Nets Slam Gun Rights

Unsurprisingly, Steven Kazmierczak's horrific massacre of defenseless students Thursday at Northern Illinois University dominated the network news broadcasts on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Again unsurprisingly, news coverage was severely slanted against gun rights, to the point that ABC's David Wright virtually sneered at Hillary Clinton for backing away from gun control and at Barack Obama for asserting that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. 

On ABC's World News Saturday, anchor David Muir introduced Wright's story by saying “Almost immediately after this week's shootings gun control advocates demanded what they called 'meaningful action' from the presidential candidates.” 

On to Wright, who observed that “This year, both of the Democrats are gunshy.”  He dismissed Obama for offering “thoughts and prayers,” but “no new ideas on gun control,” and Clinton for offering “no real solutions, only a sympathetic speech.”

Wright suggested that the Democrats are putting politics ahead of gun control, noting that Al Gore's gun control advocacy cost him the state of West Virginia, and the presidential race, in 2000.

With a “gotcha” tone in his voice, Wright said “In 2000, Hillary Clinton backed the Million Mom March for Gun Control.  Now she speaks about protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.  And Obama?  His Web site has a link for sportsmen.   No. 1 on the list?  Protecting gun rights.”

None of the networks brought on pro-Second Amendment experts to comment on the shootings.  Instead, they pitted professional anti-gun spokesmen, angry parents and one Virginia Tech shooting survivor against four college students.  

NBC Nightly News featured Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence president Paul Helmke on Friday.  Also on Friday, ABC World News ran two statements by Delbert Elliott of the Center for Study/Prevention of Violence. 

Helmke was quoted twice on ABC World News Saturday, which also put Elliott on air for the second night in a row.  Neither Helmke's nor Elliott's remarks were rebutted by other experts or by reporters.   

The four undergraduate and graduate students cited by the networks are all members of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a Facebook group advocating Second Amendment rights on college grounds. 

On Friday's CBS Evening News, the statement by Jeff Deets, apparently a student at NIU, was immediately undercut by reporter Randall Pinkston.  On ABC World News, Texas State junior Mike Guzman's remarks were immediately rebutted by reporter David Muir.   

On ABC World News Saturday, the statement by Salt Lake Community College graduate student Tyson Pickett was immediately countered, first by Delbert Elliott and then by Virginia Tech survivor Garrett Evans. 

Muir went on to say “We emailed members of the Facebook group, asking how they defend their argument.”

In reply, an email from Alan Luboniecki of Tennessee Tech: “These people are not stupid. They plan these attacks in places where they know that the law abiding citizens will not be able to fight back.” Muir responded by reporting that campus authorities say “students and teachers should be armed with something else, the skills to look for the warning signs” of mental health problems.

The National Rifle Association showed up twice in the coverage: an NRA sticker was visible on the door of the gun shop where Kazmierczak bought some of his weapons, and the NRA was blamed for costing Al Gore the presidential election in 2000.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.