This Is Why You Shouldn't Trust the Media on Gun Reporting

Image by MikeGunner from Pixabay

In theory, the media is meant to inform us about the facts of a situation. They’re supposed to tell us who, what, where, when, why, and how and then we, as consumers of news, decide what we think about those facts.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, at least.

The problem is that the media has long decided that it’s meant to fill a far different role. It’s decided it’s role isn’t so much to allow us to decide what to think, it’s to tell us what to think.

And based on what we see out of student newspapers at colleges across the nation–which are usually staffed by journalism majors–we’re not going to see the situation improve.

Take this one from Santa Barbara City College titled, “New gun laws aim to positively impact communities statewide.”

Right from the start, it’s framing it in accordance with the narrative. After all, why pass a law you think will negatively impact communities? Seems kind of dumb to me.

Yet that’s precisely where we start, then we get into the piece itself.

Since January 1, 2023 the Gun Violence Archive has recorded 597 mass shootings in America. Since the start of the year, 36,999 individuals have died due to gun violence.

In continued attempts to lower gun violence,  California Governor Gavin Newsom passed a series of new gun laws, keeping California as the nation’s leader in the severity of gun law restrictions.

In September, Newsom passed new gun safety laws that will reinforce public carry permits, enact a micro stamping procedure, impose an 11% tax on fire guns and ammunition, strengthen the process that bars individuals in mental health diversion programs from purchasing a firearm and provide more support to the process of removing firearms from people who are prohibited from owning them due to criminal conviction.

Controversy has arisen over the new laws.  The Firearms Policy Coalition filed a second amendment lawsuit against one of Newsom’s new laws, SB2. The group opposes the new law stating that it pushes the boundaries of what the second amendment protects.

Now, let’s look at this so far. It starts with citing Gun Violence Archive numbers for mass shootings, then it uses the “gun death” number–reframed as “died due to gun violence” to further muddy the waters and confuse people so they don’t realize the majority of those are suicides.

In the third paragraph, it describes Newsom’s measures as “gun safety laws.”

This should have been flagged as editorializing, because that’s precisely what it is. It’s using a loaded term that is pushed by one side of the debate exclusively and is categorically rejected by the other because these laws don’t make anyone safer.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Out of the 50 possible laws, California has enacted 45 of them.

In comparison, Mississippi holds rank as number 50 in the nation for gun safety. The Mississippi government has only passed three gun safety laws.

Everytown Research organization provides statistics that explain gun laws per state, rankings and other averages. According to Everytown Research, California is first in the nation with a gun law strength composite score of 86.5 in comparison to Mississippi’s score of three.

The organization also draws statistics for the national gun death rate. Per every 100,000 people the national gun death rate (GDR) is 14.8. California’s GDR lies at a low 9 whereas Mississippi follows with a 33.9 people killed by gun violence per every 100,000.

Again, this is pushing a narrative. What Mississippi does or doesn’t do shouldn’t color reporting on California passing laws. It being brought up in an opinion piece is fine, of course, but that’s not what this is supposed to be. It’s just reporting on California passing gun control laws.

This is also a popular tactic among the gun control crowd, to equate a state like California with Mississippi. They ignore the plethora of other factors that make these two states different. For example, California is a more prosperous state economically than Mississippi. That alone could account for the discrepancy.

The author also didn’t note that the five states with the lowest homicide mortality rate in the nation are all states with some pretty pro-gun laws: New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, Maine, and Idaho.

In fact, all five of those are constitutional carry states.

This, however, doesn’t get into the examination.

Now, in fairness, student newspapers are staffed entirely by other students. Yet they learn the ropes of journalism in the classroom, generally before getting a shot at working for the school paper. This is how they’re learning to cover these kinds of stories.

As a result, we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of coverage going forward.