A Smith & Wesson .45, being prepared for display at an NRA annual meeting and exhibit in 2011 (AP)
'Is the NRA paying mainstream reporters by the hour?'
ASK THIS | February 23, 2012
Two gun control advocates say that misstatements and fuzzy data coming from the National Rifle Association often are accepted by the press unchecked, and then disseminated, incorrectly, as trends and facts in American life. They point out, among other things, that gun sales are not perpetually rising; that neither are sales of guns to women, and that lax 'carry laws' have not been shown to lessen crime. There’s a lot of misinformation being spread, hardly examined at all by the press.
By Ladd Everitt and Tim Johnson of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
The issue of gun violence in America is one we simply cannot ignore. Every day in the United States, approximately 86 Americans die from gunfire. An additional 201 are injured as a result of gun violence. The media report regularly about gun violence because these tragedies are occurring in communities across America on a daily basis. There’s no escaping it.
While there is a high volume of news stories about gun violence, what is frequently lacking is insightful analysis that could help explain why these tragedies occur in the first place, and how they might be prevented in the future. We offer the following suggestions for reporters who want to give their readers a deeper understanding of this complex but critical issue:
1) Dig for the Data
The gun issue demands a great deal of professional rigor from journalists because the chief lobbying group for the gun industry, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has systematically suppressed data about gun violence and the impact it has on Americans’ lives.
When Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies in the early 90s revealed that guns in the home present more of a danger to the occupants than potential home invaders, the NRA used its political muscle to prevent the agency from funding research on firearms’ death and injury. For approximately 15 years, the CDC appropriations bill
has contained the following language: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” According to Mark Rosenberg, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, “We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions.” This year, the NRA was successful in adding a similar amendment
to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriations language.
The NRA has also acted to stifle the amount and quality of data available to the public regarding illegal firearms trafficking. The “Tiahrt Amendments”
to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) appropriations bill prevent the media, researchers and the general public from accessing detailed trace data on guns recovered from crime scenes. This greatly hinders researchers’ attempts to “connect the dots” when it comes to deriving broader patterns of interstate (and international) gun trafficking.
The overall result is that gun-related research has been stifled. The gun lobby is quick to cite a 2004 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report
, claiming it found that gun violence prevention laws have no positive effect. In truth, the report concluded that the effectiveness of gun laws can’t be evaluated yet because there simply isn’t a sufficient quantity or quality of data to make such a determination (the report did specifically analyze the work of Fox News commentator John Lott and found there is no evidence that the relaxation of concealed carry laws across the country reduces crime). Since the NAS review, there have been new studies
(conducted by Daniel Webster, Garen Wintemute and others) that show the positive effects of gun violence prevention policies, so it is important to consider the full body of research that is currently available.
Finally, reporters should note that gun-related websites are infamous for being sources of bogus quotes, statistics and misinformation (as has been well documented by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow). The bottom line is that reporters must exercise due diligence to uncover the facts and data necessary to get a story right.
2) Where Did the Gun Come From?
Far too often, the important detail of how a shooter acquired a crime gun is left out of reporting on gun violence—even in coverage of high-profile incidents.
When a crime gun is recovered, law enforcement will typically run a trace report to identify the origin of its first retail sale. The federal government runs the National Tracing Center and almost all states rely on the system. A firearm trace can give rich detail on the path of the firearm, but if the gun leaves the regulated market, those details can be lost.
The problem is that after an initial retail purchase through a federally licensed gun dealer, crime guns frequently change hands through “private sales,” where neither background checks nor records of sale are required by law. One study
estimated that as many as 40% of all gun transactions are private sales. This situation is advantageous to the NRA and gun industry because it helps to obscure trafficking channels (i.e., the sources of illegally obtained firearms). It is a nightmare, however, for reporters attempting to provide background on a shooter and explain what gun laws are implicated when a dangerous individual obtains an arsenal of firepower.
It’s therefore important for reporters to cast a wide net when researching gun-related stories. This will certainly mean establishing good relationships with members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. There might also be occasions when reporters will need to attend court hearings to hear testimony on critical facts that are not divulged in police reports. In many states, reporters will have to visit the county clerk to find out if a perpetrator has been issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public.
