MediaWatch: July 13, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 11

ABC's Firearms Fearmongering

Greeted by a graphic of gunshots shattering through a headline, readers were subjected to an unbalanced special series titled "Armed in America." found little space to run the pro-gun rights side. In a series of six articles, just 13 scattered paragraphs were given to gun rights advocates, five of which were just brief audio files. Most of the series focused on firearms fearmongering.

In an article headlined "The Land of Guns and Death," reporter Jorgen Wouters declared: "America is carrying on a deadly love affair with firearms that kills some 35,000 people every year." Wouters castigated America for not being as enlightened as Europe or Australia: "After a particularly shocking killing several countries have chosen to ban handguns outright. But that hasn’t happened in the United States, which has a constitutional protection for gun owners, and a lot of scared people who want protection in a society that’s starting to mirror its movies. The death toll mounts."

In an article on "solutions," Wouters added: "Everyone agrees America will never pass a British or Australian-style gun ban, but short of such measures, what can be done to reduce the number of American gun deaths?" An encouraged Wouters extrapolated current trends into a utopian liberal future: "Time and demographics may offer some hope. The NRA’s membership peaked at 3.5 million in the mid 1990s, and now stands below 3 million. The number of Americans that hunt — the NRA’s core constituents — is declining, and if current trends continue, hunting may all but disappear in the U.S by the middle of the 21st century, says Robert Spitzer, professor of Political Science at SUNY Cortland and author of The Politics of Gun Control."

Wouters repeatedly held up the European model: "While even draconian gun control probably wouldn’t reduce U.S. gun deaths to European rates, many experts agree the amount of deadly violence would approach more civilized levels." But the strangest passage came when Wouters quoted Harvard professor David Hemenway, making this absurd assertion about the NRA argument that the Second Amendment is not an "anachronism" open to loose interpretation: "The NRA repeats it over and over again. And the media repeats it and people buy it." The people may buy it, but the media aren’t selling it.