Columbia Journalism Review recently conducted a “summit” to finally resolve problems with news coverage of gun violence, seeking to end what it claims are distorted and misleading stories of this deadly subject. Every advocacy group in America, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership [JPFO], wants this to happen. Is gun-control advocacy a proper role for CJR?
CJR invited grand members of the media, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian (U.K.) prestigious reporters and editors, and less well-known outfits such as The Trace. Through some inexplicable oversight, they forgot to include any members of the firearms industry itself. Balance—all sides of an issue—has always been recognized as a requirement of sound journalism by The Society of Professional Journalists [SPJ], CJR and the others involved, including news consumers. What happened?
The attempt to understand gun violence by only involving anti-gun advocates as CJR has done is like trying to understand women by only speaking with men.
That a formerly prestigious media institution like Columbia Journalism Review, in conjunction with the century-old Society of Professional Journalists, would act in such a total vacuum defines in a moment the main problem with the approach taken and the results obtained. Journalists should know better. What did they miss?
There Is No Gun Violence
The term gun violence is a recently created pejorative (c. 1980) that denigrates firearms and displaces focus from crime and murder, where the real issues lie. By using that preferred euphemism they maintain a narrative that hides the real problems of deteriorating social fabric, inner-city dysfunction where more than 90% of all murders occur, and the inconvenient truth about the people conducting the crimes. Demographic and sociological studies identify the perpetrators but it is politically incorrect to name them, or point out their poverty, predominant race, motivations, family structure (or lack thereof), and political forces that perpetuate the situations.
Instead, reporters and editors, often unwittingly, follow a predetermined storyline in lockstep as CJR, SPJ, and the others have done. They see the problems falsely as so-called “gun violence” when in fact it is nothing of the sort. That misleading line of thinking (that guns and violence are linked) advances the notion that guns themselves are evil and must be confiscated by state actors (police), who themselves are heavily armed, a one-to-one connection typically missed by CJR-type journalists. When this leads to unfathomable levels of public resistance reporters and editors are flummoxed. The CJR enclave did nothing to illuminate this and if anything, obscured it along familiar lines. No viable solution effloresced. It could not, with only half the issue examined. The 100 million decent peacefully armed citizens are outraged and lament candidly amongst themselves at shooting ranges, where reporters typically never go.
When reporting starts to examine why 7,000 people of color murder each other annually in what we used to call ghettos, and now whitewash as inner cities, the “gun problem” will begin to unravel. But this is difficult and politically inexpedient. Public defenders know who their endless flow of clients are. Reporters seem to have no clue, or don’t want to know. I suspect it’s the latter, it is such an inconvenient truth. Most murderers do not see a courtroom. They keep their guns.
The term gunman is sexist. It surprises the firearms community that CJR-type reporters, who generally consider themselves woke, are not awake to that fact. Murderer, or killer are better terms, more accurate. Try criminal, villain, psychopath, homicidal maniac, even suspect, and they take the focus (and self-evident prejudice) off the hated object, placing it instead of the evil perpetrator, where blame belongs. “But he’s not convicted yet!” they cry. Neither is the supposed gunman.
The term shooter actually describes the 100 million gun owners who practice. Practice is good. The term murderer describes the tiny number of people who crack and go psychotic in public, randomly shooting innocent people, or targets of their hatred. A review of recent news coverage shows reporters conflate these terms in misleading ways, constantly. Mass murderer is the correct term for such actors, not mass shooters though this proper use of language was not brought out at the summit. It did not make it into the final report, which JPFO has analyzed.*
I’ve personally asked many reporters, “Do you ever cover the good that guns do?” They do not. They don’t know what that is. They routinely respond with a blank stare, raised eyebrows, and a query, “What do you mean, the good that guns do?” They don’t realize guns have social utility. Guns save lives. Guns stop crime. Guns are good. Guns protect you. Guns are why America is still free. Guns are important. If guns magically ceased to exist we would have to reinvent them to protect ourselves. There would still be hoards at the gates. Clubs and blades don’t evaporate. Communists remain a threat.
If we somehow managed to totally ban firearms here the communist Chinese (plus Brazil, Italy, Russia and the other makers of fine firearms) would flood the market with an iron river making the cocaine trade look like banana imports. Did the CJR and SPJ seminar make these points clear for future “gun-violence” coverage? How could they—they are steeped in the narrative, with other views excluded, for neo-balance. CJR unwittingly humiliated itself.
How can the press learn and inform themselves and the public about the true nature of firearms, when such large portions of the picture are obscured or missing entirely? That of course is rhetorical, it cannot. Will enclave participants be responsive to this assessment? If past is prologue, confidence is not high. “Gun violence” (crime) will continue to plague society, people of color will continue to die on streets where you do not live or go, and journalism will skip out on SPJ’s guideline to “… resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage,” and completely fail to provide an “open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” It is stunning that so many reporters find the glorious Second Amendment repugnant.
Guns Are Not Medicine
One final point. CJR-type journalists have this wrong: People of color indiscriminately murdering each other in tiny isolated areas is not a public health crisis in the sense of a pandemic. Crime is not a disease. Guns are not pathogens. You should not have to be told this—you’ve contracted it from brainwash detergent. The enclave’s conclusion that guns are bad medicine does not make them thus. Hospital emergency rooms overflowing with crime victims is a problem, caused by social unrest, and the root causes clearly are not retail businesses or federal licenses. Imagining that’s so is perverse and delays us from getting to the real issues. COVID, STDs, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, maybe even vaccine hesitancy, these are health-care crises. Ballistics, no.
If there is a medical side to this it is hoplophobia, the untreated morbid fear of weapons, especially guns. The Fifth Edition of the DSM refused to include hoplophobia as a recognized and diagnosable condition, despite evidence and serious appeals to do so. This further delayed much needed treatment, especially for members of the medical community where it is running rampant. A lot of what we treat as a political or journalism problem is really a medical condition, and until we get down to that, a lot of these problems will fester, not begin to abate or find a cure.
The next CJR and SPJ summit must include Doctors for Responsible Gun Policy, JPFO, and similarly situated experts.
* JPFO’s former Executive Director Charles Heller has written a brief on the CJR conclusions.
Alan Korwin, an-award-winning author of 14 books, is writing his 15th book, Why Science May Be Wrong, and is the publisher at Bloomfield Press. Click here to visit gunlaws.com.