Very often it takes an enterprising reporter to tell the public where a crime gun came from, and how it was obtained. That information doesn’t just make for a better story; it is also critical in informing policy debates surrounding the gun issue.
3) Is the NRA Paying You by the Hour?
The NRA has engaged in a systematic campaign to block the media’s access to critical and objective data on gun violence and the effectiveness of firearms regulation but they have no problem routinely pitching stories to reporters using some of the fuzziest data
imaginable. Surprisingly, the media often publish some of the gun lobby’s most exaggerated claims verbatim with little or no fact-checking.
For example, every year the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) pitch a story about “record” numbers of firearms being sold. They seek to create the impression that their industry is thriving and that the “gun culture” is becoming the norm in American society. The problem is that the NRA and NSSF have never offered the media actual data
on gun sales! Instead, they refer reporters to data from the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS), claiming that background checks equal gun sales. According to the FBI (which publishes NICS data), however, “These statistics represent the number of background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent
the number of firearms sold.” Furthermore, “An increase in the number of NICS transactions, for a given time period, should not be used
to indicate an increase in the number of firearms sold.”
Why would the media accept second-hand, extraneous information from an industry that blocks their access to primary source material? Virtually every other industry in America releases up-to-date, line-item data on retail sales. The gun industry should be judged by the same standard. Ultimately it’s the media’s responsibility to fact-check and provide the public with information that has been independently verified.
Another popular—but baseless—story that is routinely pitched by the gun lobby is expanding firearm ownership among women. In reality, the General Social Survey
indicates that gun ownership among American women has remained rare and flat—hovering somewhere between 9% and 14%—over the past 30 years.
4) Know Your Hardware
For reporters who don’t spend every waking minute thinking about guns, it can be difficult to speak about firearms in an authoritative and technically accurate manner. Furthermore, pro-gun advocates will attempt to immediately discredit any news story that contains even a slight inaccuracy concerning the description of a firearm, as if this somehow grounds to call an entire story into question.
The most common errors stems from confusion surrounding the term “automatic.” An automatic weapon is one that reloads itself when fired. This encompasses both fully automatic firearms—which fire continuously when the trigger is depressed (until the ammunition is expended)—and semiautomatic firearms—which require the trigger to be pulled each time a bullet is fired. However, in contemporary parlance, when people use the term “automatic” in reference to firearms, they are typically referring to a fully automatic firearm or—as it is more commonly known—a machine gun. To avoid confusion, the media should only use the term “machine gun” for weapons that are capable of fully automatic fire.
5) That Personal Touch
Statistics on gun violence—with their enormous casualty totals—are so overwhelming that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that each of these data points represents the suffering of actual human beings. As with other public health issues, it can be hard for readers to personally connect with the issue of gun violence if they have not experienced a tragedy themselves. Putting a human face to a story allow readers to connect with it in a deeper, more meaningful way.
To the media’s credit, journalists do genuinely seem concerned with the human interest aspect of gun violence stories. After some of the worst shootings in American history, in-depth media interviews with victims and survivors have helped readers understand the true impact of gun violence on our society. That’s important, and worth continuing.
6) When Did the Crisis End?
We constantly read news stories about the dangers of obesity, tobacco use, and overindulgence in alcohol, but what about the continuing epidemic of gun violence in the United States? Prior to the NRA’s muzzling of the CDC (see above), the agency frequently spoke of gun violence as a public health “crisis” or “epidemic.” What has changed? We continue to lose more than 30,000 Americans each year to gun violence.
Even if the CDC and NIH have been effectively muzzled, the media have not been. They should report the full scope of the problem and the massive toll it is taking on the health and well-being of American families. They should also note that this epidemic is uniquely American. A study published by the UCLA School of Public Health that compared the U.S. to 22 other high-income countries found that our gun homicide rates
were 19.5 times higher than the combined rates of the other countries, gun suicide rates were 5.8 times higher, and unintentional firearm death rates were 5.2 times higher.
7) It’s Not All Gangs
The gun lobby likes to paint the picture that gun violence in the United States is an “urban problem.” It’s not too difficult to translate the meaning of these code words. But the notion that American gun violence is entirely the result of gang members running amok in cities is wrong.
