Op-Ed, 514 words

They’re Coming to Take Your Guns! Not.

Reporters should counter pro-gun scare tactics with facts.

Jason Salzman

Colorado has emerged as ground zero for the national debate about gun safety. Democratic lawmakers here in my state are considering a set of gun safety bills, some of which mirror gun the legislation under consideration in Congress. These include a measure to require background checks on all private gun purchases and another proposed law limiting ammunition cartridges to 15 rounds.

This legislation wouldn’t take a single gun away from a real person. Yet, by the reaction of some gun–rights proponents, you’d think the government was on the verge of confiscating every firearm in Colorado — where a mass shooting in a movie theater last summer ignited a debate about gun laws that was fueled further by the Sandy Hook massacre.

During one debate at the Colorado Capitol, for example, a state legislator compared banning some ammunition magazines to putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII.

salzman-coloradoguns-Curtis Gregory Perry

Curtis Gregory Perry/Flickr

State Rep. Kevin Priola, a Republican, equated the “freedom” you lose when a wave of bigotry lands you in jail to the “freedom” lost when concerns about gun safety spawn legislation banning large-capacity magazines.

Forget the fact that Priola would still have his small-capacity magazines, plus his guns, not to mention his actual freedom.

Another state lawmaker said on the radio that in Colorado, it’s getting “so close” to the point where he’ll be having his gun pried away from his “cold, dead hands.”

Gun proponents even flew a plane over the state Capitol with a banner carrying a message for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, “Hick, do not take our guns.”

Again, taking guns away isn’t on the table at the Colorado Capitol, and that’s what Hickenlooper told Denver’s local NBC –TV affiliate: “There’s a plane flying around that’s saying, ‘Hick, don’t take our guns.’ Well, here’s the answer: we’re not taking any guns,” said the governor.

To cut through the empty rhetoric, local NBC-TV news reporter Brandon Rittiman added a factual clarification that most reporters covering the gun debate in Colorado did not include in their coverage:

He added, simply, “nobody would have to give up a gun they currently own under the proposals.”

This is the kind of reporting we need when gun safety legislation is on the table, both at the state and federal level.

For the sake of civil debate, reporters should counter the overheated rhetoric of pro-gun activists with cool facts.

Because if there’s one thing you know if you know about pro-gun activists, it’s that they exaggerate even the mildest gun safety proposals. They’re not all so extreme, but you can certainly expect to hear some — including elected officials here in Colorado — claiming that any gun-safety measure is about confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens.

The state’s trailblazing gun legislation now awaits Hickenlooper’s signature. Along with four other bills awaiting the governor’s approval, this one could easily wind up serving as a model for other states and the entire nation. If so, let’s hope reporters counter the wild rhetoric of gun proponents with the facts about what gun-safety bills would actually do.

A former media critic for the Rocky Mountain News, Jason Salzman is board chair of Rocky Mountain Media Watch and author of Making the News: A Guide for Activists and Nonprofits. BigMedia.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

  • talferris

    Yes, there have been exaggerations emanating from both sides of the issue. Most false, blown way out of proportion, or simply exist on the lunatic fringe of relativeness to the topic at hand. That topic however isn’t “Gun Safety.”

    You’re discussing limiting one’s ability to, in the future, purchase, possess, certain firearms or magazines based on the number of times they can fire relative to the number of rounds that can be crammed in a detachable box magazine. There is no design feature, function, or improvement to the weapon itself to invoke this notion of “safety.” All firearms by their virtue are dangerous. A fact that seems to be lacking among people in this debate. Proper respect due the implement is that you always treat it as loaded, always point it in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, and to always be sure of your target and what is around and behind it. Those are “gun safety” maxims. Therefore how about starting there and calling this what it is rather than using veiled names and labels with ambiguous meanings.

    No, it’s not a “gun grab” or a “confiscation” having seen those two terms used by those you label as “pro-gun.” Reading this article however, it seems that there are more “gun safety” bills and measures being considered in addition to those that are spotlighted by the piece; “background checks…limiting ammunition cartridges to 15 rounds.” My guess is that these two are the least intrusive or restrictive and used to illustrate the irrational rhetoric of the “pro-gun” camp. I haven’t read or delved into the entire component of pending gun legislation in Colorado to expound on the other measures currently under consideration. Sure no one has to surrender a gun currently owned; yet. And the prohibitions of ex post facto law would exclude that from ever happening, in the rational mind. Stranger things have happened however.

    I like to take a broader view of this phenomena however. For some reason this demon machine is no longer prudent or necessary to civilized man. Despite the guarantees written into the US Constitution, for more reasons than I’ve read about or seen discussed. This great document, the foundation upon which we can currently speak like we are, is now invalid or in dire need of modification; at least, one part of it. Assuming that the regressive nature of these proposals are successful, what’s next? What other parts of the Constitution need a bit of polish and sprucing up to comport to modern society and preference, this week. When you start kicking the blocks out of your foundation, eventually you are going to lose structural integrity.

    This, however, is not about “gun safety.”

  • talferris

    I read today where the Colorado Governor is going to sign this legislation into law tomorrow. I also saw where at least one Sheriff as stated publicly that he will not enforce it and apparently the other Sheriffs in the State are considering suing the State for relief from the new law. I get the legislature is trying to do something to counter the senseless murder of innocents. Necessary steps in the wrong direction, but be that as it may.

    I would like to point you toward what transpired today in a State Courtroom in Ohio with one T.J. Lane who was sentenced to life without parole for shooting and killing three of his classmates and wounding several others. Seems little Mr. Lane stripped off his dress shirt and exposed a white tee shirt he was wearing with the word “KILLER” emblazoned on it in rather large letters. He then proceeded to laugh and taunt the victims’ families, laughed out loud mocking the court, and finally offered up a one digit gesture to those families and the court. No remorse, no feeling, no conscience. What a guy huh? And…he was just 17 when he perpetrated his deeds upon others. My first question would be to ask if you believe that a ban would have stopped young Mr. Lane from pursuing the course of action that he took that day a scant year ago. My second question would be to ask why the judge allowed him to conduct himself in the previously described manner, clothed as he was, conducting himself as he did, and did nothing to remove him nor stop him. I’ll bet that little escapade will serve to inspire the demise of others at some future point in time.
    And I’ll say it again, this is where you reduce or eliminate these sorts of crimes by targeting the behavior and not the implement. Lane used a .22LR handgun. How many more degrees of terrible would it have been if it had been a semi-auto rifle with a detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds? 15 rounds? 5 rounds? The device does not amplify the tragedy, but the conduct exhibited today in that courtroom today in Ohio demonstrated more breaks in a system rife with cracks than a ‘gunshow loophole’ or a 30 round magazine does. Cracks that leach shining examples of T.J. Lane and those like him. People who have no respect for anything in our society. People that are beyond the bounds of reform. But laws like those getting ready to be inacted in Colorado are going to make us safer. Sure they are. Sure.