Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate
Over the last two years, network TV news viewers have been inundated with tragic images of students running away from gunfire. With every new incident, the networks have blamed guns, and wonder if more gun control laws aren’t an obvious solution. In a study of 653 morning and evening news stories on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999, MRC Senior Media Analyst Geoffrey Dickens documents how:
1. TV News Has Chosen Sides. Stories advocating more gun control outnumbered stories opposing gun control by 357 to 36, or a ratio of almost 10 to 1. (Another 260 were neutral.)
2. Evening News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 8 to 1. Almost 60 percent of stories (184) favored one side. While 89 percent of those (164) pushed the liberal, anti-gun position, only 11 percent (20) promoted the pro-gun position. ABC’s World News Tonight (43 anti-gun stories to three pro-gun) and CNN’s The World Today (50 to 7) were the most slanted evening shows.
3. Morning News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 13 to 1. More than half of morning news gun policy segments (208) tilted away from balance. Of those segments, 93 percent (193) pushed the liberal, anti-gun position, while only six percent (15) promoted the pro-gun position. ABC’s Good Morning America (92 to 1) was the most biased morning show.
4. News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use Anti-Gun Soundbites. Anti-gun soundbites were twice as frequent as pro-gun ones—412 to 209. (Another 471 were neutral.)
5. News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun Guests. In morning show interview segments, gun control advocates appeared as guests on 82 occasions, compared to just 37 for gun-rights activists and 58 neutral spokesmen.
6. Pro-Gun Themes Were Barely Covered. Themes like the decline in federal gun prosecutions under the Clinton administration, the positive use of guns in self-defense, and successful pilot prosecution programs like Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia, drew tiny story counts in the single digits in the 653-story sample.
Dickens recommends that the networks present more debates and fewer lectures; take time to explore pro-gun themes in an effort to balance their anti-gun tilt; and provide factual context instead of emotional anecdotes to let viewers make up their own minds.
Over the last two years, television network news viewers have been inundated with tragic images of students running away from gunfire. With every new incident, from Pearl, Mississippi, to Littleton, Colorado, the networks have had a reflexive reaction. They blame guns, and wonder if more gun control laws aren’t an obvious solution.
With school shootings claiming more and more network air time, Media Research Center analysts reviewed two years of news reports through the MRC’s News Tracking System on gun control policy on four evening shows (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN’s The World Today, and NBC Nightly News) and three morning broadcasts (ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s This Morning, and NBC’s Today) from July 1, 1997 through June 30, 1999. Not included were numerous stories on the families’ grief or crime scene investigations that did not include statements relating to gun policy.
Methodology. To assess the tilt of stories, analysts counted the number of pro- and anti-gun statements by reporters in each category. Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were deemed neutral. Among statements recorded as anti-gun rights: violent crime occurs because of guns, not criminals; and gun control prevents crime. Categorized as arguments for gun rights: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns are the problem; Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms; right-to-carry concealed weapons laws caused a drop in crime. Using this story-angle method demonstrates that even in pieces where the talking head count is balanced, reporters’ statements can often end up tilting the angle of the entire story.
Using these criteria, analysts found a dramatically tilted debate in favor of gun control. In 653 gun policy stories, those advocating more gun control outnumbered stories opposing gun control by 357 to 36, or a ratio of almost 10 to 1, while 260 were categorized as neutral. Anti-gun soundbites were twice as frequent as pro-gun ones—412 to 209—while 471 soundbites were neutral. Gun control advocates appeared on the morning shows as guests on 82 occasions, compared to just 37 for gun-rights activists and 58 neutral spokesmen.
When these numbers are combined with the results of a 1997 study of two years of gun policy stories using the same parameters, MRC analysts have found that in 897 gun policy stories from July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1999, the networks have aired 514 anti-gun stories to 46 pro-gun stories, or a ratio of more than 11 to 1. [See Appendix A for a complete report of numbers and percentages.]
1. Evening News Findings
American TV viewers were bombarded by evening news stories promoting gun control. Out of 300 evening news segments, anti-gun stories outnumbered pro-gun stories by 164 to 20 (with 116 neutral segments), or an 8-to-1 ratio. Talking heads were slanted toward gun control by a 2-to-1 ratio (296 for gun control vs. 150 for gun rights), with 319 neutral spokesmen. ABC and CNN provided the worst evening news slant, while NBC was the closest to fairness—and they weren’t close.
