Gun Control Debate: Same Rules Broken, Multiple Times Each

April 25, 2013

The amendment for expanded background checks failed to get the 60 votes it needed to proceed in the Senate last week.  Part of a larger bill, it was hotly debated, with criticism and accusations of misinformation coming from both sides.

So how did the media do with its coverage?

Well, there was plenty of it, but with key gaps that were repeated, over and over again.  In a 10 day period, I saw several Rules violated, each multiple times, often with the same person being interviewed on the same subject, on different shows.

Ask The Question & False Argument- it’s all in the wording.

The simplest one to catch related to the wording of recent polls that revealed ~90% public support for universal background checks.  On 3 shows- CNN’s OutFront with Erin Burnett (April 8), Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room (April 10), and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Mathews (April 11, 2:40 minutes in)– the same man, Larry Pratt who is the Exec. Dir. of Gun Owners of America (GOA), questioned the overall accuracy of the polls because of the high support they also showed from gun owners.  Mr. Pratt claimed the GOA and NRA’s own polls resulted in only 4-5% support in their orgs.

Only on OutFront, was Mr. Pratt asked if the wording of the question in the GOA and NRA polls was:  “[Do they] want a gun registry?”, to which Mr. Pratt replied “They know what the deal is”, dodging the question.  Querying the wording difference could expose a False Argument that conflates a different issue- national gun registry- with the one of universal background checks, leading to confusion on both and subverting legitimate discussion on each.  Many, including Mr. Pratt, assert there already is a national gun registry, and that it will expand and lead to gun confiscation.  (More on this below.)

On Hardball, Chris Mathews did, post-interview, read the FOX poll question:  “Do you favor or oppose…requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buyng at gun shows and private sales?”.  Supplying the poll results, he added “85% said they were in favor”.

Though Wolf Blitzer had a spirited discussion, citing the 4 polls- CNN, CBS, Quinnapiac, and FOX, he did not zero in on language.

Take your pick- OutFront, Hardball (2:40 min. in), or Situation Room.  They’re all pretty much the same. (If no video below, click here, here, or here.)

So it’s all in the wording, and how many times have we seen that escape hatch left open?  All 3 news anchors should have read the poll question they were citing, then Asked The Question:  “What is the wording of the GOA and NRA polls?”  In OutFronts case, the question should have been re-asked, with any additional non-answers noted.

Clarification made.  Confusion ended.  Move on.

Cite the Basis- existance of a national gun registry.

So, is there a national gun registry or not?

If you believe Larry Pratt, there is.  On CNN’s OutFront he said: “Records are kept in a registry on computers in Clarksburg, West Virginia.”  If you believe Mark Glazer of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, there isn’t.  He claims: ~“It’s illegal to have a gun registry. Gun dealers do background checks.  Government records are destroyed in 24 hours. Gun dealers keep paper records, [they’ve] been doing it for 40 years”.

On CNN’s The Situation Room Mr. Pratt said: “The federal government tells dealers that registration using an internet portal becomes permanent information to the federal government. These background checks are national gun registration”.

How do we know who is right?  We ask them to Cite the Basis, then follow up on it.  That’s how.

False Argument / Contradiction- background checks vs. mental health.

The exact same False Argument and Contradiction Rule breaks occurred 3 separate times recently- 2 on News Hour: April 9 with Judy Woodruf f (5 min. in) & April 17 with Gwen Ifill (4:15 min. in), both while interviewing Lawrence Keene of the National Shooting Sports Foundation; and 1 in the San Jose Mercury News (AP), interviewing Wayne LaPierre of the NRA (March 29).

The current gun background check system is a 2 tier system. The top tier consists of the gun dealers who sell guns and initiate backgound checks on buyers. The second tier is the database known as NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), which has information- criminal, mental health, etc.- on individuals, and is what is used for the background checks.  There are gaps in each.  Only 60% of gun purchases are subject to checks, leaving a gaping 40% hole in the top tier of the gun check system.  The bottom tier, NICS, is reliant on the states supplying information to it, which is voluntary and known to be incomplete.  According to Mr. Keene, 50% of states don’t submit records.

Both Mr. Keene and Mr. LaPierre agree that there should be more “focus on unauthorized access, … mental health [being] most important”, and “getting records into NICS”.  Yet both are against expanding background checks.  In effect, they argue for closing one of the gaps, but not the other, failing to completely solve the problem of access by the mentally impaired.  This is the contradiction underlying their False Argument of why dealing with the mental health issue from the NICS side alone is all that is needed.  Even if states comply and keep NICS up to date, people whose names are in it, including those with mental health issues, can still buy guns at gun shows, part of the 40% top tier gap.

It’s one system and it either works or it doesn’t.

Ask for poll wording.
Find out if there is a gun registry.
Point out an obvious contradiction in logic.

Honestly media, how hard is this?

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