Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate

4. Recommendations

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.

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