• ABC’s World News Tonight was the most biased in favor of gun control, airing 43 anti-gun stories to only three pro-gun segments, with 24 neutral reports. Within that sample, the talking head ratio matched the overall average of 2-to-1, with 125 gun control soundbites, 62 for gun rights, and 120 neutral clips.
• CNN’s The World Today slanted in the direction of gun-control arguments in 50 stories, compared to only seven with substantially more arguments in favor of gun rights. (Thirty-four reports were neutral.) CNN’s selection of talking heads advocating more gun control was the most disproportionate (98 to 40, with 79 neutral clips).
• CBS Evening News stories promoted gun control 28 times and favored gun rights on just three occasions (22 were neutral). CBS had the closest ratio of talking heads with 59 for gun control, 35 opposed, and 74 neutral.
• NBC Nightly News was the least imbalanced, albeit with a tilt of five to one: 43 anti-gun rights stories versus eight pro-gun rights stories, with 36 neutral pieces. But three of the pro-gun stories came on one night (April 30, 1999). By a ratio of almost 2 to 1, NBC aired gun control exponents with a count of 130 advocates to 72 opponents (and 24 neutral voices).
2. Morning Show Findings
The network morning shows were flooded with visually arresting images from shootings. Out of 353 gun policy segments, anti-gun stories outnumbered pro-gun stories by 193 to 15, or a ratio of more than 13 to 1 (145 were neutral or balanced). Analysts counted both morning news reports and interviews.
• ABC’s Good Morning America ran a total of 92 reports supporting gun control compared to just one that favored the gun-rights defense (51 were neutral).
• CBS’s This Morning offered 19 stories slanted towards gun control solutions to just four against (with 27 neutral offerings).
• NBC’s Today presented the greatest amount of segments leaning toward gun rights, ten, or two-thirds of the morning show total, but also pushed for gun control in 82 segments (along with 88 neutral reports).
Guests. Morning shows were almost twice as likely to feature a gun control advocate than one opposed to more gun control. Gun control supporters appeared on the live morning shows 82 times, compared to just 37 gun rights spokesmen. Another 58 held no pro- or anti-gun views in gun policy segments.
• On Good Morning America, 33 guests professed a belief in more legislation limiting gun rights, while only eight opposed such measures, with 212 neutral guests.
• NBC’s Today booked three times more gun-rights guests than ABC with 24, but still invited far more gun control advocates (40), with 24 neutral spokesmen.
• CBS’s This Morning aired the least interviews, but was the most balanced with just nine guests for gun control, five against, and 13 neutral.
The school-shooting phenomenon created both a desirable political and commercial environment for network producers, whose programs advanced gun control at the same time that these dramatic events drew higher-than-average ratings.
3. The Development of Themes
Reporters harped on several major themes in their coverage of gun policy stories over the last two years. The arguments most commonly advanced had one thing in common: guns are the problem. On the other hand, pro-gun rights themes were, for the most part, ignored.
GUN CONTROL THEMES
1. "Access to guns leads to shootings." The instinctive network approach focused more on the weapons than on the shooters. The day after the Columbine High School shooting, Katie Couric flew in to ask Colorado Governor Bill Owens outside the school: "A lot of people are asking about the accessibility of guns. Have you wondered about that yourself?"
Network anchors didn’t just single out guns, but a permissive "gun culture" as the culprit. After the Jonesboro, Arkansas shooting, Couric asked Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on March 26, 1998: "Are you a proponent of the theory that somehow the fact that these school shootings have taken place in the South is indicative of a southern culture that, that might, I don’t know, be more permissive of this kind of activity or somehow encouraged by the acceptance of guns and hunting?"
Couric didn’t mention that cities with the most restrictive gun laws—New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.—account for 13 percent of the U.S. murders despite making up only five percent of the U.S. population.
2. "Concealed weapons laws will only increase the carnage." Another liberal argument advanced by the media is that passage of concealed weapons laws will equal more violence in the streets. But it was a responsible gun owner, assistant principal Joel Myrick, who went to his car to grab a gun to stop the Pearl, Mississippi shooter. How many networks told the stirring story of Myrick’s heroic defense of his students with a firearm? Just one. NBC mentioned it twice, in an October 2, 1997 NBC Nightly News story and an interview with Myrick on the October 3, 1997 Today show.
