Abortion Rights, Gun Rights: One's Sacred, The Other's Not

Abortion Rights, Gun Rights: One's Sacred, The Other's Not
by L. Brent Bozell III
February 10, 1994

The cause of gun control is hot. Now that the Democrats have passed the Brady Bill, a federal waiting-period placebo on gun sales, the Clintonites are marching on to drive up the fees for federal gun licenses by 1,000 percent, and surprise - the media are marching with them.

In December, a Media Research Center study showed that network coverage of the Brady Bill favored the gun-control side. Of 29 stories on the debate, 20 gave significantly more time to the gun control argument. In the battle of the soundbites, the networks lined up 75 Brady Bill supporters to 24 opponents - a better than 3-to-1 advantage.

The study also found a distinct pattern of labeling both sides of the gun debate. From December 1991 to November 1993, "gun control advocates" were mentioned 14 times while reporters used "gun advocates" or "gun-rights advocates" once each. Only the National Rifle Association must engage in lobbying, since network reporters mentioned the "gun lobby" 17 times, but the "gun-control lobby" only twice.

Now, let's compare the gun-control debate to the abortion debate. First, gun rights are clearly mentioned in the Constitution; abortion is not. The sale of guns involves only the potential for death, while abortion is certain death. Gun violence is up dramatically; so is abortion, at least since 1973. One is presented by the media in tones of tragedy and crisis; the other is celebrated as a sacred right. Most importantly, consider the demographics: While the cause of gun rights is often championed by redneck white males, abortion is championed by the exceptionally well-educated Ivy League baby-boomer crowd. Dumb question: Which group do reporters belong to?

While reporters rarely use the term "gun rights" or "Second Amendment rights," preferring the "gun lobby," they rarely deviate from the label "abortion-rights," even using the term "anti-abortion rights." And here's a pointless quest: look for the term "abortion lobby" in a news story.

The recent brouhaha over gun dealers also points out a contrast. Reporters recently drew attention to the lack of regulation of gun sales. "NBC Nightly News" preceded Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen's proposed $600 annual fee on gun dealers with its December 27 story. Anchor Stone Phillips asked: "With all the attention focused on tougher gun control laws these days, the fact is that many guns are bought in marketplaces that are completely unregulated, presenting another challenge for law enforcement."

Others clearly blamed gun dealers for gun violence. In the December 19 Boston Globe, reporter Gregg Krupa wrote: "While manufacturers argue that a small number of their weapons are used in crimes - and indeed, studies indicate that only up to 7 percent of all guns are used by criminals - a sharp increase in murders involving handguns coincides with the retooling of the industry and the expansion of its markets. As sales and profits have grown, the number of handgun-related homicides in the United States has jumped by nearly 50 percent since 1986."

Krupa even lays some of the blame for death at the doorstop of the NRA, which has "insulated gun manufacturers from any involvement in the national debate over firearms. The NRA's shield against tough questions on the issue is part of a mutually beneficial relationship in which the NRA pushes for a free flow of guns and the manufacturers reap profits in open and expandable markets."

Now ask: how is the NRA's connection to gun dealers any different than Planned Parenthood's ties to "abortion providers"? Abortion clinics are almost completely unregulated. Abortion "providers" are not taxed or forced to paid large license fees. Lobbying for the right to abortion, for curbs on abortion protesters, and for subsidized abortions all improve the business climate for the abortion industry. While gun dealers' profits are indirectly linked to gun violence, abortionists' profits are obviously linked to killing. But the liberal media refuses to investigate the idea of an abortion industry, or the hefty profits of its practitioners. Abortionists are never questioned, only presented as sympathetic victims of harassment.

This is not true on the other side of the abortion battle. While NBC bemoaned the problem of gun dealers, NBC reporter Jamie Gangel spent her days investigating not the abortion industry, but the Arthur DeMoss Foundation, which produces heart-tugging positive pro-life commercials. Gangel aired Planned Parentood activists calling one ad "lies" - not because the fetus featured on half the screen was not alive, but because it wasn't actual size.

In 1991, all three networks aired investigative stories using hidden cameras and female producers inside "crisis pregnancy centers," which some anti-abortion activists use to try and talk women out of abortions. The stories appeared within three days of each other, because of a Congressional hearing organized by the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. The networks have never taken a hidden camera inside an abortion clinic.