The most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report
found that only approximately 10% of all U.S. homicides could be identified as “gangland killings” or “juvenile gang killings.” Most murders involve people that know each other, often intimately (i.e., family, boyfriend/girlfriend, co-worker, etc.). More than 40% of homicides result from mundane arguments over money, property, relationships, etc. And of course, fraudulent claims about gun violence being an “urban problem” also ignore the thousands of gun suicides and accidental firearm deaths that occur each year in all areas of the country.
The fact is that gun violence affects all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, income level, or any other demographic factor. Bullets are indifferent to socioeconomic status and the weak state of our nation’s gun laws creates the potential for anyone to be terrorized by firearm-related violence at any given moment.
02/23/2012, 08:02 PM
This is really funny! The gun control crowd has been disseminating disinformation for decades and now they cry foul if they think someone (like the NRA) tries to do the same thing. Gun control has never worked to reduce violent crime and trying to blame the NRA for its failure is also pretty funny. The demise of gun control has been in the works for years as folks began to realize their scare tactics were completely false. And as the end nears, they are reduced to claiming the opposition isn't playing fair. Maybe the end is already here.
02/23/2012, 08:42 PM
Where does one start with an article so full of misinformation and misconception? Let's look at two most illogical points:
What exactly is "gun violence"? Guns are inanimate objects, they have no emotion, no intention and they do not commit any action. They are simply tools, no different than knifes, hammers or axes. Each can be used for useful and productive tasks and each can and does kill. It all depends on the intention of the human operator. Humanizing tools is not very smart, it is just plain silly. It demonstrates either a supreme ignorance of the subject or extreme arrogance toward the audience for assuming they would accept such blatant straw man argument.
And as if that is not enough, there is statistic. How many of those "approximately 86 Americans" who "die from gunfire" every day in the United States are actually criminals being killed by their intended victims? Could there be more sinister (not to mention useless and, again, downright silly) way to criminalize the victims and humanize the criminals?
With anti-gun articles like this, the NRA does not have to do much, this is their best PR.
02/23/2012, 10:09 PM
Thats what I love about the morons from the CSGV ... they never give up. Even when public opinion and the courts abandon them they just cant get it through thier thick skulls that the motto "from our cold dead hands" rings true all throughout America.
Go back to North Korea.
02/24/2012, 07:11 AM
I'm assuming that your reference to "Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies in the early 90's revealed that guns in the home present more of a danger to the occupants than to potential home invaders" meant the Kellerman Study.
The Kellerman study, published in 1994 for the CDC was a joke. They picked 3 counties that were geographically convenient to them. They asked proxys about the murder victims but only used proxy data in 50% of the control group. Their sample size was too small and too concentrated. They didn't include data from all the firearms deaths in the area (cherry picking data). When asking about the murder victims they were sure to get honest answers about firearm ownership and storage because the proxy would assume they already knew, but when asking individuals about their own gun ownership they failed to account that 20% of people are known to lie about guns when asked (probably more when somebody who identifies themselves as working for a government entity i.e. The CDC). When criminologists obtained the data years later they discovered that 70% of the murdurers relationships to the deceased indicated that they did not live in the residence and therefore the victim was most likely not killed by the weapon which they owned (in only 4% of the cases it was determined that the murder weapon was kept in the home). At best the data showed a statistical link but not a causal one. Could it be that in many cases the victims bought the firearm because of a threat of violence?
02/24/2012, 07:51 AM
You are correct. The number on NICS Checks is not directly proportionate for 3 reasons.
1. Guns aren't sold to people who don't pass a NICS background check. This accounts for about 2% of sales.
2. You can buy Multiple Guns on one check.
3. People who have a concealed weapons permits (like myself), and Law Enforcement Officers in many states are exempt from having to process through the NICS system. Half of my firearms have been bought this way.
So yes, the statistics aren't a 1:1. There are probably far more guns sold in a year than NICS checks performed. But an increase in checks does indicate an increase in sales wheras a decrease in checks does not necessarily indicate a decrease in sales because we gun nuts may be buying 6 or 7 guns at a time and/or using our carry permit.