On the day after the Columbine killings, ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked Colorado Governor Bill Owens: "There is irony in this state. Right as this happens, the state legislature is debating a bill that would permit citizens of Colorado to carry concealed weapons. That’s a bill that you support or have supported and said you would sign. Does this change your mind? Does it change the political landscape? Does it now seem terribly ill-advised?"
In states that passed concealed-weapon laws, crime has decreased dramatically. Professors John Lott and David B. Mustard of the University of Chicago found that network reporters were pushing a liberal myth: "When state concealed handgun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by 8.5 percent, and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by five percent and seven percent." [More Guns, Less Crime, John R. Lott, Jr., University of Chicago Press, 1998.]
3. "Gun makers are responsible for violence." When the gun control debate shifted from Congress to the courts with lawsuits against gun manufacturers, the media again shifted blame, this time from the criminals to the gun makers.
On February 12, 1999, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson hailed a victorious "landmark" ruling: "Late yesterday, the growing drive to hold gunmakers to account for the way their products are used had its first victory in a federal court in New York City. Both sides are saying this is just the beginning. And there is no doubt that in the end, communities across the nation will be touched by the debate. ABC’s Terry Moran has more on the landmark ruling."
Moran elaborated: "It is the moment every mother dreads and this mother will never forget. After her 18-year-old son, Damon, was gunned down in an elevator, Andrea Slade Lewis joined six other victims and sued 25 gun manufacturers to hold them responsible for, as one lawyer put it, dumping guns like toxic waste into the market."
Reporters overlooked the point that in product liability lawsuits, the plaintiffs have to prove that the product was defective or not used as it was intended. The guns did not malfunction, but performed the way they were designed. The problem came in the criminal intent behind the gun. The lawsuits also ignored the beneficial uses of guns like self-defense.
These points were made by gun-rights spokesmen but rarely were made by reporters. Out of 47 stories on the lawsuits, reporters mentioned one of the above points in only ten. Of the 47 stories, 33 of them were slanted against gun manufacturers, only two in favor of them, and 12 were neutral. ABC ran the greatest number of stories on the lawsuits with 20, followed by NBC with 12 stories, and six on both CNN and CBS. NBC was the most biased, with 10 of their 12 stories favoring the lawsuits. (The other two were neutral.) ABC closely followed with 15 of their 20 stories aimed against gun manufacturers, and five neutral ones. On CNN, five stories leaned in favored the lawsuits, three were neutral, and just one tilted against a lawsuit. CBS broadcast three stories promoting the lawsuits, two neutral, and just one against.
4. "Will Congress waste the momentum we created toward gun control?" All of this gun coverage led to a climate on Capitol Hill that something had to be done about guns or else congressmen, specifically Republican congressmen, would feel it at the polls next year. And once public officials started debating the issue, reporters were there to egg them on. There was no more blatant example of this than the following exchange between Charlie Gibson and President Clinton on June 4.
Gibson pleaded: "When you went to Littleton, a friend of yours, who supports you on gun control, said to me in the last 48 hours, the President, because as he said Littleton has seared the national conscience, the President had a chance to roar on gun control and he meowed, and that was a friend of yours. There are very basic measures that could be taken that people agree on. We register every automobile in America. We don’t register guns. That’s a step that would make a difference."
Gibson offered liberal solutions to the President: "But let me come back to you on that, the polls, I agree on that, the polls have shown that this country would accept registration of firearms and yet we don’t do that and we’re not fighting about regulation of guns. We regulate every other consumer product out there." After the President warned that many Democrats who voted for gun control were defeated in 1994, Gibson feared that NRA members, and not the press, were setting the agenda: "But hasn’t the NRA won the debate at that point? Once we say it‘s politically impossible, we can’t do it, we won’t propose it, hasn’t the NRA basically framed the debate at that point?"
Over on NBC, Today co-host Matt Lauer echoed Gibson’s lament that a golden opportunity to regulate guns was being wasted when he asked liberal Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) on June 16: "There is some fear among some people that now that school is out, and parents aren’t sending their children off into what they may view as harm’s way every day, that there’s gonna be some momentum lost on gun control. Do you agree with that?" Lauer’s Today show colleague Ann Curry also wondered where the media-generated momentum went in an interview with the Heritage Foundation’s Marshall Wittman on June 21: "But didn’t the public cry out for more gun control after the shootings, the tragedy, the massacre in Littleton, and what happened to the momentum that was building when this was before the Senate?"
