As media scrutinize accidental shootings involving children, the National Rifle Association's news program Cam & Company has instead repeatedly highlighted incidents where students clashed with administrators over school policies that relate to guns.
Accidental shootings involving children have been a much discussed topic over the past few weeks, with some incidents receiving widespread coverage. In particular, a fatal accident in Burkesville, Kentucky, where a 5-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle designed to be used by young children, was covered by The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, CBSNews.com, and MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes.
Between the Kentucky accident that occurred on April 30 and May 14, Cam & Company spent only 5 minutes and 33 seconds covering gun accidents, mostly by attacking the media for reporting on the incidents. In comparison, the show spent 71 minutes and 13 seconds highlighting instances where host Cam Edwards felt that students had been unfairly treated by schools for their participation in gun culture. During the sole segment that covered a gun accident, Edwards criticized The New York Times for its reporting on the Burkesville accident.
School incidents that received ample coverage on Cam & Company, which airs on The Sportsman Channel, include:
- 9 minutes 43 seconds: A West Virginia middle school student was arrested and suspended for a day after refusing to remove a National Rifle Association T-shirt with an image of a gun. Administrators have alleged that the student was arrested for “disrupting the school process” and not because of the content of his shirt.
- 33 minutes 12 seconds: A North Carolina high school senior faced serious consequences after bringing two unloaded shotguns onto school property, which he claimed to have done so inadvertently. The student will be allowed to graduate and has been offered a scholarship to two universities, although he is scheduled to appear in court and may still face other repercussions.
- 14 minutes 52 seconds: Two Virginia elementary school students were suspended for two days after pretending to shoot each other with pencils.
- 13 minutes 26 seconds: Segments that discussed multiple incidents or gun-related school controversies generally.
Unintentional Shootings Pose A Special Danger To America's Youth
The Burkesville accident is indicative of the dangers firearms pose to children and highlights the extremely high rate of gun-related death experienced by young people in the United States. Edwards' attack on reporters who cover accidental shootings while framing school-related disputes as serious threats to liberty distracts from this issue.
While NRA-backed legislation makes it difficult for the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence, when the CDC was allowed to conduct research it found in 1997 that children in the United States were nine times more likely to die in gun accidents compared to other high-income nations. According to a 2001 study by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, gun accident mortality across all ages is higher in states where gun ownership is more prevalent. A 2010 study found that the incidence of fatal firearm accidents for ages 10 to 14 was more than four times higher in the most rural counties as compared to the most urban counties. This finding in part explains why gun death rates among children are similar across population densities, even though urban areas have a higher firearm homicide rate.
These statistics have been borne out by a number of recent tragedies. According to Mother Jones, at least 40 children ages 12 and under died in gun accidents between the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and May 7. Among recent accidental deaths compiled from Mother Jones and other news sources in April and May:
- May 14: An 11-year-old Florida boy died after being accidentally shot by a 4-year-old boy the previous Sunday.
- May 11: A 5-year-old Texas boy died after being accidentally shot by his brother with a rifle.
- May 8: A 2-year-old Texas boy died after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun.
- May 7: A 3-year-old Florida boy died after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun.
- May 1: A 3-year-old Arizona boy died after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun.
- April 30: A 5-year-old Kentucky boy fatally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle designed for children.
- April 29: An 8-year-old Alaska boy fatally shot his 5-year-old sister with a rifle.
- April 25: A 10-year-old Ohio boy was fatally shot after a shotgun discharged.
- April 20: A 4-year-old Oregon boy died in an accidental shooting.
- April 17: An 8-year-old Idaho boy died in an accidental shooting.
- April 14: A 9-year-old Oregon girl died after being accidentally shot by her mother's boyfriend.
- April 13: A 7-year-old Kansas boy died after accidentally shooting himself the day before.
- April 9: A 3-year-old South Carolina boy died after accidentally shooting himself.
- April 8: A 6-year-old New Jersey boy died after being accidentally shot by his 4-year-old friend.
NRA News' Edwards: Media Coverage Of Accidental Shootings Is A “Campaign Of Shame”
During the sole segment where Cam & Company discussed an accidental shooting involving a child, Edwards attacked The New York Times for a May 5 article that reported on the aftermath of the April 30 accidental shooting in Burkesville, Kentucky.
Edwards claimed “the campaign of shame is taking place across the media spectrum,” further commenting that the “mass media” seek to “hold themselves up as our betters” and “wanted to make a point that this is what happens in Bumpkinville.” From the May 6 edition of Cam & Company:
EDWARDS: Those who hold themselves up as our betters wanted to make a point that this is what happens in Bumpkinville. Now again, no perspective from The New York Times on the actual number of firearm accidents in this country going down. It's not about perspective. It's not about facts for the mass media. It is about portraying gun owners, particularly, by the way, parents like myself, maybe like you, who have introduced our children to shooting, to hunting, to the outdoors.
They want to make that socially unacceptable. They want to turn us into pariahs. And you know what, maybe if we all lived in a place inhabited by people like [New York Times reporter] Trip Gabriel and [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg they could do so. But when you look across this great country of ours there are far more towns like Burke[s]ville who have no interest in living under the thumb of Mayor Bloomberg than there are places like midtown Manhattan.
It's going to continue. It's going to get worse. The campaign of shame marches on. And we continue to push back.
Cam & Company Framed School Incidents As A Threat To Liberty
Cam & Company dispatched NRA News investigative reporter Ginny Simone to Logan County, West Virginia, to interview interested parties in the NRA T-shirt incident. During a special aired on the April 30 edition of Cam & Company, a supporter of the student stated, “We as Americans, we're under attack. Those of us who believe in the Founding Fathers' rule of law. And it's just more proof of what the liberal left is trying to do to make us all conform to their way of thinking.”
The student's father described the incident as “a direct assault on the NRA and every single NRA member” and later added, “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.” He also claimed that the incident was evidence of “an infiltration of activist educators” who are trying to “indoctrinate” students:
Edwards also addressed the North Carolina student who accidentally brought unloaded guns on to school grounds on the May 1 edition of Cam & Company, stating, “what better story to celebrate May Day, the celebration of totalitarian regimes around the world” and adding that the incident was representative of “the unseeing eye of authoritarianism” :
On the May 8 edition of Cam & Company, Edwards said that the school incidents were a component of an “attack on parents educating their children about firearms” spearheaded by “anti-gunners” :
Media Matters research fellow Oliver Willis contributed to this report.