NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Media Report Selectively On Gun Use Incidents

April 30, 1999

Access to guns has been a prominent part of media coverage of the Littleton, Colo., tragedy -- as it should be. But some acute observers are noting that press reports on similar horrendous school shootings have made scant mention of the role of guns in subduing youthful killers.

  • In the October 1997 shooting spree at a Pearl, Miss., high school, which left two students dead, an assistant principal retrieved a gun from his car and physically immobilized the shooter for about five minutes before police arrived.
  • Out of some 687 articles which appeared in the first month after the attack, only 16 stories mentioned the assistant principal -- and only a little more than half of those reported that he used a gun to stop the attack.
  • A school-related shooting in Edinboro, Penn., which left one teacher dead, was stopped only after the owner of a nearby restaurant pointed a shotgun at the shooter and held him at bay until the police arrived 11 minutes later.
  • While at least 596 new stories discussed this crime in the following month, only 35 mentioned the restaurant owner -- but few of those described how he used a gun to stop the violence.

The New York Daily News reported that the restaurateur "persuaded" the killer to surrender, while the Atlanta Journal wrote that he "chased (the gunman) down and held him until police came."

Defenders of legal ownership of firearms conclude that the media ignores stories which involve the defensive use of guns -- and which studies estimate are five times more common than criminal gun uses. Observers note that there are many cases in which citizens with permitted concealed handguns have stopped both shootings and bombings in public places.

But the role of these heroes and their guns are overlooked in a politically correct press.

Source: John R. Lott Jr., "Does News Coverage Endanger Lives?" Investor's Business Daily, April 29, 1999.


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