The legacy media’s reaction to every tragic and horrific mass shooting often comes down to politics. If the shooter was white or male and the victims were female or minority — as were the six Asian American women gunned down in Atlanta — then the crime demonstrates “hate” or “white supremacy,” even if the shooter gives other motives and even if other victims (two of them, in this case) were not minority women. If the shooter was Islamic, however, the narrative quickly flips to gun control.
In the wake of the tragic grocery store shooting in Boulder, the big three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) trumpeted gun control on the evening and morning shows. A Newsbusters study showed just how egregious the bias truly was: for every one statement favoring gun rights, they aired fourteen statements supporting gun restrictions.
In fact, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King outright pressured Vice President Kamala Harris to get President Joe Biden to take “executive action” on gun control.
“It’s clear that the president’s intention and his frustration are very clear. But the reality is you guys just don’t have the votes [to pass gun control]. So what’s your move?” King asked.
Harris bloviated about the need for “reasonable gun-safety laws,” insisting that “this is not about getting rid of the Second Amendment.”
“Yeah. We all agree,” King responded. “So, what will the Biden administration do? We keep hearing about executive action. What does that mean, Madam Vice President?”
King’s co-host, Anthony Mason, noted that Moms Demand Action called on Biden to “do something right now,” taking “executive action” instead of working with Congress to pass a new law.
“And the president has said he is prepared to sign legislation,” Harris responded. “But he can also take executive action,” Mason countered.
This naked activism characterized a great deal of the networks’ “coverage” of the Boulder shooting. According to Newsbusters, the shows depicted Republicans, conservatives, and gun owners as a “wall of opposition” and a “resistance” to “common-sense” gun control.
In four days (March 23 through March 26), the networks featured 36 minutes and 11 seconds of airtime for anti-gun-rights arguments and a paltry two minutes and 31 seconds for gun rights arguments. CBS devoted 24 minutes and 39 seconds to anti-gun arguments, while NBC spent seven minutes and 39 seconds calling for gun restrictions, and ABC spent three minutes and 53 seconds on this anti-gun activism.
Newsbusters noted that the networks have often seized on mass shootings to champion gun restrictions. After the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., the networks slanted their coverage 8-to-1 in favor of gun restrictions. After the 2016 Islamist mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub, the networks also pushed gun restrictions by an 8-to-1 margin. After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, that margin dipped to five-to-one against gun rights, but it bounded back up to 11-to-1 after the Parkland school shooting in 2018.
The worst bias came after the El Paso shooting in 2019, when the networks aired 17 anti-gun arguments for every one pro-Second Amendment claim.
While the networks clearly slanted the coverage in favor of gun control, some segments did feature an argument or two for gun rights. CBS This Morning correspondent David Begnaud interviewed a survivor of the Boulder shooting on March 25.
Begnaud recalled that supermarket worker Logan Smith “told us he’s a gun owner and he also said this….’I would appreciate the right to actually bring my weapon, which I’m licensed to carry here at work and have it on me.’ Because he said ‘after what I lived through, I’d like the ability to protect myself and people around me.'”
The legacy media aired precious little of that perspective.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.