1. "Increase prosecutions against criminals using firearms." The National Rifle Association argues that federal prosecutions of gun law violations have dropped significantly since 1992. In recent ads, the NRA has cited a Syracuse University study that found there has been a 46 percent drop in prosecutions of the criminal use of firearms from 1992 to 1998. While NRA spokesmen appearing as guests have made this point, network reporters and interviewers cited the Clinton’s administration’s failure to prosecute criminals exactly eight times.
On Good Morning America, co-host Lisa McRee asked Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell on June 9, 1998: "Yesterday we were joined by the NRA's new President, Charlton Heston, who said that it's not the guns, but rather the lack of the enforcement of the laws, and a lack of prosecution that is the real problem in this country. How do you respond?"
2. "When the program Project Exile increased gun prosecutions in Richmond, shootings were reduced." Reporters, for the most part, ignored one program that has successfully reduced shootings. The National Rifle Association’s support for Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia was noted a mere three times. According to the NRA, Project Exile "adopts a zero-tolerance for federal gun crimes, with federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors working hand-in-hand to prosecute each and every federal firearms violation." Once the program was implemented, according to the NRA, "the city’s homicides were cut nearly one-third, the lowest number since 1987." The only mentions of Project Exile were on the April 30, 1999, NBC Nightly News, and the November 30, 1998, and February 20, 1999, editions of ABC’s World News Tonight. CBS never mentioned it. CNN’s The World Today never covered Project Exile, but did find time to highlight a guns for Beanie Babies exchange program in Illinois [CNN’s The World Today, April 27, 1998].
On the bright side, NBC devoted a large part of a Nightly News program on April 30, 1999, to "Guns in America," and three of those stories were classified as favoring the arguments of gun owners. In one of those stories Pete Williams highlighted Project Exile: "Not long ago Richmond had one of the nation’s highest murder rates. But now under Project Exile here in Virginia, gun crimes are prosecuted under tough federal laws. Billboards and TV ads send out the message that using a gun brings a minimum five years in prison. Police say they can tell it's working and Richmond's murder rate is down 30 percent. But every night brings risk. 11 p.m., a report of a man shot. Sergeant Shamus searches but it's a false alarm. No man, no gun. And since Project Exile began, he says guns are now scarce on the street." Sgt. Mike Shamus told Williams: "They’re going to things like sticks, knives, bats, bottles. I mean, they're very creative in the tools that they use now."
Williams explained: "Pro-gun groups like the NRA support the project. Insisting more gun law enforcement, not more gun laws, will reduce crime. Richmond businessman Gary Baker says he is living proof. He says he’s here today because of his guns. Four years ago, as he opened his jewelry store, two men with guns stormed in and started shooting. He fired back, killing both of them." Baker claimed: "It enabled me to go home that evening to my wife and family. If, if we hadn't been able to defend ourselves, I truly think we would've been killed." Williams concluded: "Sergeant Shamus ends his shift, midnight. He believes his city is safer now, but nationwide the search goes on for ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands."
3. "Millions of people use guns every year in self-defense." In 1997, criminologist Gary Kleck estimated that over 2.5 million people a year defend themselves from an assailant or burglar by exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. Yet how many times did television networks report such acts? In the past two years, out of 653 gun policy stories, exactly 12 times. By making a blockbuster story out of several school shootings—while leaving out the millions of times citizens use guns to stop crime each year—they presented a very misleading picture to the average viewer that firearm use brings more harm than good, and thus should be limited or even banned.
One exception to this bias by omission came as part of that April 30 NBC Nightly News package, "Guns in America." Reporter Robert Hager talked to Ryland Moore, a 71-year-old man who foiled a teenager’s attempted robbery in a diner, who said: "Things happen all the time. You know people are attacked, robbed, killed, and I don’t intend to be a statistic if I can help it." He also presented Texas legislator Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who remembered "how her parents were killed with 20 others in a Texas cafeteria massacre in 1991. She says she had a shot at the gunman, but wasn't carrying her pistol because back then it was against the law." Hupp added: "Had my legislators not legislated me out of the right to protect myself and my family, we would have had a chance, at least a chance to protect ourselves."
