From:  "Christopher B. Garvey" 	Fri 11:17 AM
Subject:  [Fwd: Off-Target News: When It's Guns, Media Miss Big Part Of Picture]

Here is a topic for you.

-------- Original Message --------
From: "John R. Lott, Jr." 
Subject: Off-Target News: When It's Guns, Media Miss Big Part Of Picture

Investor's Business Daily
February 7, 2002 

SECTION: A; Pg. 17 
LENGTH: 712 words 
HEADLINE: Off-Target News: When It's Guns, Media Miss Big Part Of Picture
BYLINE: By JOHN R. LOTT JR. , Investor's Daily


There continually seems to be some new crime committed with a gun. When more than one person gets killed, the crimes get not only national but international news coverage. On the other hand, when was the last time that you heard the national evening news reporting about a citizen using a gun to save lives?

Few people realize that people use guns defensively to stop about 2 million crimes a year, according to national surveys. Some of this lopsided coverage is understandable: an innocent person's murder is more newsworthy than a victim brandishing a gun and the attacker running away, with no crime committed.

Unlike crimes avoided, bad events provide emotionally gripping pictures. Yet covering only the bad events creates the impression that guns only cost lives.

But this neither explains the dramatic heroic stories that are left uncovered nor the crimes that are newsworthy enough to be covered but for which important details are left out. Possibly the press doesn't want to encourage vigilantism, possibly it has some other reason, but stories where guns save lives never get more than minor local news coverage.

Three of the recent 16 cases I know of illustrate where guns have protected people, but the news coverage never extends beyond a short report in the local media.

  • Bogalusa, La.: On Jan. 25, four men ages 17 to 25 attempted robbing a woman dying of cancer at gunpoint. The woman, who weighs only 85 pounds, takes pain medication, including OxyContin, which the men reportedly wanted to steal. A small newspaper described the plan: "One guy went in on a pretense to visit. He was to open the door, then the others were to rush in, put a gun on him and say 'Get down.' The others were wearing ski masks." But the woman's 13-year-old son saw the masked men before they broke into the house and got the family's .20 gauge shotgun. He fired a shot, wounding one of the criminals and causing the criminals to run away.
  • Englewood, Fla.: An enraged husband goes to a bar where his wife works and attacks her with a knife. A couple of employees come to the wife's aid but they are severely cut by the husband. He was stopped only when a man with a permitted concealed handgun held the attacker at gunpoint until the police arrived.
  • Rock Springs, Texas: Three illegal aliens broke into a pregnant woman's home, 50 miles from the Mexican border. The woman, who was awakened from a nap, saw one man in her house after he kicked open the door. Two others were cutting through a screen window. She shot the one in the house, killing him and causing the other two to flee.
These examples are all too typical, but even more disturbing are the stories that get news coverage but leave out how guns were used to save lives. One example is the Jan. 16 shooting at the Appalachian Law School in Virginia that left three dead. With all the massive worldwide news coverage, everyone is familiar with the crime, but almost no one knows how it was actually stopped. Out of hundreds of stories, just four mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns, and only two of those (both in local Virginia newspapers) mentioned that the guns were used to force the killer to drop his gun.

Little Detail

The Washington Post simply wrote that the students "helped subdue" the killer. Other media simply noted that: "Students tackled the man while he was still armed," "Students tackled the gunman" or "Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, who dropped his weapon." Many stories did mention the students had law enforcement or military backgrounds, but provided no more detail on how they stopped the attack.

Yet, as one of the students, Tracy Bridges, described what happened: "I aimed my gun at him, and (the killer) tossed his gun down." It was only then that the students tackled the killer. Bridges told this story to over 50 reporters and said he was "shocked" by how the press reports completely left out how he had used the gun to stop the criminal.

Selectively reporting events endangers lives. It misinforms people about the safest course of action when confronted by criminals.

John R. Lott Jr. is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime."