Why the Mainstream Media Refuses to Learn Anything About Guns

by
posted on February 25, 2023
gun statements
Illustration: Brad Walker

When The New York Times tweeted out a photo of shotgun shells last December as art to promote an editorial arguing that America needs another ban on popular, semi-automatic rifles, anyone with even a little firearms knowledge laughed.

If the editorial board at The New York Times had the gun expertise to quibble, they might have tried to weasel out of the gaffe by noting there are quite a few tactical shotguns made to look and function something like the AR-type rifles on the market today—and, certainly, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would be happy to point out that such shotguns have almost always been included in any proposed “assault-weapons” ban.

But then, a semantic game like that would make the Times’ ignorance even funnier. It would be like that Monty Python skit about the dead parrot. When a dissatisfied customer returns to a pet shop after recently buying a parrot that actually had been dead for some time, the shop owner tells him the dead bird is “just resting.” The skit keeps getting funnier because, even as the customer insists, as well as clearly demonstrates, that parrot should be “pushing up the daisies,” the pet-store owner just keeps right on insisting it is only resting.

Like the shop-owner’s unflinching persistence in the skit with the dead parrot, the mainstream media’s plainly obvious ignorance of firearms and everything to do with the Second Amendment is, nevertheless, often tossed at us with a straight-faced insistence that, regardless, they are right about everything. They continue to insist that they’re right even as the policies they embrace—so-called “bail-reform” laws that allow caught criminals to walk right back onto the streets, woke prosecutors who refuse to prosecute violent criminals and more—are clearly harming law-abiding citizens.

Is It Just Because They Can Get Away With It?
This ignorance of guns posing as informed righteousness is so pervasive among the gun-control elite that former President Barack Obama (D) didn’t realize he was about to make a fool of himself in 2013.

Obama responded to a question asking whether he’d ever fired a gun by saying, “Up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.”

Barack Obama shooting a shotgun
Former President Barack Obama (D) once had this photo taken to prove he’d shot a gun. Look closely, and you’ll see why this photo was mocked.

At first, his reply sounded like it had just the right amount of you-don’t-know-me savoir-faire to not only deflect the question, but to make the person who asked it look like foolish. But then it turned out that Obama couldn’t back up the claim.

Someone soon called his bluff. On CNN, then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) challenged Obama to prove he had shot a gun by showing everyone a photo—she even challenged him to a skeet-shooting competition.

With Obama’s “man card” in question, he responded.

A few days later, the White House released a photo of Obama “skeet shooting.” Only, it was a very odd photo. The over/under shotgun he was shown shooting only had an extended choke in the top barrel. There could have conceivably been a flush choke in the bottom, but that would be odd, as skeet is typically shot with the same choke in both barrels—and skeet does require doubles. Obama also holds the shotgun nearly parellel to the ground and he looks uncomfortable with it. Still, in the photo, gas can be seen shooting from the shotgun’s top barrel, so yes, he certainly shot the gun, at least once.

So, why didn’t Obama’s White House call in an experienced shotgunner to make sure they got it right? Why didn’t The New York Times seek just one fact checker who could help them get basic firearms details right? Why don’t all of the outlets that pretend that popular semi-automatic rifles are a big problem (when rifles of all types, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, are used in less than 3% of homicides each year) at least try to get this stuff right? Why didn’t New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) consult county sheriffs or a myriad of other people who are knowledgeable about guns, crime and our constitutional rights before hastily writing and signing the Orwellian-named “Concealed Carry Improvement Act”?

These questions go on and on; indeed, whenever a mainstream-news outlet dives into issues related to firearms, gun owners see less-humorous versions of the mainstream media’s wanton ignorance of guns, coupled with obnoxious preaching about what laws must be passed to punish lawful gun owners, on display.

It’s impossible for an informed person not to notice that gun-control proponents want to take away Second Amendment rights, even though they don’t understand the difference between a rifle and a shotgun or a semi-automatic and a machine gun. Politicians like President Joe Biden (D) say they are for the Second Amendment, but then, in the next breath, they tell us the Second Amendment doesn’t—despite what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Heller (2008)—protect the ownership of commonly owned firearms. They refuse to look at the data showing that the citizens who lawfully carry concealed basically don’t commit crimes, and then, in the same series of talking points, they tell us that lawful gun ownership is fueling a crime wave. 

Now, the entire reason for this willful ignorance of an important topic can’t just be that they don’t think they have to get this stuff right, as few in popular culture or the mainstream media will call them out on it; after all, they must find some of these gaffes embarrassing—the Times’ tweet with the shotgun shells ended up on top of Fox News’ webpage!

Surely, part of the explanation is they see themselves as the college-educated class, the new “smart set,” and so they just assume they know more than those deplorable gun owners possibly could. But that can’t be the whole answer, as again, they don’t likely enjoy playing the fool.

What Lies Beneath This Ignorance
I’ve probed for answers to these questions many times when interacting with “mainstream” news journalists around tables in congressional hearings, on media junkets to visit government agencies and even during a long wait in the White House press room. I’ve often found that the power structure of their workplace hierarchies insists that they stay in step with a gun-control orthodoxy—they are less likely to be promoted if they don’t adhere to the tenets of gun-control politics. This is the explanation Stephen Hunter, the author of the Bob Lee Swagger series of thrillers and a now-retired Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic for The Washington Post, gave me when I interviewed him for my book The Future of the Gun.