Hager asked if someone with a concealed weapon could have stopped the killers at Columbine: "Seven states prohibit concealed weapons. But 43 states including Colorado permit them, licensing three million Americans to carry them. An outspoken advocate of concealed weapons, University of Chicago’s John Lott in a study claims in states that passed laws permitting concealed weapons murder rates declined nine percent, rape five percent, robbery three." Lott was countered by Joseph Sudbay of Handgun Control, Incorporated. Hager concluded: "A national debate sharpened now by the horror of Littleton and the possibility many others like Ryland Moore may now turn, in self-defense, to packing heat."
Another NBC Nightly News story portraying armed self-defense in a positive light came on November 10, 1998, in the wake of the shooting of abortionist Barnett Slepian in Buffalo. Tom Brokaw explained: "These continuing threats against doctors in America have forced many to go to extreme lengths to protect themselves." Mike Boettcher turned his spotlight on an Arizona abortionist: "In Phoenix, Dr. Brian Finkel, who performs abortions, reaches for protection. Why? Two of his colleagues were shot in New York." Finkel declared: "And I usually carry at least a Colt .45 with me." NBC showed his holstered side arm.
4. "Current gun laws didn’t stop shootings." Gun rights advocates argue that the utility of passing yet another gun law is questionable when the ones currently on the books didn’t prevent any of the shootings. This point was made on just five separate occasions, all in 1999. On NBC, it was mentioned on the April 22 and 23 Today shows and the April 23 Nightly News. There was a brief mention on the April 21 edition of Good Morning America and the June 6 The World Today on CNN. CBS never touched it. No one made the point more eloquently than the father of one of the Columbine victims.
Darrell Scott, who lost his daughter in the Columbine High School shooting, expressed doubt that one more gun control bill was the answer. However, Scott’s pleas barely made a wave in media circles. There was one mention on the May 27, 1999, Nightly News, and then the next morning on the May 28 Today, one story on the May 27 CBS Evening News, and one story on the May 28 This Morning. On the May 28 Today, NBC’s Gwen Ifill introduced the Scott soundbite: "Darrell Scott lost his 17-year-old daughter Rachel in the Columbine High School massacre, but he told Congress guns were not to blame." Scott declared: "No amount of laws can stop someone who spends months of planning this type of massacre."
Ifill reported: "Describing himself as a willing pawn in the gun control debate but not a gun owner or a member of the National Rifle Association, Scott said there should be more focus on prayer, less on blaming the NRA." Scott elaborated: "I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I’m not here to represent or to defend the NRA, because I don’t believe they are responsible for my daughter’s death." Unfortunately, reporters didn’t share Scott’s view and demonstrated no qualms about scapegoating the NRA and gun owners across the country.
1. Try to present debates, not loaded lectures. Gun policy stories ought to aspire to educate, not indoctrinate. When a show like Good Morning America airs 92 anti-gun stories and only one favoring the gun-rights side, ABC is clearly not trying to balance the news. The number of anti-gun stories should be lower, and the neutral story total should be higher.
2. Select themes from both sides. More time should be devoted to an examination of the programs that have proven track records in dropping crime rates, like Project Exile and concealed weapons laws, not to mention the positive uses of weapons in self-defense. To achieve balance, reporters should explore gun-rights advocates’ opposition to additional gun laws that criminals may ignore, and their view that new laws infringe further on the rights of the responsible gun owner.
3. Gun policy stories should provide factual context in the debate over changing current gun laws instead of loaded emotional anecdotes and phrases. Too many gun policy reports focus on emotional anecdotes, with reporters repeating loaded terms like "toxic waste" to describe guns. In discussing proposed changes to current laws, most news stories include a reference to current law—for example, if the issue is drunk driving policy, a news story might summarize a proposal by saying the proposal would lower the blood-alcohol standard from .1 (current) to .09 (proposed). Similarly, gun policy stories should reference current federal gun law to illustrate the practical implications of the proposed change.
Over the last four years, network reporters and producers have been scaring their viewers with a bleak picture of an America under the gun. In their search for an antidote to what they’ve termed an "epidemic," more often than not they’ve offered gun control as the cure to the problem. Yet in each school shooting there were gun laws already on the books and not one of them prevented any of the tragedies. Reporters have failed to acknowledge what millions of gun owners already know: that one more federal gun law that encroached upon on the law-abiding would not have stopped any of these tragedies.
