The mayor of St. Louis, Tishaura Jones (D), does not believe that gun control works. Has that prevented her from calling for more of it? Of course not.
In June, after a shooting in downtown St. Louis, Jones issued a boilerplate statement blaming the violence on Missouri’s adherence to the Second Amendment. “Our state’s lax gun laws make our challenge even more difficult,” she said. “The legislature’s lack of action on gun-safety laws encourages the proliferation of guns on our streets and puts our responding officers directly in harm’s way.”
In private, however, Jones does not believe anything of the sort; in fact, as was demonstrated by a collection of her text messages released as part of an open-records request, Jones understands that the way to fix crime is with smart public policy, effective policing and the development of a culture that values life. “Newark, NJ,” she wrote in a text message in March, “has the same size population, same size police force, and similar racial demographics” as St. Louis, “yet had 50 murders in 2022. I visited these programs first hand and I know that they work. We just need the will.” Given her public pronouncements, one might have expected Jones to attribute the difference between Newark and St. Louis to New Jersey’s strict gun laws. But, in another message, she acknowledged openly that “Chicago has strict gun laws as well but that doesn’t deter gun violence. It’s about investing in the people.”
What can explain this dichotomy? A better question might be: Given the incentives on offer, why wouldn’t Tishaura Jones try to have it both ways? After all, her primary audience—the press—is guilty of precisely the same two-step approach in every report it issues. I see this all the time: While waiting to go on television to talk about the right to keep and bear arms, I have often been in green rooms with hosts and guests who have acknowledged to me privately that crime is a complicated issue and that the Second Amendment is not responsible for crime, but who, once the lights were on and the cameras rolling, have launched into lazy stump speeches that blamed the entire phenomenon on firearms and those who legally own them.
Such useless, cynical, below-surface-level analysis is routine. When covering crime, the mainstream-media’s agenda is both transparent and consistent. It assumes that, secretly, everyone in America agrees with the gun-control movement, and that the dividing line in our politics is between those who are willing to admit it and those who aren’t. It frames every incident involving guns as the product of the laws that regulate those guns—even when there cannot possibly be any link between them. It works assiduously to convince the general public that crimes committed with firearms are at an all-time high, when, as a matter of historical record, they are far lower than they were in the 1980s or 1990s. And, worst of all, many in the media fudge the numbers. Over the last few years, almost every journalist in the country has adopted as gospel the absurd statistics that are peddled by the Gun Violence Archive, which is why every newspaper article and TV segment about firearms now includes such self-evidently silly claims as that there have been 500 or 700 or 2,000 mass shootings in America thus far this year.
Having been caught engaging in doublespeak, Tishaura Jones told the media, “I understand the impact of some of my comments, and will contact the relevant parties to ensure productive dialogue moving forward.” Or, to put it another way: I got caught; I’ve learned nothing from it; and from now on I’ll be more careful when saying things that I know aren’t true. Plus ça change.