New Two-Year MRC Study Found Pro-Gun Themes and Arguments Are
Unwelcome On the Air
Where Are Gun Rights Themes on TV?
||In a new
two-year Media Research Center study of TV gun-policy stories, Senior Analyst Geoffrey
Dickens has found a dramatic network news tilt in favor of gun control. [See box.] Dickens
also found that not only do most stories lean to the left for more gun regulation, the
themes gun-rights advocates would like to see included in TV news reports are seldom
mentioned. For example:
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 there has been a 46 percent drop in prosecutions of the criminal use of
firearms from 1992 to 1998. While NRA spokesmen invited on as guests made this point, TV
reporters and interviewers cited the Clinton administration's failure to prosecute
criminals just eight times.
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. 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, the NRA found "the city's homicides were cut nearly
one-third, the lowest number since 1987." The only mentions of Project Exile came
once on NBC Nightly News and twice on ABC's World News Tonight. CBS aired nothing. CNN's
The World Today never covered Project Exile, but did find time to highlight a guns for
Beanie Babies exchange program in Illinois (April 27, 1998).
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 stop crime each year -- the networks present a very misleading
picture to the average viewer that firearm use brings more harm than good, and thus should
be limited or even banned.
NBC mentioned self-defense in a positive light in a November 10, 1998 NBC Nightly News
story on how "these continuing threats against [abortion] doctors in America have
forced many to go to extreme lengths to protect themselves."
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 the first half of 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
About the Media Research Center
Bringing Political Balance and Responsibility to the Media
Founded by L. Brent Bozell III in 1987 with the mission of bringing political
balance to the nationís news media and responsibility to the entertainment
media, the Media Research Center (MRC) has grown into the nationís
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organization with a complete tape library of network news and entertainment shows back to the late 1980s. Every day teams of MRC analysts enter data from all these stories and shows into a customized computer database, identifying bias in the process. Analysts also comb daily through the nation's most influential newspapers and news magazines.
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Commerce which documented how on TV shows businessmen commit more crimes than any other profession. In 1994 Regnery published a book from
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