Appendix A: Numerical Breakdown
|1999 Study, total number of stories analyzed:|
(July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999) 653
| 1997 Study, total number of |
(July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1997) 244
|1999 Gun Study||1997 Gun Study|
|Total anti-gun stories:||357 (55%)||Anti-gun stories:||157 (64%)|
|Total pro-gun stories:||36 ( 5%)||Pro-gun stories:||10 (4%)|
|Total neutral stories:||260 (40%)||Neutral stories:||77 (32%)|
|Total anti-gun talking heads:||412 (38%)||Anti-gun talking heads:||165 (52%)|
|Total pro-gun talking heads:||209 (19%)||Pro-gun talking heads:||110 (35%)|
|Total neutral talking heads:||471 (43%)||Neutral talking heads:||40 (13%)|
|Total anti-gun guests:||84 (47%)||Anti-gun guests:||37 (70%)|
|Total pro-gun guests:||38 (21%)||Pro-gun guests:||12 (23%)|
|Total neutral guests:||58 (32%)||Neutral guests:||4 (7%)|
Combined Study (4 Year) Totals
|Total anti-gun stories:||514 (57%)|
|Total pro-gun stories:||46 (5%)|
|Total neutral stories:||337 (38%)|
|Total anti-gun talking heads:||577 (41%)|
|Total pro-gun talking heads:||319 (23%)|
|Total neutral talking heads:||511 (36%)|
|Total anti-gun guests:||121 (52%)|
|Total pro-gun guests:||50 (21%)|
|Total neutral guests:||62 (27%)|
Totals By Network
|Good Morning America||World News Tonight|
|Anti-gun stories:||92 (64%)||Anti-gun stories:||43 (63%)|
|Pro-gun stories:||1 (1%)||Pro-gun stories:||3 (4%)|
|Neutral stories:||51 (35%)||Neutral stories:||23 (33%)|
|Anti-gun talking heads:||52 (42%)||Anti-gun talking heads:||73 (40%)|
|Pro-gun talking heads:||21 (17%)||Pro-gun talking heads:||41 (22%)|
|Neutral talking heads:||50 (41%)||Neutral talking heads:||70 (38%)|
|Anti-gun guests:||33 (53%)||Anti-gun guests:||0|
|Pro-gun guests:||8 (13%)||Pro-gun guests:||0|
|Neutral guests:||21 (34%)||Neutral guests:||0|
|This Morning||Evening News|
|Anti-gun stories:||19 (38%)||Anti-gun stories:||28 (53%)|
|Pro-gun stories:||4 (8%)||Pro-gun stories:||3 (6%)|
|Neutral stories:||27 (54%)||Neutral stories:||22 (41%)|
|Anti-gun talking heads:||11 (27%)||Anti-gun talking heads:||48 (38%)|
|Pro-gun talking heads:||10 (24%)||Pro-gun talking heads:||25 (20%)|
|Neutral talking heads:||20 (49%)||Neutral talking heads:||54 (42%)|
|Anti-gun guests:||9 (33%)||Anti-gun guests:||0|
|Pro-gun guests:||5 (19%)||Pro-gun guests:||0|
|Neutral guests:||13 (48%)||Neutral guests:||0|
|Anti-gun stories:||82 (52%)||Anti-gun stories:||43 (50%)|
|Pro-gun stories:||10 (6%)||Pro-gun stories:||8 (9%)|
|Neutral stories:||67 (42%)||Neutral stories:||36 (41%)|
|Anti-gun talking heads:||53 (31%)||Anti-gun talking heads:||77 (32%)|
|Pro-gun talking heads:||28 (17%)||Pro-gun talking heads:||44 (19%)|
|Neutral talking heads:||88 (52%)||Neutral talking heads:||116 (49%)|
|Anti-gun guests:||40 (46%)||Anti-gun guests:||0|
|Pro-gun guests:||24 (27%)||Pro-gun guests:||0|
|Neutral guests:||24 (27%)||Neutral guests:||0|
The World Today
|Anti-gun stories:||50 (55%)|
|Pro-gun stories:||7 (8%)|
|Neutral stories:||34 (37%)|
|Anti-gun talking heads:||98 (45%)|
|Pro-gun talking heads:||40 (18%)|
|Neutral talking heads:||79 (37%)|
|Anti-gun guests:||2 (67%)|
|Pro-gun guests:||1 (33%)|
Appendix B: More Media Quotes on Gun Control, 1999
"Four weeks after the Columbine High School shootings, a month of public outrage, and yet the Senate still remains tangled up in finger pointing over gun control." -- NBC's Gwen Ifill opening a NBC Nightly News story, May 18.