02/24/2012, 07:57 AM
Once, just once, I would like to see a proponent of gun control objectively and honestly consider the following: Given the number of firearms in this country, the number of firearm owners in this country, the number of defensive uses of firearms in this county and the number of illegal or accidental shootings in this country, how big of a problem is gun ownership? I often see statements about an “epidemic” of gun violence but the numbers just don't back that up.
02/24/2012, 08:26 AM
How much did you get paid to write this?
Referring to "research" by Wintermute is laughable.
Here is what one of his peers thinks of his research.
Brady Campaign Geta a Pass on "The Big Lie"
02/24/2012, 08:30 AM
I would love to read the authors' statistical analysis of Sarah Brady's claim that 13 children are killed by gun violence in the USA every day. Using figures from the CDC, not the NRA, one has to include "children" up to 20 years of age who are killed by other "children" or by police officers while engaged in drug running or other criminal activity to reach the Brady's cited 13 per day. For the anti-gun folks to say the NRA fudges statistics is clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
02/24/2012, 10:21 AM
You ignore the fact that the antis, especially the Brady Campaign, doctor most of their "facts". I was even going to use a well known phrase, but DDS beat me to it. This is an emotionally charged issue. The only "facts" that matter: Gun ownership is at an all time high, CCW is at an all time high. Murder, especially by gun are at decades old lows. And an irrefutable fact, most crimanal shootings are drug related. We ban drugs, hows that working?
02/24/2012, 11:33 AM
As a violence policy advocate, it’s important to note that none of what I write is personal conjecture but instead comes from the study of statistics, polls, and opinion found through research of web sites on the Internet. It’s come to my attention that gun owners belong to the NRA and are Tea Party Insurrectionists Extremist Gunophile Fetishists. It’s also notable that they will often give up their families, careers, and even their life to have “Wild West” type shootouts over minor disputes such as parking spots or to compensate for some other shortcoming. Again, this is not personal conjecture but consensus among the public as verified in the Comments sections of several web sites. That’s not to say that they don’t favor common sense civilian disarmament polices such as the prohibition of AK-47 Assault Weapons since they can now safely be considered Weapons of Mass Destruction, and have no civilian use, or the reasonable ban of Glock brand machine pistols since they have no militia use and therefore, are not protected by the Second Amendment. This information comes from recent polling and a quick search will show that to you. Of course we shouldn’t overlook high power, armor penetrating , 9mm ammunition as well. I would like to join my peers and urge legislators at every level to Dis the Deadly Myths and Reclaim the Constitution, by proposing sensible and reasonable policies that register and eventually disarm the public though no one is talking about handgun bans.
Thank You GunBanner
02/24/2012, 02:06 PM
Your objective and fact based analysis has brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. :)
02/24/2012, 08:18 PM
First off..notsureifsrs.jpg about your entire post...
Second, I'm a gun owner, member of the NRA, and a Liberal..So fail on your part.
Third, "sensible and reasonable policies" do not include "disarming the public"
I think you're just trolling but provide sources for "observations".
what could go wrong?
02/25/2012, 07:48 AM
Stalin, Hitler and Mao implemented gun control for the masses- what could go wrong?
02/25/2012, 02:33 PM
We are not discussing taking guns away from people. We are talking about just a little itsy bitty of control. You know, not being able to buy guns at gun shows, not any nutcase showing up at WallMart being able to buy ammunition, requiring gun owners to take a course on how to use them in order to get a license (same as you do when you drive a car), etc etc etc.
Now what is objectionable about any of this? Oh, of course gun manufacturers/corporations might lose money if there was a modicum of enforced gun control which would also apply to the guns being exported into Mexico from gun shows. This through the same tunnels as drugs are imported in the US. I have to assume that drug cartels too have their highly paid lobbyists who are also doing double duty fighting against legalisation of drugs, something that would put the cartels out of business. How much do you suppose the drug cartels and assorted crime syndicates are paying the NRA leadership since the NRA membership has expressed its opinion in surveys after surveys that they don't object to gun control?
As for Hitler he didn't come into power because the population was not armed. He was ELECTED with 44% of the vote. Then he took over dictarial power with the help of the armed forces and maintained it through his use of a secret police that terrorized the people. Stalin too came into power and because he controlled the armed forces and again maintained it with the use of terro against people.
