We Report, You Decide (Using Faulty Facts That We Reported)

1/15/2015
Dan Griffin

I have long had a bone to pick with some reporters and journalists. It seems many nowadays are simply content to let any person, including public officials, say anything they want without challenging them or even investigating their claims to see if they are true. It doesn’t matter if it’s the local newspaper or the local or national television news, it seems they all do it, although local news organizations seem particularly egregious. One of the hardest topics to get right is anything to do with firearms.

Last year, a man in Wisconsin was seen openly carrying a pistol in a park while playing with his children. The local NBC affiliate ran a story stating this was illegal as the city did not allow firearms on city property. Wisconsin, like many states, has firearms preemption. That means that state law completely occupies the field of firearms regulation, and that a city, town, municipality, or other local unit of government cannot enact local firearms ordinances stricter than the state’s. When this was pointed out to the reporter, citing the law, the reporter wasn’t interested in the facts, only parroting what he was told by the city. He was even so bold as to state, “Our reporting is correct,” and that the city could ban guns.

Of course he was wrong. The problem is that when presented with the “real” facts, he preferred to simply repeat what he was told by a city official, despite the tagline “You Ask. We Investigate.”

Indeed.

Anti-gun group sponsors training for journalists

I acknowledge that the topic of guns, gun culture, and gun laws can be tricky, particularly if you are a reporter who doesn’t know anything about guns and don’t care to read the actual laws. Michael Bloomberg has the answer.

The Phoenix-based Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma recently announced they are offering a two-day workshop on covering guns and “gun violence.” The workshop is funded by Everytown for Gun Safety. It’s supposed to be open to reporters, editors, bloggers, and photographers, but you have to apply to attend, stating why this workshop is relevant to your work, how gun violence is of interest to you, and provide an outline of a potential story you may write on the topic. I’m sure they have a good reason for being very picky about who they let in.

The workshop reportedly will offer independent expert briefings and specialized reporting skills training to assist journalists in reporting on guns and gun violence knowledgeably and effectively. It will cover state and federal gun laws, patterns of gun sales and gun trafficking (no word on if Eric Holder is sending anyone to talk about this), national trends and polling, and education and prevention initiatives among other topics.

According to the release, speakers include national public health and policy experts, researchers and clinicians, award-winning journalists, and prevention advocates and survivors. Lacking in this discussion of firearms is anyone from the firearms industry. The workshop is specifically intended to “provide practical tools to enable journalists to successfully produce meaningful stories on guns and gun violence.” No agenda there.

When questioned, a representative was quick to point out that neither Michael Bloomberg nor Everytown are dictating or deciding the agenda of this reporters’ workshop. They state that this program will “emphasize the highest standards of balanced, independent, and evidence-informed journalism.”

While I applaud reporters and journalists for becoming more knowledgeable about the subjects they write, color me a little suspect on this one.

Don’t confuse me with the facts

In Michigan, concealed pistol licenses are issued by county gun boards. Although Michigan is a “shall issue” state, some county gun boards have been abusing their authority with no repercussions for failure to follow state law. The Michigan legislature has passed SB 789 which eliminates county gun boards and turns the issuance of licenses over to the county clerk. As of this writing, Michigan governor Rick Snyder has only a few hours left to sign SB 789.

The news media and various special interest groups, however, have been working overtime misrepresenting the contents of this bill. Groups like the National Organization for Women, the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, SafeHouse Center (an anti-domestic violence group), Turning Point—Services to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, and even Gabby Giffords have waged a media campaign stating that this bill would endanger women by allowing anyone subject to a personal protection order to now obtain a concealed pistol license.

The fact is, this bill does nothing of the sort. Under current law, subjects of PPOs can get a CPL provided the judge issuing the PPO does not check the box prohibiting the subject from purchasing and possessing firearms. SB 789 makes no change here. The wording was just changed—at the request of a gun board member with support of the Michigan State Police—to make the existing law more clear.

SB 789 actually helps victims of domestic violence. It makes the CPL suspension process faster, it makes it easier for victims to get their own CPL faster, and it adds a disqualifier for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. The bill was even crafted with input from domestic violence groups.

But to hear the special interests speaking through the unquestioning news organizations, women’s lives will now be in danger if Governor Snyder signs this bill!

Explaining doesn’t seem to help. Responses we have received from the abovementioned groups have been uniform, “Removing commonsense protections is dangerous” and “We are concerned with protecting Michigan women, and we firmly believe this law would do the opposite.” One executive director simply didn’t believe it when told that the law doesn’t change anything with regard to PPOs. She asked, “Then why the bill?” She clearly had no idea what SB 789 was about. She finally stated that she knew what she was doing and hung up.

Another group’s Board of Directors member declined to change her position when the law was explained to her. When asked why, she said that she just figured that if the other names were showing up against this bill, her name should show up too. She, like the others mentioned here, had no idea what this bill was actually about, yet the media keep their uninformed voices in the news, repeating their unfounded claims unchallenged.

Over the years, good people have repeatedly tried to talk to the news media and anti-gun advocates. It’s a Sisyphean task. We hear people on the Left continue to say that they want to have a “national conversation on guns.” However, apparently you are not welcome in that conversation.

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