Media bias on guns



"People are very surprised to learn that survey data show that guns are used defensively by private citizens in the U.S. from 1.5 to 3.4 million times a year, at least three times more frequently than guns are used to commit crimes...Though my survey indicates that simply brandishing a gun stops crimes 95 percent of the time, it is very rare to see a story of such an event reported in the media. A dead gunshot victim on the ground is highly newsworthy, while a criminal fleeing after a woman points a gun is often not considered news at all. That's not impossible to understand; after all, no shots were fired, no crime was committed, and no one is even sure what crime would have been committed had a weapon not been drawn.

Even though fewer than one out of 1,000 defensive gun uses result in the death of the attacker, the newsman's penchant for drama means that the bloodier cases are usually covered. Even in the rare cases in which guns are used to shoot someone, injuries are about six times more frequent than deaths...

During 2001, the New York Times published 104 gun crime news articles - ranging from a short blurb about a bar fight to a front-page story on a school shooting - for a total of 50,745 words. In comparison, its single story about a gun used in self-defense amounted to all of 163 words. USA Today printed 5,660 words on crimes committed with guns, and not a single word on defensive gun use. The least lopsided coverage was provided by the Washington Post, with 46,884 words on crimes committed with guns and 953 words on defensive stories - again, not exactly a balanced treatment."

-- John Lott, via crasch

I'm glad he mentions what I see as the primary cause, which is not a bias against guns but one in favor of sensational stories. So while I don't think this is a "oh my god the media bias is horrible" sort of story, it is still interesting from the standpoint of "Hey, most of the people forming opinions about gun use and safety are probably doing so with very erroneous data".

Which is not to say that there isn't some bias, as his example (in the full piece) of the Appalachian Law School shooting shows. Students with guns stopped a school shooting in progress after only 3 dead, and despite clearly explaining to reporters that they had stopped the shooter with their own guns, only 4 of 218 news stories about the incident (found via Lexis/Nexis) mentioned this.

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I started carrying a gun in

I started carrying a gun in 1995 after I started getting some negative feedback for unpopular political and social organizing activities in which I was involved. A year and a half later I took a position as a cab driver. Twice I pulled my piece and twice events went in my favor without a shot being fired. However, I worried greatly about my lack of training and thought on the subject. Oh, I'd had all the gun safety courses. Just that, when does one shoot? So I studied what I could here and there. (Really, it's almost better not to carry and die than to get sued after a shooting by either family or perp who survived. Almost.) After carrying a while I also realized that it's such a lump of iron that is so useless. I'd thought I'd feel macho and ready to take on the world, however, it just didn't happen that way. I soon found that carrying has such great responsibility that not only is the gun heavy on the body, it's also heavy on the soul. I became so used to carrying that it was just like grabbing a pen and putting it my pocket. All that's changed a bit. Now, I care for an elderly parent and don't have to go out at this time to earn a living. It's lucky and not lucky at the same time. But I keep my pistols, rifles and revolvers close-by even now. I still get unfavorable responses to my letters to the editor. These messages border on threat. While I have guns near me at all time, I've begun not to think about them as much. And I'm glad I don't carry all the time anymore though I might have one in the glovebox....though I don't carry it in the store anymore. I've thought I've become complacent. Then, I've rethought that and realized that I've begun to trust a little more now. And trusting isn't all that bad. Not everybody out there is ready to gun me down. Not everybody is a terrorist. Not everybody is going to rob me. But I'm working on the trust thing because I'm not so certain I know how far to trust. I'll let you know when I have an answer. I'll keep my license up and probably pack. But some days it all feels so unnecessary.

Why are you a Democrat? It

Why are you a Democrat?
It will be interesting to see how US politics evolves once (or "if", if you prefer) past the issues of abortion and the death penalty. In Canada, being anti-abortion or pro-death penalty has become on the national level is...

Unfortunately, the anti-gun

Unfortunately, the anti-gun laws that are in place most everywhere help keep the media biased against guns.

Michigan, for example, is a right-to-carry State -- however, that 'right' comes with so many restrictions that I personally find it not of much use.

Can you imagine the change in media bias if there were even ONE armed citizen during any of the mass shootings that have taken place in our times? An armed security guard at Columbine? An armed patron at one of the fast-food shootings?

The media would then have to take notice, but, with the laws that restrict the non-criminal -- this won't be allowed to naturally happen.

[Jonathan, if you're reading . . . I'm having a light-bulb moment. I guess I am 'anti' law/regulation -- BUT, my problem is with the masses of really, seriously STUPID people who don't know how to live without a law telling them how to do so. We can't shoot them all. I find it such a dilemna. :) ]

Diana

Although it is difficult to

Although it is difficult to be sure, there is a real possibility that it was 'armed citizens' in the form of a local militia who precipitated the shoot-out in Beslan which led to the massive death toll. It is difficult to see how they would have had any real impact when the terrorists first struck either. I'm sure circumstances could be identified when the presence of armed citizens would make a difference to the outcome, but I'm not convinced that the carrying of arms by private citizens could or should be made into a universal rule.

Ian, Who needs a universal

Ian,

Who needs a universal rule? It's a constitutional right. At least it used to be.

Well contrary to what you

Well contrary to what you may think the US is not the world...