A study by the Berkley Media Studies group that shows news agencies have distorted the occurrence of violent crime, leading the public to support policies based on this false image, was hailed today by Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
The study, entitled “Off Balance: Youth, Race and Crime in the News,” was commissioned by Building Blocks For Youth. It reported a 32.9 percent decline in homicide rates from 1990 through 1998, while network news coverage of homicides increased 473 percent during the same period.
Gottlieb noted that the public’s faulty perception about violent crime has, over the years, contributed to passage of gun control laws at the federal and state levels that infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, but do nothing to prevent actual crimes.
“Media sensationalism about gun crime has even made municipal lawsuits against the firearms industry seem acceptable to the public,” he observed. “If the Berkeley group thinks youth and minorities are getting a bad rap on the crime issue, they should look at how the media has treated law-abiding gun owners.”
Gottlieb suggested that media coverage of the Columbine tragedy in 1999 has resulted in copycat crimes at other schools, allowing news organizations to perpetuate the impression there is a growing problem.
“The fact is,” he said, “children are safe in school. Yet, we’ve seen passage of ‘Gun Free School Zones’ legislation that has not stopped a single school gunman, and other restrictions on law-abiding adults that range from unreasonable to ridiculous.
“What’s worse,” Gottlieb continued, “is that the media will quickly credit the Brady Law and other gun restrictions for a drop in violent crime, if that’s their story of the day, but never give any rightful credit to ‘Three Strikes’ and ‘Hard Time for Armed Crime’ laws, along with passage of concealed carry statutes that allow citizens to carry firearms for self protection in over 30 states because those laws were championed by law-abiding gun owners.”
The Berkeley study offers several recommendations to the news media, among them providing a balance between crime stories and stories about youth accomplishments.
Gottlieb said that such balance should rightfully include positive stories about responsible youths with firearms.