Jon Stewart. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini.)
Yesterday was just another gunapalooza day in America. A prosecutor was shot down in the street in Texas by two men in tactical vests, who got away. And another school shooting, this time at a middle school in Atlanta. Slate.com and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths continue to chart fatal shootings since Sandy Hook, and today that count is up to 1,478—but that’s only a partial tally, as they do not have access to all accounts.
As I noted earlier this week, the media, in contrast to the aftermath of previous gun massacres, have stayed on this issue pretty closely, so far—helped along by periodic statements from the White House and, this week, hearings in Congress and in Newtown itself. Still, there’s no guarantee that this will continue for much longer, and then there’s the question of how accurate and probing the reporting will be.
To date we have seen, in too many places, the typicial he said/she said kind of journalism Jay Rosen calls “the view from nowhere.” You know: Gun critics have their facts, and the NRA and their alllies have theirs. Report them equally and let the public walk away confused and helpless.
At this week’s Senate hearing, former Representative Gabby Giffords, one of the nation’s most famous victims of gun violence, said to lawmakers: “Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.” She could have just as easily addressed this to the media.
So it was refeshing to see an editorial in The New York Times today bluntly contradict the oft-repeated claim that the assault weapons ban, now lapsed, did not do much at all to control the problem—worthless, as Wayne LaPierre said again this week.
Of course, the ban was allowed to lapse partly due to such propaganda. The Times provides ample evidence to the contrary. “The false statistics,” they point out, “comfort members of Congress who fear the gun lobby or their more conservative constituents, or both, and are blocking a new and stronger ban on assault weapons proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.”
Just a sample of the facts:
The information is there if Congress is interested. After the ban expired, 37 percent of police departments reported noticeable increases in criminals’ use of assault weapons, according to a 2010 report by the Police Executive Research Forum.