Unlike you, I happen to know families of kids who attacked Stalin's tanks with molotov cocktails and guns. The results were tragic, not just for the kids but for what was done to their families afterwards. Would you have that kind of courage?
The notion that even assault rifles and other war making paraphanelia could protect you against the US armed forces is nuts, if our armed forces (which I know wouldn't) but the contractors who are increasingly doing our dirty work for us would take over?
in response to Katikam's comment
02/25/2012, 08:17 PM
Yeah, Hitler got "elected" to power as did Stalin. Stupid people are allowed to vote, which is a big problem (look who's occupying the White House right now) in any governmental system.
There is no such thing as "itsy bitty" gun control. Anything of the sort is non-negotiable.
I also know of families that attacked Stalin's tanks with Molotov cocktails (which were a response to Stalin's "breadbasket" mines). People were killed, of course. It's called war. Deal with it. What you conveniently ignore is that the Finns were about as ill-equipped against the Soviets as we average joes and janes are against our own government. Yet, the Finns made the Soviets pay dearly for every inch of ground that they gained, only to be harassed further by guerrillas. Also, Hitler passed gun control in 1938, specifically targeting the Jews. We all know what happened after that, which is why one of Israel's mottoes is "Never Again."
Also Katikam, it isn't a matter of the type of gun used. The deadliest weapon on the battlefield is a well-placed shot. Don't believe me? Read up on Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. Charles Henderson wrote two very excellent books about him..
Personally, the only gun control I am for is the simple ability to hit my target, and then hit it again, again, again, and again, and again.
Here's something no one like Ladd or Katikam wants to hear: the 2nd Amendment grants me the right to keep and bear any type of weapon I please, including fully fledged machine guns, grenades, rockets, tanks with ammunition for their cannon and machine guns, etc. I fought for our rights as Americans, which are clearly spelled out in the US Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. Even women could bear arms before they got the right to vote.
Most False and Misleading Article Yet
02/25/2012, 09:47 PM
Did these guys fail Logic 101 before they undertook this article. If somebody else did the "research" for them, then these guys were scammed and set up royally. I guess every scam needs a face and a name to hang in front of it.
Talk about the pot calling the stainless kettle black!
02/27/2012, 01:36 PM
From the people who invented the "assault pistols", no less! Ah, nothing is too low for the Coalition to Ban Handguns.
02/27/2012, 01:59 PM
I read a few years ago that the NRA consistently places in the top 100 list of agencies/lobbyists in terms of the accuracy of the information they provide to congresscritters.
Let me be clear. The NRA, like any other lobbying organization, has opinions, agendas and wish lists. These are not part of this equation.
Their overall record with Congress is, if the NRA says this is a fact, you can take it to the bank.
02/27/2012, 06:21 PM
I'd like to see the facts and statistics behind the claim that gun owners engage in "“Wild West” type shootouts over minor disputes such as parking spots". There may be a few but I've never heard of it happening.
BTW Ladd, do you anti-gunners still want to ban barrel shrouds? You know what a barrel shroud is, right? It's that thingy that goes up.
Gun Confiscation Lobby at work
02/27/2012, 06:41 PM
This is nothing more than a regurgitation of Gun Confiscation Lobby screeds.
Using the quack Garen Wintemute's mountain of worthless data pile-o-stuff proves that beyond doubt.
02/27/2012, 09:43 PM
Where can I get one of those Glock Machine Pistol thingys???
GunBanner, to keep from resorting to name calling, you are one of the most ill-informed people I've seen post in quite a while. It's people who will believe this kind of horrible misinformation who will be hurt the most. Unfortunately, there are far too many of them . . .
02/28/2012, 12:13 AM
I'm from Texas. Around here if you don't own at least 10 rifles somethings wrong with you.
Protecting my family
02/28/2012, 10:35 AM
The woman lying dead in the ally, raped and strangled with her own panty hose is morally superior to the woman that shoots her attacker. Y'all are a bunch of racists we all know that gun control means you want to disarm the Black community
02/28/2012, 01:29 PM
Gun sales not increasing? Hogwash.
The sales surge and shortage of guns and ammunition available at retail stores from Walmart to every sporting goods store in the country beginning shortly before Obama's election, and lasting about two years was just our imagination. Stores can just barely keep up with the demand today with certain guns.
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