These cable news segments demonstrate how to cover gun violence like the public health crisis that it is
Following a mass shooting in an Indiana shopping mall, two cable news segments put the details of the attack in context, shedding light on the reality of everyday gun violence that so often flies under the radar.
On July 17, a 20-year-old gunman entered the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana, with two “AR-style rifles, a pistol, and more than 100 rounds of ammo,” according to law enforcement. The gunman entered the food court and opened fire with one of the assault weapons, killing three people and injuring two others before he was fatally shot by an armed bystander.
While some media outlets chose to focus on the undoubtedly heroic efforts of the legally armed 22-year-old who fatally shot the gunman just two minutes after the shooter started firing, this scenario is incredibly rare. According to The New York Times, only 12 of the over 430 active shooter attacks in the past 20 years have been stopped by an armed bystander who is not a security guard or police officer. Even trained law enforcement officers end less than a third of the attacks; most end when the attacker flees the scene or dies by suicide.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez included the study in his correspondent report about the Indiana shooting, noting that so-called good guys with guns are “relatively rare” in mass shootings, of which there have been more than 350 so far this year:
In fact, not only is successful defensive gun usage rare during active shooter events, but these so-called good guys with guns can cause confusion for law enforcement and can increase the likelihood of gun injury or death. One study in 2009 found that “individuals in possession of a gun” were four times “more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession.” In 2018, the gun violence prevention organization Giffords also found that “for every justifiable homicide with a gun, there were 34 gun homicides, 82 gun suicides, and two unintentional gun deaths.”
And while mass shootings are both tragic and on the rise, they still comprise less than 1% of all gun deaths; in contrast, suicides make up roughly 60% of all gun deaths.
During the July 18 edition of MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian Reports, host Yasmin Vossoughian mentioned the Indiana shooting before noting that “there are less publicized shootings that happen daily that can be just as devastating for the victims.” She went on to introduce MSNBC correspondent Gabe Gutierrez, who aired a report about a night in a Baltimore hospital trauma center to highlight the toll of everyday gun violence.
These two segments are marked improvements in cable news’ coverage of gun violence, which is often sensationalist and lacks substantive discussion. Media should follow these examples and give viewers an honest, contextualized look at the public health crisis that takes around 40,000 lives in the U.S. every year.