A Washington Times editorial stated that congressional Democrats will "go after the guns of law-abiding Americans." The editorial echoed the rhetoric of other media conservatives who have warned that President Obama or congressional Democrats intend to confiscate guns.
Since President Obama's election, several conservative media figures have warned their audiences that Obama is planning to, in the words of Glenn Beck, "slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun" or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely.
Politico's Martin Kady's lede:
The heavy coverage of mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., North Carolina, Washington state and the cop killings in Pittsburgh has had little apparent effect on the nation's appetite for new gun laws.
Headline on Gallup report on which Kady based his post (emphasis added):
Before Recent Shootings, Gun-Control Support Was Fading
True, Kady did later admit, "It's important to note that the poll was taken before the massacre in Binghamton, but other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks."
But ... well, maybe he should have read that Gallup release a little more closely:
The latest figures come from the most recent installment of Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008.
"Other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks," Kady tells us -- but the poll was conducted last year! That's long before the past few weeks.
Not only is Kady citing a 6-month-old poll to make assertions about whether attitudes have changed in the past week, he's cherry-picking results to overstate public opposition to gun control. Kady mentions exactly one poll result in his post:
A Gallup Poll out this morning shows support for a ban on private hand gun ownership at an all time low, with 29 percent of respondents saying they support such a law. It's the smallest percentage since Gallup started asking this question 50 years ago.
That leads him to conclude: "The poll may show why virtually nobody in Congress is rolling out new gun control legislation."
Well, OK. It's true politicians haven't had much appetite for new gun-control legislation in recent years, and almost certainly true that for many of them, politics is as much a part of the reason as are policy considerations.
That aside, Kady's post paints a pretty misleading picture of public opinion about gun control. He cites only one poll result, one showing little public support for a complete ban on private handgun ownership. And from that, he draws conclusions about "the nation's appetite for new gun laws."
Well, guess what? There are all kinds of potential new gun laws other than a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Like reinstating the assault weapons ban, or closing the gun-show loophole. When Gallup asked if gun laws should be more or less strict, 49 percent said more strict. That paints a far different picture than the 29 percent support for a handgun ban Kady cited.
UPDATE: Kady has updated his post:
UPDATE/CORRECTION: The folks at Media Matters have made a fair point in criticizing this post, noting that the polling was done several months ago -- even though Gallup posted this poll just today. It's still worth noting that there isn't yet a ground swell of support in the Democratic Congress for new gun control laws in wake of the tragic shootings, but I should have drilled into this polling data more closely. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, writing in HuffPo, has also taken Gallup to task, calling the release of the poll today misleading.
Kady also added a line in the body of the post acknowledging "the poll also notes that 49 percent of Americans want stricter gun control laws than what's on the books now."
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From its Friday night network newscast came this programming note from guest anchor Diane Sawyer:
And, also, a week from tonight, ABC News is going to bring you the results of a year-long exploration of this epidemic of mass shootings in America – why it is happening and what lessons there are about staying safe if it is happening to you. And that is one week from tonight.
The national press has been playing dumb about gun violence for years now. It will be interesting to see if ABC News takes off the blinders with its upcoming Friday-night special.
UPDATE: There was another mass murder over the weekend. This one in Graham, Washington, where police report James Harrison, 34, distraught over the fact that his wife was leaving him, shot and killed his five children and then killed himself. By my estimates, that's five mass murders in the last eight days in America, with nearly 40 people shot dead.
Question: Will others in the news media soon join ABC News and begin to connect the dots?
The local Pittsburgh press this weekend was bubbling with reports about how the shooter was a fan of fringe, online conspiracies, and was afraid Obama was going to take away his guns.
Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry.
He slept with a gun under his pillow in a basement room filled with firearms and ammunition, convinced that Jews controlled the media and President Obama was scheming to take away his arsenal, friends and relatives said Saturday...[A friend] said Poplawski usually was affable and kind, but grew angry recently over fears Obama would outlaw guns.
The local AP dispatch:
Police Chief Nate Harper said the motive for the shooting isn't clear, but friends said the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.
But readers of the Times have been left clueless about whether radical rhetoric from the right about Obama might have prompted Poplawski to ambush three officers and murder them outside his apartment. In fact, in its lone dispatch on the shooting, the Times announced, "No one could explain why [Poplawski] did what he did on Saturday."
We're not sure that's accurate.
We're learning more and more about the killer who called cops to his apartment in order to execute them on Saturday morning. We're learning that Richard Andrew Poplawski was a right-wing conspiracy nut who was convinced the new Democratic administration was going to take away the guns of Americans.
We've also learned, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that Poplawski was an avid fan of conspiracist and radical talk show host Alex Jones. A "freak" was how the conservative blog Little Green Footballs described Jones today.
From the Post-Gazette:
Believing most media were covering up important events, Mr. Poplawski turned to a far-right conspiracy Web site run by Alex Jones, a self-described documentarian with roots going back to the extremist militia movement of the early 1990s.
Who's been mainstreaming the "freak" Alex Jones in recent days? Who's been embracing his conspiratorial rants and giving them a platform and legitimacy? Fox News, course.
Click here to watch FoxNews.com intro its webcast segment about "what the government has done to take your liberty and your property away." And watch the Fox host introduce the "the one, the only, the great Alex Jones." The radio nut then launches into talk of the "New World Order" a "global government." Listen as Jones warns the Fox News audience about the Obama "agenda" for "gun confiscation." And watch the Fox News online host tell Jones it's been "a pleasure" listening to his rhetoric.
Fox News has been playing with radical fire in recent weeks and months. But can it contain the bonfire? Naturally, that doesn't stop Newsbusters from whining about the consequences and insisting that the GOP Noise Machine has no responsibility for the extraordinary hate it's been pushing since January.
UPDATE: Again, even Little Green Footballs is appalled:
Wow. Racists, 9/11 truthers, and conspiracy theorists, all brought to you by Fox News.
Featuring "the great Alex Jones."
What the hell is wrong with Fox News?
UPDATE: During his webcast on FoxNews.com, Alex Jones also notes with pride how FNC's Glenn Beck has recently been warning about the emerging New World Order on the air, just like Jones.
The sad news from Binghamton, New York, has once again turned the media's attention to the scene of a gun-fueled mass killing. But once again, the rampage coverage seems to be context-free, in that the press rarely connects the most current killing spree with all the ones before it, or steps back to wonder what is going on nationwide.
As I recently wrote:
The press now covers shooting sprees the way it covers killer tornadoes: They're one-day stories, they're acts of nature, and all people can do is try to stay out of the way.
The fact is, the shooting in Binghamton is the third killing spree this week. Nearly 30 Americans have been shot dead from mass murder rampages in the last six days. But the press pretends each bloody incident is completely isolated. They're not. There have been at least two dozen mass murders in the last 25 months. Here's a look at some of the U.S. shooting rampages that have unfolded in just the last 30 days:
April 3: Reports indicate a gunman Jiverly Voong backed up his car to the door of the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York, in order to make sure people could not escape when he walked in the front door, killed the receptionist and then went from room to room assassinating as many as people as he could. The gunman, wearing a bullet-proof vest and a satchel of ammunition, later killed himself. Fourteen dead, four wounded.
March 29: In the upscale Santa Clara, California, neighborhood, Devan Kalathat shot and killed two of his children, three other relatives and then himself. Six dead, one injured.
March 29: Heavily armed suspect Robert Stewart, entered a local retirement home in Carthage, North Carolina, and began randomly shooting patients and employees with his high-powered rifle. Eight dead and three wounded.
March 15: A Miami man, Guillermo Lopez, barged into a birthday thrown for his ex-wife's boyfriend. An argument erupted. Lopez cornered some party goers in the back yard and opened fire, killing four people, including his ex-wife. Lopez drove to his home, set his pick-up truck on fire, and killed himself. Five dead.
March 10: Firing more than 200 rounds from two assault rifles, a shotgun and a handgun, Michael McClendon went on a two-hour killing spree in south Alabama, killing family members, strangers, and then himself. Eleven dead, seven wounded.
March 5: Ex-con Davon Crawford killed his new wife, his wife's sister, and her sister's three small children during a killing spree in downtown Cleveland. Days later Crawford killed himself. Six dead.
Jason Linkins at HuffPost draws our attention to a WashPost article about an unfolding court drama in Cambodia where "a notorious genocidaire of the Khmer Rouge" acknowledged his role in the death of more than 15,000 people while overseeing a Khmer Rouge torture center during Cambodia's reign of terror during the 1970s.
Detailing the gruesome revelations, the Post reported that the man's victims "were tortured with electric shocks, waterboarding or beating to extract a confession, which would implicate new victims."
Note the explicit use of "torture" to describe the act of waterboarding. Writes Linkins:
It's a break from typical media traditions, obviously. See, when outfits like the WaPo typically talk about waterboarding, it's referred to as "a form of simulated drowning that U.S. officials had previously deemed a crime" or "harsh interrogation tactics" or an "interrogation tactic" or "harsh interrogation practices" or "a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill." But unless you are in possession of whatever gland produces honesty, like Dan Froomkin, you never, never, ever just come right out and say that waterboarding is torture.
Sean Hannity falsely claimed DNI Dennis Blair plans to "release ... enemy combatants on American soil." In fact, Blair has outlined a "process" to determine whether and how to release detainees who are not "too dangerous to let out" and have not "committed offenses that merit punishment."
And that the press, aside from downplaying what have now become routine, gun-related killing sprees that dot the nation, has completely walked away from even raising the issue of gun control in the wake of the rampages?
The latest proof came in the wake of the carnage that unfolded in Carthage, North Carolina, on Sunday when a heavily armed suspect, Robert Stewart, entered a local retirement home and began randomly shooting patients and employees with a high-powered rifle. Eight were killed and three others were wounded before police subdued the man. The local police chief described the killing scene as "unimaginable, horrific, everything you can possible imagine that is bad in this world."
The thin coverage the story has received nationwide has been rather astounding. According to TVeyes.com, in the 24 hours since news broke about the bloody killing spree, it has received just 180 mentions on cable and network television, combined (i.e. ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and NBC.)
By contrast, the flood that didn't materialize as feared in Fargo, North Dakota, over the weekend received nearly 250 mentions during the same time span. So the flood that didn't happen got more coverage than than the killing rampage that left eight people dead in North Carolina.
Also, TV mentions of General Motors in the last 24 hours, prompted by the news its CEO is being forced out, far outnumbered the news mentions of the nursing home killing spree.
As for a discussion of gun control in the wake of the nursing home massacre, forget about it. It never came up on TV. The press has no interest in dissecting our Rampage Nation.
To date, there have been just seven mentions of the story on cable and network news, according to TVeyes.com