NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Media Bias Against Guns is Half Cocked

August 8, 2003

The media bias against guns hurts society and costs lives, says John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute. According to Lott, media reports on private citizens who use guns to stop crimes are scarce despite the fact that approximately 2.3 million defensive gun uses occurred in 2001.

Lott searched major media sources throughout the year 2001 to analyze their coverage of gun-related stories and found that:

  • Out of the nation's three largest newspapers (USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times), only the Times carried a story about defensive gun use.
  • USA Today contained 5,660 words on crimes committed with guns and not a single word on defensive gun use.
  • Less than one percent of defensive gun use stories ran outside the local coverage area.

Polls about gun control laws are also often implicitly slanted toward the notion that stricter gun control laws either reduce or have no impact on violent crime. Lott discovered that out of 17 national and seven state surveys, none asked its respondents if they thought gun control might increase crime.

The media also focuses inordinate amounts of time on accidental shootings, especially of children, says Lott, even though "accidental shooters overwhelmingly are adults with long histories of arrest for violent crimes, alcoholism, suspended or revoked drivers licenses, and involvement in car crashes."

Source: John Lott, "Half Cocked: Why Most of What You See in the Media About Guns Is Wrong," American Enterprise, July/August 2003, American Enterprise Institute.


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