New study graphicBut, along with this self-protective reason for conformity from the mainstream-media members I’ve encountered is often a smug expression, a contempt-loaded shrug, a snarky smile or an I-know-better-than-you disdain. They are sure they are right—so certain they don’t need to even debate the point. So insecure, actually, they view debating this issue as slumming or even as dangerous. Or, perhaps, they sense their own ignorance, and so shy away.

What this comes down to, as far as they are concerned, is they are right and enlightened therefore any counterpoints they might encounter are simply the opinions of “extremists,” or even just thoughts from the less-educated; after all, a majority of college graduates voted for President Biden’s campaign promises for more gun-control (indoctrination in academia has had its impact) in 2020.

Now, a lot of opinion writers and social scientists have explained this political conformity by noting that many Americans prefer to stay in “news bubbles,” “echo chambers,” or “information silos.” They explain this by noting that those on the left watch CNN, PBS and MSNBC and read, say, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times; whereas those on the right watch Fox News and Newsmax, listen to talk radio and read a growing number of conservative news sites. Meanwhile, adding to this bifurcation of national opinion is the fact that social-media algorithms spit out certain politics to target users who have shown they “like” particular points of view—these algorithms are designed to get more clicks by feeding people what they like to consume.

All of that is true up to a point, but, as Barton Swaim recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, when you look at the country as a whole, this “echo-chamber” explanation has its limits.

The fact is, the left controls much of popular culture today; therefore, the gun-control-promoting “bubble” is just about everywhere they go. If a gun-control supporter is exposed to a competing opinion—or just the plain facts on crime—it’s likely from some CNN talking head or an NPR show host mocking the opinion or simply talking it away; typically, these show hosts call anything they don’t understand or agree with on guns “extreme,” and, just like that, it’s swept from their minds.

Even if a gun-control proponent runs into a gun owner in a store, sporting event or restaurant—which must happen all the time—gun owners tend to be quiet about the fact that they own, and perhaps carry, firearms, so the gun-control backer won’t even know they are in the company of a gun owner.

In contrast, someone who appreciates their right to keep and bear arms runs into anti-Second Amendment opinions everywhere they go. It’s on TV. It’s constantly on the networks’ nightly news. It’s on the local news. It was blaring on CNN in airport terminals as we waited for flights until the CNN Airport Network shut down in 2021. Now and then, even sports casters repeat it before games. Hollywood films and shows are full of it. YouTube, Facebook and more censor gun ads, but not the gun-control point of view. A gun owner, or anyone who appreciates this basic freedom, can’t just hide in a gun-rights bubble.

This enables the gun-control elitist to actually think their views are enlightened, even though they are so often uninformed, as their point of view on the Second Amendment is championed in all the “smart” and snarky places across popular culture. So, then, given that their views, by their definition, are enlightened, why should they bother to try to understand those with actual experience with guns?

Gun memeThis impasse can be frustrating for anyone who appreciates their right to own—or to potentially defend themselves with—modern and popularly owned firearms because not only are gun-control groups insisting that the good armed citizens in our society are, despite all evidence, actually bad; and not only are they actually insisting that the real bad actors (the criminals in our society) are mostly just misunderstood; but they also insist on all of this with the raised chin and haughty smile of a superiority complex.

Now, surely, a gun-control purist on the editorial board of The New York Times and like publications can conceivably have their anti-Second Amendment belief system rattled to the core by any criminal who tries to break into their home, attempts to carjack them, robs them on the street or otherwise shows them firsthand that the police can’t protect them instantaneously wherever they are. But, without such a confrontation (and we don’t wish that on anyone), a gun-control-believing elitist can just assume they are right.

So, What Can We Do About This Impasse?
Gun owners do need to mock gun-control elitists in the media and in politics, at least a little. Teasing them with memes or sly and funny remarks and critiques with links to the facts (such as to articles at A1F.com) on social media can be helpful, as this is the language they understand. Anecdotally, it feels to me like this is happening more on Twitter—thanks Elon Musk—than it used to, which is a big deal. But a light-hearted approach is best. No trolling or meanness, please—that isn’t helpful. Gun-control supporters actually need help. They need an education. It is easy to be turned off by harsh and snarky ridicule, but a lighthearted poke can make someone stop and think—maybe even click on a link.

There are millions of new gun owners—many bought guns for self-defense when riots exploded in 2020. These millions of people need to learn how to be responsible gun owners. They need to learn how to use this freedom and they need to learn about this freedom. Every breakthrough to an individual who once thought the mainstream-media narratives on guns were, despite all the evidence, right, is a small step in the right direction. This is a civil-rights movement, after all, and the NRA is the association leading the way. Let people know this by telling them to join and by pointing them to NRA resources, such as nrainstructors.org.

This needs to be a nonpartisan issue again. And it can be. Even HBO’s Bill Maher recently noticed that the far-left’s politics, which includes a hatred for the right to keep and bear arms, have become so obnoxiously “woke” that they’re not funny anymore. They are preachy. They are dishonest. They insist on a narrow orthodoxy that’s stifling. This has made non-woke shows and movies that treat guns like tools, not as talismans of evil, such as Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” feel so good. Such examples are freeing, as they are not restricted to a body of lies.

Such is how, over time, the “mainstream” culture can swing back to something more reasonable on this fundamental issue. It has happened before in America. There are, conservatively, over 100 million law-abiding gun owners in the U.S. right now. That’s a lot of potential influencers.

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