpose for gun ownership, maybe we should be glad she permanently holstered her weapon. A need for power sounds like the psychological red flags we’ve heard so much about when it comes to dangerous individuals.
But this is the commentary of the enlightened, and The New Yorker added an unbelievable column following the shooting.
“There is no reason that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun. At some point, that simple truth will register. Until it does, phones will ring for dead children, and parents will be told not to ask why.” That was the dramatic interpretation of Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.
It’s easy to dismiss those as elitist commentaries, naturally out of touch with the American public. In an ABC News poll released April 23, 45 percent of respondents said their households contained guns – not exactly a fringe group.
But that hasn’t stopped the media’s echoing calls for nationwide gun bans. It hasn’t stopped the misguided notion that more regulation and fewer freedoms for the law-abiding would stop determined killers.
More regulation hasn’t helped Britain, though ABC News glowingly portrayed that nation’s gun ban and touted it as preventing school shootings. In England and Wales, the number of gun murders has remained relatively unchanged despite the ban, while overall gun crime has risen a whopping 242 percent, as The Washington Post reported.
When reporters weren’t busy nodding in agreement about more gun restrictions, they were “investigating” the place where Cho bought his gun. Some acted as though the store was continuing its own murder spree.
“The Roanoke Firearms store where Seung-Hui Cho bought his murder weapon has a history of selling guns involved in murders. It is the fifth time a gun sold in this store has been used in a homicide,” said ABC’s Brian Ross.
What to do? CBS reported that Roanoke Firearms sells about 2,500 guns per year. If one of those is used to commit a crime, should the store be shut down? If so, we’d better start shutting down manufacturers and sellers of kitchen knives, cars and baseball bats – all of which could be used as deadly weapons. (While we’re at it, let’s shut down grocery stores and end the “obesity epidemic.”)
It seems truer every day that neither facts nor common sense shall stand in the way of journalism. Among the many stories we don’t see are the tales of brave individuals who protect their families, friends and co-workers from harm, perhaps using the other 2,499 guns that will be sold by Roanoke Firearms this year.
While Liston, Gopnik and ABC News wax on about the sad state of a gun-friendly nation, everyday journalists should ask the tens of millions of American gun owners about their stories.
They might learn that true enlightenment means never having to say you’re sorry … that you weren’t able to protect yourself.
Amy Menefee is Deputy Editor with the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute outside Washington, D.C. She holds two degrees in journalism and a Smith & Wesson revolver.