On their evening and morning news shows on Thursday and Friday, NBC and
CBS were quick to tout Democratic efforts to reimpose an assault
weapons ban, with NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams
proclaiming the move to be "the latest step in the ongoing response to
the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings."
On CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes described the scene as the legislation was announced on Thursday: "Flanked by police officers, doctors, and mayors, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California made her case today for banning the types of weapons used to carry out mass shootings." Cordes further highlighted the stagecraft: "Feinstein also asked half a dozen gun victims to share their stories, to give the measure a human face. Lilly Habtu was shot three times at Virginia Tech."
On Nightly News,
correspondent Kelly O'Donnell used Feinstein herself as the "human
face" of the issue: "Gun violence is personal for Feinstein. Back in
1978, as a San Francisco supervisor, she was first to discover Harvey
Milk shot dead when he and the mayor were assassinated."
O'Donnell seized on data from a liberal source to push the gun control agenda: "As the gun debate rages, Slate online magazine reports that about 1,200 Americans have died in gun violence since Newtown."
On Friday's CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose led off the broadcast's gun coverage by excitedly declaring: "Today Vice President Joe Biden is bringing the battle of the gun control right to the heart of the opposition." Fellow co-host Norah O'Donnell chimed in: "Biden is taking his case right to the heart of pro-gun Virginia. The move comes after Democrats in Congress rolled out their plans."
In the report that followed, Cordes continued to promote Biden's efforts: "Mr. Biden is even taking the fight online, making his gun control argument Thursday in a web chat."
On Friday's Today, O'Donnell lamented: "Hard change after the Newtown tragedy, even ardent supporters of a new assault weapons ban call it an uphill battle."
Unlike NBC and CBS, ABC only provided two news briefs on the assault weapons ban on Friday's Good Morning America, while Thursday's World News did not cover it at all.
Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's Nightly News report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Also on Capitol Hill today, the latest step in the ongoing response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings. A Democratic proposal to bring back an assault weapons ban first passed back in 1994. Our report on this tonight from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell.
KELLY O'DONNELL: 40 days after the horror of Newtown, taking aim at weapons like these.
[IMAGE OF "ASSAULT" WEAPONS ON SCREEN]
CAROLYN MCCARTHY [REP. D-NY]: If they're not in the stores, they can't be bought. Think of the lives that could be saved.
O'DONNELL: The proposed ban names 157 specific firearms, including semi-automatic rifles and pistols, and magazines holding more than ten rounds. But the bill would not ban more than 2,200 models of hunting and sporting weapons. For Senator Dianne Feinstein, this is a retooled version of her 1994 assault weapons ban that expired.
DIANE FEINSTEIN [SEN. D-CA]: No weapon is taken from anyone. The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time.
O'DONNELL: Gun violence is personal for Feinstein. Back in 1978, as a San Francisco supervisor, she was first to discover Harvey Milk shot dead when he and the mayor were assassinated. The National Rifle Association responded to Feinstein's proposal, saying in part, "The American people know gun bans do not work and we are confident Congress will reject Senator Feinstein's wrong-headed approach."
Today, in an online chat about guns, Vice President Biden was asked, if in a crisis like a natural disaster, citizens should be able to have assault weapons for their self defense.
JOE BIDEN: It's harder to use an assault weapon and hit something than it is a shotgun, okay? So you want to keep people away in an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells.
O'DONNELL: As the gun debate rages, Slate online magazine reports that about 1,200 Americans have died in gun violence since Newtown. And in Pennsylvania, a sportsman show set for next weekend is postponed indefinitely, after complaints about the organizers' decision to exclude automatic rifles. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.
Here is a full transcript of Cordes's Evening News report:
SCOTT PELLEY: Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California introduced legislation today to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons, but she acknowledged that supporters face an uphill battle. Nancy Cordes is at the top of that hill tonight in Washington. Nancy.
NANCY CORDES: Scott, the bill that she and other Democrats introduced today is even tougher than the assault weapons ban that congress let lapse back in 2004. This bill would ban the sale of 157 different military-style firearms. Flanked by police officers, doctors, and mayors, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California made her case today for banning the types of weapons used to carry out mass shootings.
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: They fall into the hands one way or another of grievance killers, of gangs, of those who are mentally unstable or ill.
CORDES: The bill would stop the sale and manufacturing of semiautomatic weapons with military features such as detachable stocks, which make the guns easier to conceal. Magazines and drums that hold more than 10 rounds would also be outlawed. Feinstein also asked half a dozen gun victims to share their stories, to give the measure a human face. Lilly Habtu was shot three times at Virginia Tech.
LILLY HABTU: I have a bullet still in my head. I was shot in the jaw. It's one inch-- it's one millimeter away from my brain stem.
CORDES: But the ban faces stiff opposition from conservativees, such as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who released this robo-call in his home state of Kentucky.
MITCH MCCONNELL: President Obama and his team are doing everything in their power to restrict your constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.
CORDES: And it will be tough for Feinstein to win over some Democrats from conservative and rural states. What's your message to Democrats who oppose this?
FEINSTEIN: Look, the message to Democrats is see what your silence does? There will be more of these. These aren't going to end.
CORDES: There are more than 2,000 types of hunting and sporting weapons that are not involved or affected by ban, but, Scott, the push for the ban could end up taking a backseat to measures that have more bipartisan support like a move to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.