How Often Does the Media Portray Gun Owners as Normal?

UPDATE: Reporter responded to my last message and acknowledged the point and asked for statistics on teenage gun ownership. I send link to my recent post about average age of gun ownership, and noted that 4 in 10 American gun owners (37% to be precise) first owned a gun when they were under 18-years-old.

***

I was contacted today by a freelance journalist for The New York Times who sometimes writes about gun issues. His request:

One of the editors asked me to come up with story ideas about guns so I am reaching out to bloggers and experts like you to see if you have any thoughts on what stories the media might be missing. Are there, in your opinion, important issues or perspectives about the gun debate that the media is not reporting?

I responded at some length, but the gist of my response was:

If there is resistance to efforts to restrict firearms, it is due not just to the NRA throwing its weight around. It is also due to the fact that guns and gun owners are by and large normal, not pathological.

Him:

Thank you very much for your response, but I am not sure if this is anything new. The fact that most gun owners are not pathological is something that has been reported many, many times before. Let me know if you have any other thoughts. I am still looking. Thanks!

Me:

I guess it depends on how you define many, many. Certainly nowhere near as many times as the negative aspects of guns have been reported. Where, for example, are the stories about all the normal rifle owning teenagers in America to go along with the OMG 18 year olds can buy ARs(!!!!!) stories? Has that been reported many, many times before? I haven’t seen one story like that, though I may have missed them, admittedly. Good luck.

Am I being dense here? I honestly have not seen any stories about the normality of people who own AR-style rifles or the normality of teenagers owning rifles. I posted about the fact that 18-year-olds can and do own rifles just this morning because of all the to-do about this in the media.

If you have seen any news stories in the New York Times about gun owners being normal — without the usual “yeah, but…”, please link to them in the comments, thanks.

 

15 comments

  1. Once in a while I see what I would call a positive story, but it’s almost always at a local level. This is normally things like high school shooting sports (and the popularity of them) or something similar. Maybe a piece on hunters of varying ages, genders, etc.

    It might be interesting to explore the racial and cultural diversity here. In mainstream media like the NYT, gun owners are usually described as white, male, and old. Insert potency joke next. In Minnesota, it’s very common to see east Asian immigrants at shooting ranges and especially in the field using public lands for hunting. I also see some people of Hispanic descent as well, although more Hmoung than Hispanic people around here. Same goes for women and young people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pretty much this – most positive stories are local level. And there also seems to be a divide along the “urban / rural” lines too. I didn’t check, but I reckon the NY Times is overflowing with articles portraying gun owners in a positive light… maybe that reporter can show you a few references in his own paper. Not even many many, maybe start with just one…

      Erik raises another interesting point. As you know, David, I’m in the Austin, Texas area, and while KR Training receives students from all over, no question the Austin-area is a primary source. Over my 10-ish years teaching at KRT, I have seen much diversity. Yes, the majority of students are male, but females in classes has been rapidly growing the past some years (extremely rare now to have a male-only class). I see people of all ages, from 18 to 80. I see people of all sorts of skin tone (that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it seems a great number of people in this country still put emphasis on skin color). And yes, even political persuasion (again, Austin). I see all sorts of demographic diversity. The stereotype of gun owners just being poor white fat old men (rednecks) is quite outdated.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with other posters that most of the positive stories tend to be local news although sometimes a DGU story will achieve a bit more widespread coverage (such as the response to the Sutherland Springs church shooting, despite that still being rather one-sided, particularly when it came to reporting the type of gun used).

    As an anecdote, there was a local story here in Maryland of a Frederick teen (I believe he was 16-18) who was home alone when he heard a commotion downstairs. He went down to check it out and found that a buck had broken in and was attacking the Christmas tree (presumably a doe had peed on it before they cut it down). He called animal control, but they said it would be 30-40 minutes before they got there. So he called his dad, got the combo for the safe, grabbed a pistol (I think) and shot it.

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  3. The only place I have ever seen a positive news story was in local reporting or in something like the NRA or Bearing Arms sites. The MSM hates and despises us and makes no bones about it. Just look at that ambush CNN staged on national TV to see what they think about all of us.

    Your were spot on Professor. And handled that appropriately. I would not be surprised to see a story in the NYT containing parts of your responses spun and spindled in ways to be as negative as possible. That’s what that reporters masters, through his editor. want after all.

    On Bearing Arms I read just this morning a story about how a group of Democratic Senators are trying to bring back the ‘on a terrorist no fly list = no buy gun’s list’ thing that they tried to pass after Sandy Hook.

    Molon Labe!
    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

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  4. But this is a case, to some degree, of asking the wrong questions. Media generally doesn’t cover stories like “Dozens of People Shoot at the Los Alamos Range, Nothing Bad Happens”, i.e., “dog bites man” is not news whereas “man bites dog” is news. So sure, all the media frenzy right now is dominated by strident calls to action to pass gun laws. I posted the NY Times piece for two reasons. One, the article starts by casting the rifle in the usual bad light. But the owners come across as reasonable people in spite of the context, which is to shine a spotlight on anyone who owns an AR-15 as though we *should” be aberrant.

    If you Google the LA Daily Post, most stories about guns are like this one on our high school team taking second place in a national shoot. Of course, this is Los Alamos. Not much gun crime to write about in Lake Wobegon and besides, in a town where the main occupation is making weapons of mass destruction, what’s with a few guns?
    https://www.ladailypost.com/content/precision-rifle-team-takes-2nd-nationals

    I was just asked to do a radio interview on the topic of you-know-what down in Santa Fe next Monday. Not sure I can arrange it but if I do, it will be available on podcast.

    Liked by 1 person

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