The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
August 3, 2002
Gun Bias at the Associated
Conservatives, libertarians, and gun
control opponents have long argued that the mainstream media has a
pervasive bias against guns and gun rights. This argument was underscored
by an Associated Press article that the Arizona Republic ran in its
Sunday, July 28 edition.
Rash of crimes using guns leaves
Europeans shocked blared the headline. Written by Thomas Wagner, the
article's first sentence sets the tone: "For years, Europeans have
seen the United States as the epitome of the Wild West, where gun control
laws are weak and violent crime is widespread."
So right away we get a tenet accepted by
gun control activists: more guns equal more crime. Never mind that this
concept is rejected by reputable people. Never mind that, at best, this
idea is debatable. Not for Wagner and the Associated Press. They present
it as fact, as do the gun control activists.
John Lott argued in a book a few years ago
that more guns actually produced less crime. He examined crime statistics
in states that adopted concealed-carry laws, which allow law-abiding
citizens to pack heat. Those states saw a drop in gun-related crimes like
murder, rape, and assault. This makes sense, because a would-be criminal
must think twice before attacking someone, as the potential victim might
Restrictive gun control laws don't lower
the crime rate. California, New York, and the District of Columbia have
very strict gun control laws - are the streets of Los Angeles and
Washington, D.C. safe? Of course not - criminals know their victims likely
will not be armed.
But back to the article. Wagner concedes
that "the disparate attacks do not seem to have a common cause."
He quotes a French journalist that "nobody knows what has caused all
these random attacks in Europe and if there is any connection among
In other words, the availability of guns
may have nothing to do with the "rash of crimes using guns." But
that doesn't stop Wagner. He quotes the same journalist: "But
everyone is asking two questions: How do such attackers suddenly appear on
our streets with guns or rifles?" That's a good question, because gun
control laws are notoriously tight in most of Europe, save Switzerland.
But not once does Wagner question the effectiveness of gun control.
Instead, he cites the July 14 assassination
attempt on French President Jaques Chirac by a "young man with
neo-Nazi connections" and "member of a right-wing student
group." The attempt failed - the criminal managed only one shot
before the crowd swarmed him. Wagner then cites the successful
assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn by a lone gunman who is an
"activist for the environment and animal rights."
(Note the labels. The French fool who
couldn't shoot straight was an apparent neo-Nazi and right-winger. The
successful murderer was merely an "activist," rather than a
Wagner then relates a series of gun-related
crimes. "In France, a gunman killed eight officials at a suburban
city council meeting outside Paris in March, prompting the government to
vow to crack down on guns." Hard to see how much tighter they can
crack down on guns in France, but that doesn't matter. The next sentence
reveals why. "The attack left people wondering how the gunman, who
had a history of psychological problems, was able to obtain semiautomatic
pistols." Let's see - could it be because he's a criminal who does
not let laws stop him? How would more laws help? Wagner doesn't even raise
Another gunman knocked off 14 people in a
government building in Switzerland, which requires that every household
own a gun. Gun crime in Switzerland is virtually non-existent. Don't tell
that to Wagner, who writes that the "Swiss government also planned to
tighten some of the most relaxed gun control laws in Europe, but so far
has not acted." The logic is amazing. Switzerland is probably the
safest country in the world with "relaxed" gun control laws, yet
it should adopt the strict gun control laws practiced by its European
neighbors, who are experiencing a "rash of crimes using guns"
despite (or perhaps because of ) strict gun control laws.
The problem with the article is that
Wagner's assumptions about gun control are built into the article and
accepted as fact. This is liberal bias.
But it's only one article, you argue. You
can't indict the entire media for one article.
But this article is representative of the
media's approach to the gun issue. I could pull out dozens if not hundreds
more, just from the print media alone. It also reveals the Associated
Press's bias. Countless editors read and approved Wagner's article. Did
none of them spot the bias? What does that say? Or did they see it and
approve of it, or choose to ignore it? Do all Associated Press editors do
This is an important issue. An honest and
open press is vital in a free society. Citizens must have accurate
information if they are to rule themselves. It's the media's job to
deliver that information. Bias, liberal or otherwise, distorts that
information and misleads citizens.
That, my friends, is inexcusable.