Fox Highlights Gun Laws In Sydney Hostage Incident But Not In Pennsylvania Spree Killing

Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.

On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had “a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability,” used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.

As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)

Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.

On the December 15 edition of Happening Now, Fox News foreign correspondent Leland Vittert, who was anchoring Sydney coverage, claimed “massive gun control” put in place in 1996 in Australia was “hailed by gun control advocates as the poster child for the way things should be, and a number of folks said well this is what should happen in the United States,” before asking a guest, “What does it say that despite all of that gun control they have in Australia, you have some guy with a sawed off shotgun walk into a café?”

During the segment guest Charles Hurt, a columnist for the Washington Times, said of the hostage situation, “In a free society there is nothing that you can do about it. You can't prevent all these things from happening, which I think is why most Americans when they see this stuff play out, whether it's in Australia or if it's here in the United States, they think about guns ... and they think about personal gun ownership and being able to protect yourself, protect your family, [and] protect your neighbors.” (Hurt's commentary on the topic is now circulating in Australia media.)

Fox host Gretchen Carlson led a discussion of Australia's gun laws on the December 15 edition of The Real Story of Gretchen Carlson. As Carlson and her guest Nick Adams -- an Australian politician and columnist for conservative website Townhall -- spoke, an on-screen graphic read, “Sydney Siege Raises Questions Over Australia's Gun Laws.”

In order to “talk about the situation from a gun control point of view,” Carlson asked Adams, “It's interesting, because Australia has different gun laws than America, but what are you already hearing in that country today after this hostage incident?” Adams responded, “If there was ever a time that Australians wanted to have a gun, it would have been yesterday. And I think for the first time in a long time Australians realized what it is for the bad guys to have guns, but the good people not to.” Carlson also asked Adams whether the incident will cause Australians to “revisit” gun laws.

Australia's current gun laws are a result of the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting, in which 35 people were killed and 23 more wounded. In response to the massacre, where most were killed or injured by assault weapons, state and territorial parliaments in Australia enacted a strict licensing system for gun ownership. The system heavily restricts civilian access to weapons depending on their classification, notably making it difficult to demonstrate need for handguns, pump action shotguns, and semi-automatic shotguns and rifles.

Following the creation of that system, homicides by firearm plummeted.

Generally, restrictions on gun ownership are much greater in Australia compared to the United States both in terms of the guns available for civilian purchase and the rigorousness of the background investigation into potential gun owners.

Since the enactment of Australia's 1996 gun laws there have been no public mass shootings, according to Slate. (One recent gun incident where a man shot to death four members of his family would fall within the FBI's definition for a mass killing.) According to data collected by Mother Jones, there have been 42 public mass shootings in the United States since 1996, including such infamous killings as Virginia Tech, Newtown, and Columbine.

Australia also has a far lower rate of gun death, by all causes, and gun homicide. People are killed by guns at nearly a 12 times higher rate in the United States compared to Australia:

People are murdered by guns at a rate more than 14 times higher in the United States compared to Australia: