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  • Politico's Kady cites 6-month-old poll to claim last week's shootings haven't affected public opinion about guns

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Martin Kady's lede:

    The heavy coverage of mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., North Carolina, Washington state and the cop killings in Pittsburgh has had little apparent effect on the nation's appetite for new gun laws.

    Headline on Gallup report on which Kady based his post (emphasis added):

    Before Recent Shootings, Gun-Control Support Was Fading

    True, Kady did later admit, "It's important to note that the poll was taken before the massacre in Binghamton, but other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks."

    But ... well, maybe he should have read that Gallup release a little more closely:

    The latest figures come from the most recent installment of Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008.

    "Other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks," Kady tells us -- but the poll was conducted last year! That's long before the past few weeks.

    Not only is Kady citing a 6-month-old poll to make assertions about whether attitudes have changed in the past week, he's cherry-picking results to overstate public opposition to gun control. Kady mentions exactly one poll result in his post:

    A Gallup Poll out this morning shows support for a ban on private hand gun ownership at an all time low, with 29 percent of respondents saying they support such a law. It's the smallest percentage since Gallup started asking this question 50 years ago.

    That leads him to conclude: "The poll may show why virtually nobody in Congress is rolling out new gun control legislation."

    Well, OK. It's true politicians haven't had much appetite for new gun-control legislation in recent years, and almost certainly true that for many of them, politics is as much a part of the reason as are policy considerations.

    That aside, Kady's post paints a pretty misleading picture of public opinion about gun control. He cites only one poll result, one showing little public support for a complete ban on private handgun ownership. And from that, he draws conclusions about "the nation's appetite for new gun laws."

    Well, guess what? There are all kinds of potential new gun laws other than a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Like reinstating the assault weapons ban, or closing the gun-show loophole. When Gallup asked if gun laws should be more or less strict, 49 percent said more strict. That paints a far different picture than the 29 percent support for a handgun ban Kady cited.

    UPDATE: Kady has updated his post:

    UPDATE/CORRECTION: The folks at Media Matters have made a fair point in criticizing this post, noting that the polling was done several months ago -- even though Gallup posted this poll just today. It's still worth noting that there isn't yet a ground swell of support in the Democratic Congress for new gun control laws in wake of the tragic shootings, but I should have drilled into this polling data more closely. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, writing in HuffPo, has also taken Gallup to task, calling the release of the poll today misleading.

    Kady also added a line in the body of the post acknowledging "the poll also notes that 49 percent of Americans want stricter gun control laws than what's on the books now."

  • The NYT plays dumb about the Pittsburgh cop massacre

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The local Pittsburgh press this weekend was bubbling with reports about how the shooter was a fan of fringe, online conspiracies, and was afraid Obama was going to take away his guns.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

    Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry.

    The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

    He slept with a gun under his pillow in a basement room filled with firearms and ammunition, convinced that Jews controlled the media and President Obama was scheming to take away his arsenal, friends and relatives said Saturday...[A friend] said Poplawski usually was affable and kind, but grew angry recently over fears Obama would outlaw guns.

    The local AP dispatch:

    Police Chief Nate Harper said the motive for the shooting isn't clear, but friends said the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

    But readers of the Times have been left clueless about whether radical rhetoric from the right about Obama might have prompted Poplawski to ambush three officers and murder them outside his apartment. In fact, in its lone dispatch on the shooting, the Times announced, "No one could explain why [Poplawski] did what he did on Saturday."

    We're not sure that's accurate.

  • Did we mention the media don't care about epic gun violence?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And that the press, aside from downplaying what have now become routine, gun-related killing sprees that dot the nation, has completely walked away from even raising the issue of gun control in the wake of the rampages?

    The latest proof came in the wake of the carnage that unfolded in Carthage, North Carolina, on Sunday when a heavily armed suspect, Robert Stewart, entered a local retirement home and began randomly shooting patients and employees with a high-powered rifle. Eight were killed and three others were wounded before police subdued the man. The local police chief described the killing scene as "unimaginable, horrific, everything you can possible imagine that is bad in this world."

    The thin coverage the story has received nationwide has been rather astounding. According to TVeyes.com, in the 24 hours since news broke about the bloody killing spree, it has received just 180 mentions on cable and network television, combined (i.e. ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and NBC.)

    By contrast, the flood that didn't materialize as feared in Fargo, North Dakota, over the weekend received nearly 250 mentions during the same time span. So the flood that didn't happen got more coverage than than the killing rampage that left eight people dead in North Carolina.

    Also, TV mentions of General Motors in the last 24 hours, prompted by the news its CEO is being forced out, far outnumbered the news mentions of the nursing home killing spree.

    As for a discussion of gun control in the wake of the nursing home massacre, forget about it. It never came up on TV. The press has no interest in dissecting our Rampage Nation.

    UPDATE: As a reader notes, there was another killing rampage over the weekend. This one inside a Santa Clara, California home; 6 dead (including three children), one critically injured.

    To date, there have been just seven mentions of the story on cable and network news, according to TVeyes.com

  • Ignoring ATF data, Fox's Bream advanced "gun advocates" claim that "vast majority" of Mexican cartel weapons not from US

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox News' Trace Gallagher and Shannon Bream advanced the claim, touted by "gun advocates," that the "vast majority" of weapons used in Mexican drug cartels "are not coming from the United States." In fact, according to ATF's National Tracing Center, 90 percent of these weapons that could be traced originated from within the U.S.

  • The press now ignores gun control. Period.

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Two extraordinary killing sprees were in the news this week, one in Alabama and one in Germany. But when covering the U.S. massacre, the press won't mention gun control. Literally. A search of Nexis uncovered almost no references to "gun control" in any print or television reports about the Alabama shooting rampage, which was powered by military-style assault weapons, and which left 11 people dead.

    To highlight the allergic reaction the U.S. press has to even mentioning gun control in the wake of increasingly frequent killing sprees, read the leads to recent WSJ articles about the Alabama massacre and the one at a Germany school.

    Here [emphasis added]:

    A shooting rampage that began in a southern German school on Wednesday and left 16 dead is likely to stoke fresh debate in Europe about gun control and public security.

    And here:

    A 28-year-old man, who lived with his mother and whose father said was never in trouble, wrote a hate list and set out on a killing spree that in two hours claimed 11 lives, including his mother's and grandmother's, as well as his own.

    Of course the shooting rampage in Germany is bound to spark "fresh debate" about gun control. (It only makes sense, right?) But in America? Fat chance. In part, because the media -- bullied by the NRA, I think -- have become allergic to the topic.

  • Dobbs falsely claimed Holder had "no empirical basis" for suggesting Mexican cartels are using weapons from America

    ››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

    In a February 25 press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder asserted that "reinstitut[ing] the ban on the sale of assault weapons" would "have a positive impact in Mexico." The next day on Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Bill Tucker stated that "as you well know and we reported here often," drug cartel members are "often armed with weapons that were issued by the Mexican military." Dobbs responded, in part: "Eric Holder has no empirical basis for anything he's saying. The man is completely at sea on this." In fact, U.S. agencies have repeatedly acknowledged that drug cartels have illegally trafficked firearms from the United States into Mexico, and Dobbs himself acknowledged in August 2008 that "victims on both sides" of the border "have been killed by weapons smuggled from the United States."

  • Newsbusters' Huston shoots blanks at MSNBC

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Warner Todd Huston is upset that in a headline for an article about a triple homicide, MSNBC included the fact that the homicide was committed using an assault rifle. This, Huston insists, demonstrates "some old fashioned bias" on MSNBC's part; an attempt to "push its own anti-'assault rifle' meme."

    Here's Huston:

    MSNBC's version of the story clumsily screams "Man charged in assault rifle killings of 3 teens" over the top of its AP wire feed. Yet, while every story in the news and certainly every AP story mentions that the killer used an "assault rifle," only MSNBC put the words in the headline. This befits MSNBC's anti-gun agenda, presumably.

    By contrast, Huston offers examples of what he apparently views as good, unbiased headlines:

    Prosecutors: Man charged with murder in shootings of 3 teens on Chicago's South Side

    Now, if mentioning in the headline that the crime was committed using an assault rifle constitutes an effort to push an "anti-gun agenda" ... well ... wouldn't mentioning in the headline that the killings occurred by "shootings" do much the same thing? Does Huston think people are going to read headlines that refer to "shootings" and assume that they were the work of a criminal with a slingshot? A crossbow?

    But Huston can't criticize those headlines, though they also make clear that a gun was used. He can't do it because he needs something to contrast favorably with the MSNBC headline; the contrast is his evidence of "bias":

    MSNBC took the occasion of a triple homicide on Chicago's south side to push its own anti-"assault rifle" meme on February 27 by including the words "assault rifle" in the headline of its story on the incident. No other media source, however, took this unusual step. So, here we have some old fashioned bias by MSNBC.

    ...

    However, no other story has "assault rifle" in the headline but MSNBC.

    ...

    it is interesting that MSNBC elected to put the term in its headline, isn't it? It is telling that no other news source did so.

    Of course, you could just as easily say that news organizations that didn't note the use of an assault rifle demonstrated pro-assault weapon bias, and that the fact that MSNBC did include that detail confirms that the other news organizations are biased. See how easy it is to find bias the Newsbusters way?

    Huston concludes with a cheap shot at MSNBC:

    I don't know about you, but were I a family member of one of the three killed I might be a tad offended that the gun got top billing on MSNBC! Perhaps the victims don't figure so prominently in the minds of the headline writers at the cable TV newser?

    This is nothing more than a dishonest and dishonorable attempt to use the deaths of three teens in order to make MSNBC look bad.

    See, all of the headlines Huston cites in his diatribe - the MSNBC headline and the headlines he approves of - refer to the victims in much the same way. MSNBC mentions "3 teens"; the other two refer to "Chicago teens" and "3 teens." There is no difference between the "billing" MSNBC gives the victims and the "billing" given them by the headlines Huston approves of. Yet Huston falsely claims "the victims don't figure so prominently in the minds" of MSNBC headline writers.

    I don't know about you, but were I a family member of one of the three killed I might be a tad offended that Warner Todd Huston would cynically use my relative's death to score baseless political points against MSNBC.

  • A run on post-election gun sales? cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This week we noted some of the holes in a Los Angeles Times article about the supposedly spike in gun sales following Barack Obama's win on the Election Day. The Times reported that some gun owners said they were preparing in the event of a "race war." But the newspaper's report was built mostly on interviews with a couple of Texas gun owners, not with lots of conclusive factual information about gun sales.

    Now Slate's Jack Shafer takes a look at the even larger press explosion in gun sales stories, many of which carry an election theme, and finds all kinds of problems with the reporting.

  • A run on post-election gun sales?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's what the Los Angeles Times claims in an article today. It reports that some gun owners are terrified that president Obama ("the nation's first black president," the newspaper reminds us in the lead) will outlaw firearms. Either that or they're "preparing to protect themselves in the event of a race war," say the gun buyers.

    A provocative news angle, for sure. But the Times' proof of a gun rush seems pretty thin. The paper acknowledges there are no statistics on the number of guns purchased nationwide, or even within individual states, since Nov. 4. Instead, the paper relies on "anecdotal reports," which turns out to be quoting two gun shop owner in Texas, and citing the fact that background checks for new gun owners in Colorado was up dramatically the Saturday before Election Day.

    Seems to us the Times needed to corral more proof if it was going to splash such a controversial story (i.e. a possible "race war") in its news pages.