MediaWatch: May 17, 1999

Vol. Thirteen No. 10

NBC's Different Look at Guns

At a time when reporters were quick to blame access to guns for the Littleton massacre, NBC actually spotlighted positive aspects of gun ownership. NBC’s April 30 Nightly News ran four stories in which gun owners were depicted as normal, law abiding citizens and even heroes.

Pete Williams looked at an NRA-supported program being used with great success. "Not long ago Richmond had one of the nation’s highest murder rates. But now under Project Exile here in Virginia gun crimes are prosecuted under tough federal laws." Williams noted Richmond’s murder rate dropped by 30 percent. Williams showcased the brave actions of businessman Gary Baker: "He says he’s here today because of his guns. Four years ago as he opened his jewelry store two men with guns stormed in and started shooting. He fired back killing both of them."

Robert Hager picked up on the self-defense theme in exploring concealed-weapons laws. He profiled 71-year-old Ryland Moore, who "fended off a shotgun toting robber at a Texas diner with his concealed .22 caliber revolver," and Texas state representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who "remembers how her parents were killed with 20 others in a Texas cafeteria massacre in 1991. Says she had a shot at the gunman but wasn’t carrying her pistol because back then it was against the law."

Hager cited the rarely noticed research of University of Chicago professor John Lott, showing "states permitting concealed weapons murder rates declined nine percent, rape five percent, robbery three [percent]."

Roger O’Neil visited a Milwaukee hospital to interview an emergency room doctor about how the higher caliber bullets of today are doing more damage to victims, but then Kelly O’Donnell profiled a family that taught their children how to responsibly use guns. After airing soundbites from the parents stressing gun safety, O’Donnell concluded: "One estimate says 1.8 million kids between seven and seventeen use guns to hunt. Like millions of families, handing down an American tradition. A respect for weapons. A belief, this family says, that a parent’s guidance with guns can prevent what happened in Littleton."