Anti-gun bias in the media is nothing new, of course, but it does seem to me that since the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen it’s really ramped up. Court decisions striking down gun control laws or halting their enforcement are breathlessly reported as causing havoc to public safety, coverage of defensive gun uses is almost non-existent, and gun control activists are given broad leeway to advance their arguments while Second Amendment supporters are briefly quoted or not even contacted at all.
CBS News has given us an excellent example of the amped-up anti-gun attitudes on display in the media with its recent report on the “uncertainty” that “plagues gun laws new and old” thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. What the news network describes as “uncertainty over whether measures that aim to curb gun violence can survive legal scrutiny” looks more like the butthurt experienced by anti-gun activists now that it’s harder for lower courts to rubber-stamp their approval of gun control laws by treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right.
“We’re seeing a lot of action and a lot of unpredictability when it comes to the Second Amendment after Bruen,” said Joseph Blocher, co-director of Duke University’s Center for Firearms Law. “It’s happening in a bunch of different directions, and the source of the change is the new methodology that the Supreme Court announced in the Bruen case because it instructs courts to evaluate the constitutionality of laws based solely on whether they are in some ill-defined sense consistent with historical tradition.”
“For the vast majority of America historically and until June of last year, the overwhelming obstacle to gun regulation has been political. It has not been the case that courts are actively striking down gun laws, it’s that they’re not being passed in the first place,” Blocher said. “After Bruen, we’re seeing a more active role for courts. But there’s still absolutely room even under the most restrictive reading of Bruen to pass common-sense gun regulations that the vast majority of Americans favor.”
Now, there are any number of Second Amendment scholars and attorneys that CBS News could have spoken to who probably have a very different perspective from Blocher, but the network’s report doesn’t include comment from the likes of Paul Clement, Chuck Michel, David Kopel, Steven Halbrook, Stephen Stamboulieh, Daniel Schmutter, Nicholas Johnson, David Yamane, or anyone else who doesn’t toe the gun control groups’ party line. CBS News could have turned to the University of Wyoming Law School’s new Firearms Research Center, which would have been a perfect counter to their interview with Blocher, but again, the news team apparently felt that it was unimportant or unnecessary to talk to anyone who’s actually supportive of the decision.
Instead, for a second opinion CBS News decided to reach out to… a gun control organization.
District court judges have struggled in their efforts to apply the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, particularly when assessing whether a firearm regulation is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition, said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director for Giffords Law Center.
“It invites district courts to become historians in ways they’re not equipped to be,” she told CBS News. “It also requires this in-depth review of the historical record, which is an onerous task, even for an expert, and district courts with heavy dockets are not well-positioned to be taking that on.”
I suppose that looking for an historical basis for current gun control laws does require more in-depth analysis than simply deciding that any given gun law is fine because the state’s vested interest in promoting public safety trumps the individual right to keep and bear arms, but that’s only a problem if you don’t believe that we’re dealing a fundamental right in the first place. Of course groups like Giffords are opposed to the Bruen decision; not only because of its recognition that the right in question is substantive, but because there simply isn’t much evidence supporting their anti-gun ideology in the historical record.
CBS’s story starts from the premise that these court decisions are terrible things that are standing in the way of “meaningful” gun reform. The problem is the report never deviates from that position to acknowledge those who disagree with that anti-gun ideology, and instead view these measures as misguided (at best) attempts to reduce violent crime by restricting the fundamental rights to armed self-defense exercised by tens of millions of Americans. It’s like covering the efforts to resist integration in public schools back in the 1950s by only interviewing segregationists, or reporting on the current efforts to ban drag shows without interviewing drag queens and instead only speaking to Republican lawmakers and conservative religious figures.
CBS News would never do something like that, obviously. It defies the imagination to even ponder what that report would look like. But when it comes to reporting on the right to keep and bear arms, the news network treats gun control as inviolable, and the Supreme Court’s test as reprehensible. Their glaring bias might not be noticed by every viewer, especially those who agree with the report’s point of view, but once you’ve seen it I don’t know how or why you’d want to keep watching or listening to anything the network has to say.