Dr. John Lott had a piece in today’s The Hill about media bias in Associated Press. One of the problems that one always has in showing media bias is knowing exactly what the author knew in putting the piece together. Was the author just uninformed or were they biased? In this case, one can see what the AP took from two different news stories and that while the original stories were fairly balanced, what went into the final AP piece took quotes from only one side of the debate. The piece in The Hill starts this way:
It is usually pretty hard to definitively identify media bias. Often pressed for time, reporters are just unaware of opposing opinions or facts. And there is no way for readers to tell what information has been left out. But an Associated Press article, which appeared in hundreds of papers from the Los Angeles Times to the Houston Chronicle, provided a unique peek at how the media selectively picks anti-gun information in order to push for gun control.
The Associated Press article edited-down a 441-word version of a longer, 1,000-word article that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and a quote from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. While the original articles in the Star and Journal Gazette were balanced, the AP cut down the piece by systematically excluding one side of the argument — any information that concealed handgun permit holders are law-abiding and don’t pose a risk to others.
The AP article was concerned with Indiana’s decision to allow legislators and staff to legally carry concealed handguns inside the state Capitol. It’s the 21st state to officially allow carrying of handguns in some fashion at the Capitol. The Star gave a little more information, noting that Indiana is one of just two states that restricts concealed-carry to lawmakers and their staffs when inside the Capitol. The other 19 states allow permitted citizens to carry in a wide variety of places.
The AP included quotes from four people. “It’s a constitutional right,” said Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, one of the new law’s sponsors. “Everyone’s right to protection should be recognized.”
The other three people went on record as concerned about the dangers of allowing civilians to have guns in the state capitol.
- “The possibility of the presence of firearms during tense personnel situations would worry human resources professionals,” said Christopher Schrader, government affairs director for Indiana State Council of Society of Human Resource Management.
- Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman understood the desire to have guns for self-defense, but supported limitations on people carrying because, he said, in “confrontational [situations] someone might respond irrationally.”
- The AP article concluded with an ominous quote from Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. The representative was worried about permit holders “intimidating” others and that a permit holder may misuse his gun because “tempers can fly at night.”
Is it reasonable to be concerned that people may misuse their guns? Certainly. But only the original article in the Indianapolis Star provided another perspective on these concerns. It cited a report by the Crime Prevention Research Center, an organization that I head:
On state government grounds across the country, the Crime Prevention Research Center hasn’t found any instances of injuries due to firearms….
The Crime Prevention Research Center has tracked only two instances in the nation where a handgun misfired in a statehouse and a handful of instances where lawmakers temporarily misplaced their weapons.
The AP also ignored that the Journal Gazette cited the same Crime Prevention Research Center report to note how rare any problems were. The Journal Gazette went so far as to note my organization’s “goal is to provide an objective and accurate scientific evaluation of the costs and benefits of gun ownership.”
Could space limitations explain the AP’s decision to only use quotes that point to potential dangers from law-abiding people carrying concealed handguns? The AP could have easily replaced one of the quotes with this information. The three people’s quotes took 53, 66, and 52 words, respectively. The entire quote about the Crime Prevention Search Center took only 52 words. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.