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Come, Let Us Converse Together

Dec 31, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 16 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Since the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the media have been braying about the need for a national conversation on gun control. Putting aside our suspicion that the left’s idea of a “national conversation” is telling people it disagrees with to shut up, The Scrapbook is very much invested in the importance of protecting children. We’re happy to talk about the issue, and even willing to entertain the idea that new laws and regulations might help prevent mass shootings.

Still, if we are to have a national conversation on guns, it would be nice if those itching to lead it didn’t wear their bias on their sleeves. Here’s a bit of Daily Beast media critic Howard Kurtz’s latest column, “In Between Mass Shootings, the Media Have Been MIA on Guns,” explaining why the media have a responsibility to make gun control an issue:

In more subtle fashion, the media have led a national conversation about gay marriage, which as recently as 2004 was deemed politically unthinkable. Now it is legal in nine states, the last three of which adopted new laws in popular referenda last month. Again the press was accused of taking the liberal side, but sometimes that consisted of interviewing newly married gay and lesbian couples, who didn’t seem threatening to anyone. Whether the media changed the culture or lagged it, they were not missing in action.

In short, Kurtz thinks it’s all right for the media to be “taking the liberal side” in the service of unpopular political causes so long as the liberal media collectively agree their cause is worthy. Establishing this as the baseline for why it’s incumbent on the media to highlight gun control measures is not exactly a good way to begin a productive national conversation on the issue. Nor is displaying your ignorance of the issues at hand. Here’s more Kurtz:

At other times there are classic regulatory questions: Should Jared Loughner have been able to obtain 30 rounds of ammunition to kill six people and wound Gabby Giffords, or should there be limits on high-magazine clips?

What, pray tell, is a “high-magazine clip”? If you know anything about guns, reading Kurtz here is like hearing a self-professed sports fan discuss “football bats” or “baseball referees.” And the startling failure to grasp the most basic facts surrounding guns is not a problem the media want to rectify, at least not when they’re engaged in the process of demonization. 

Last week, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent took to Twitter and accused a conservative blogger—DrewM of the popular website Ace of Spades—of “fighting for maniacs to have easy access to mass child slaughter machines, in the name of ‘liberty.’ ” Sargent then further demanded to know whether or not DrewM “believe[d] Americans have a constitutional right to assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”

So DrewM asked Sargent a pretty basic question—what’s your definition of an “assault weapon”? Sargent had no idea. “Question is legitimate. Short term answer would be for ban on more military style guns. Needs to be fleshed out in debate though.” Notice how Sargent elides from “assault weapon” to President Obama’s new poll-tested preferred term of “military style guns” without defining either? Sargent wants to ban something, anything, he’s just not sure what it is.

Again, these are just the knots the media routinely tie themselves in when discussing the basics of guns. We could write volumes, and many honest scholars have, on the media’s abuse of crime statistics as they relate to gun ownership. 

So, by all means, let’s have a -national conversation on gun violence. But it should not be confined exclusively to gun laws—it should probably extend to discussing whether liberal notions of what is culturally acceptable contribute to violence, as well. And to the extent this conversation does relate directly to guns, the media could get the ball rolling by making a good-faith effort to understand what they’re talking about.

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