"Let's bring the access of guns into this, Michael. I mean, in the city, guns, in my opinion, are seen as the tools of the criminal. But in many rural and suburban areas, guns are more part of the sporting culture. You see people with hunting rifles on their walls. You see people with gun racks in their car. Is that to blame?" -- Today co-host Matt Lauer to Michael Guzy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 30.
"Ollie [North] mentions the prevalence of guns. If you look at these shooting instances, they all seem to have taken place in areas where there is a stronger gun culture. The sheriff himself said, the sheriff out their in Littleton said his community is awash in guns. What do we do about that?" -- Today co-host Jack Ford to Rev. Jesse Jackson, April 24.
"Perhaps it will take one more school shooting to move the majority of Americans into a position more powerful than that of the NRA. Perhaps it will take one more school shooting to move us from people who support gun control to people who vote it. But as we continue to let the widows and the wounded do the work, be warned. That next school may be the one your children attend; the next accident could be close to home." -- Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen, November 1.
"Is there any reason, Howard, to believe that this tragic attack on
children, for goodness sakes, will trigger any movement by this
Congress to enact tougher, meaningful new gun laws?"
"You know, Howard, I asked Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Denver, who certainly has had to wrestle with this, about why her colleagues consistently reject tougher gun control measures. She said two things, they're too afraid of the NRA and they're too beholden to the NRA. Does it really come down to that? Do Congress people care more about perpetuating personal power than they do about saving the lives of children?" -- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams substitute anchor Gregg Jarrett to Newsweek's Howard Fineman, August 12.
"Littleton, Colorado, is 1700 miles from Washington, D.C., but it might as well be a million. For many survivors of the Columbine shooting, today's collapse of gun control legislation feels like a slap in the face." -- MSNBC's News with Brian Williams substitute anchor Sara James, June 18.
"Republicans are betting that this too will pass, that as with Jonesboro and Paducah, Pearl and Springfield, once the white coffins are in the ground and the cameras gone, the outrage will subside. But maybe not this time. In town meetings and talk radio, the public has had its fill of politicians talking resignedly about our gun culture, as if there's nothing to be done about a subgroup that finds schoolyard massacres an acceptable cost for its right to be armed to the teeth." -- Time columnist Margaret Carlson, May 10 issue.
"Since there are 200 million guns already out there, I don't think that gun control is going to have much impact. But I think we ought to do it anyway just to make a statement as a society, and even if you save a couple of lives, then it's worth it." -- Evan Thomas, Newsweek's Assistant Managing Editor, Inside Washington, May 1.
"Repealing the Second Amendment is no cause for the faint-hearted, but it remains the only way for liberals to trigger an honest debate on the future of our bullet-plagued society. So what if anti-gun advocates have to devote the next 15 or 20 years to the struggle? The cause is worth the political pain. Failing to take bold action condemns all of us to spend our lives cringing in terror every time we hear a car backfire." -- USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro, September 17.
"Get rid of the guns. We had the Second Amendment that said you have the right to bear arms. I haven*t seen the British really coming by my house looking for it. And besides, the right to bear arms is not an absolute right anyway, as New York*s Sullivan Law proves. We talk about ourselves as a violent society, and some of that is right and some of it is claptrap. But I think if you took away the guns, and I mean really take away the guns, not what Congress is doing now, you would see that violent society diminish considerably." -- PBS NewsHour essayist Roger Rosenblatt, May 20.
"I don't understand why we're piddling around. We should talk about getting rid of guns in this country." -- The Washington Post's Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday, May 23.
"That smells of bullsh...How much longer are we gonna take that?
How much longer are we gonna be wrapping in the flag of patriotism to
justify 250 millions guns out there? How much longer?"
-- Geraldo Rivera responding to video clip of NRA chief Charlton Heston, Rivera Live on CNBC, May 3.
"Whatever is being proposed is way too namby-pamby. I mean, for
example, we're talking about limiting people to one gun purchase, or
handgun purchase a month. Why not just ban the ownership of handguns
when nobody needs one? Why not just ban semi-automatic rifles? Nobody
-- Time National Correspondent Jack E. White, Inside Washington, May 1.