The news media love to criticize hypocrisy – at least by conservatives – even when it doesn’t exist. This week they gleefully targeted the National Rifle Association for criticism – but as usual, they made errors in their claims.
First, the media reported that the NRA has banned guns at its annual meeting in Dallas during speeches scheduled for Friday by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. But then the media soon acknowledged that the gun ban was the Secret Service’s decision – not the NRA’s.
And following that admission of error, many in the media still derided the NRA for not pushing back on the Secret Service’s gun ban.
In one of the Washington Post’s articles this week on the NRA’s “hypocrisy,” the paper asked an NRA spokeswoman whether “the NRA tried to convince the Secret Service that more guns would make Trump and Pence more secure.” The Post reports that the NRA “did not answer the questions directly.”
Piling on, USA Today, the New York Times, national television news broadcasts and other media across the country also joined in the criticism of the NRA. There was even criticism from international media. Student activists from the high school in Parkland, Florida that was the scene of a mass shooting where 17 people were killed Feb. 14 called the NRA hypocritical.
But there is an obvious and very simple response. Protecting the president and vice president of the United States from assassination is not the same as protecting a group of people from a mass public shooting or protecting you or me from being robbed on a dark street.
First, the president and vice president already have armed Secret Service agents flooding an area and guarding each of them. Local police are also always on hand to help provide security. Ordinary citizens don’t have this kind of protection.
Second, if a shooter has only one big target, the attack might be over with a single shot before gun permit holders have a chance to respond. So having armed NRA members in the audience for the Trump and Pence speeches wouldn’t provide any protection to the president and vice president beyond what the Secret Service and police already provide.
By contrast, mass public shooters are trying to kill as many people as possible. They know that the more people they kill, the more media attention they receive. If the target is protected by a couple of uniformed officers, killers will know to take out the officers first.
Alternatively, mass shooters can move on to an unprotected target. This gives them a strategic advantage that can only be taken away by the presence of concealed handgun permit holders. When that happens, killers don’t know who to attack first – and don’t know who might shoot back.
When you take away the ability of mass public shooters to kill or injure many people, you take away their publicity and their motivation for carrying out these attacks.
There are 17 million permitted concealed handgun holders in the U.S., versus about 650,000 police officers. So permit holders are much more likely to be at the scene of an attack against ordinary citizens.
The media refuse to include any information about how gun-free zones are targeted for mass public shootings. You would never know that 97 percent of mass public shootings from 1950 to today have occurred in places where ordinary citizens aren’t allowed to have guns.
Gun permit holders are allowed to carry almost everywhere in right-to-carry states, but the attacks keep occurring in those tiny areas where they can’t protect themselves.
The national media ignore the statements from killers explaining why they pick the targets that they do. The gun control debate would be very different if the news media would mention these facts.
For example, the recent Waffle House restaurant shooting in Antioch, Tennessee took place in another gun-free zone. The news media didn’t mention the prominent sign posted at the front of the restaurant, which denies entrance to anyone with a permitted concealed handgun. Instead, it was just wall-to-wall coverage about the need for new gun control laws.
How is the fact that the attack occurred in a gun-free zone any less a part of the news than the type of gun used in the attack or how the killer obtained his weapon? Indeed, so-called “assault weapons” are relatively rarely used in mass public shootings, but they are a central focus of media discussions during those attacks.
Eighteen states allow teachers and staff to carry guns at schools, but Florida isn’t one of them. So students at the Parkland high school were unprotected.
The claims of NRA hypocrisy have become perennial. In 2015, the New York Times ran a story headlined “No Firing Pins, Please, as the N.R.A. Gathers.” It falsely claimed that all guns at that year’s NRA annual meeting were not operational because of “convention security” concerns. But this only applied to the guns being exhibited for sale. Many attendees were carrying loaded personal weapons with firing pins.
“Dry-firing” some types of guns can dull the firing pin and cause the weapon to misfire when it is actually used to shoot a bullet.
The news media simply aren’t neutral and unbiased sources on gun issues. Most selectively report facts that color people’s perceptions of what policies will protect us.