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

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 needs one." 
-- Time National Correspondent Jack E. White, Inside Washington, May 1.


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

Study Totals

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 stories: 897
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


Today Nightly News
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%)
Neutral guests: 0