Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fox Austin Proves It Doesn’t Understand News about Guns

A couple of weeks ago Fox Austin TV reporter Keri Bellacosa and her producer colleagues slapped together a rambling four minute ‘news’ story on guns sales, legislative iniatives and the viewpoints of the central Texas chapter of the “Brady Bill Campaign,” advocates for tougher gun purchase laws. You can see the story here.

Describing the story as “rambling” is generous. Describing it as "news" is outright charity.

There’s really no focus on any one news issue here, other than rehash of the anti-gun lobby’s ongoing propaganda platform that guns are too easy to get and are dangerous in the hands of the unwashed masses.

The reporter goes to gun stores and gun shows and asks people about their appetites for gun purchases. The reporter interviews gun store owners and gun show operators about how easy it is to get guns. Yes, it’s ‘easy’ if you consider ‘easy’ being going through a 30-45 minute process of filling out forms in order to undergo background checks with the ATF at the time of purchase.

To balance the story, Bellacosa interviews one so-called expert, the Brady Campaign president, who obligingly opines, without being asked for proof, that big gun manufacturers are the one’s to blame as they buy off the legislators who would otherwise enact more sensible – to liberals – gun control legislation. He also pulls out a number of gun-caused deaths that doesn’t jive with crime stats, but there’s no challenge to his stats. His are the only stats presented, even though they may be wrong. There’s no balancing expert to the Brady campaign president’s viewpoint. Does the NRA have a chapter here? Probably. (NRA = National Rifle Association. That's for Keri and her producers, in case they ever do a vanity search and pull up this blog, if they know how to use Google. I don't think they do, as evidenced in following paragraphs.)

Back to the point. The story seems to throw about five issues together in a headline “Rules Allow Many to Buy Guns.” No kidding. Most people qualify to buy guns. They are not felons. They are exercising their 2nd amendment right. Where’s the news? What’s the issue?

In fact, there is no news. Guns are reasonably easy to get and the news should be that that has been good for Texas and every day Texans.

Stay with me here. Let’s step out of the fear mode that airheaded reporters and their Nation-reading producers like to engender and identify some facts. Now, I realize that TV news isn’t really serious news and there’s no way that Keri Bellacosa could be expected to delve into any hard fact statistics and seek to present those facts in a responsible way to the general public. I’m not that unrealistic. But maybe TV news in Austin should come with a Surgeon's General warning that what you're about to see doesn't really reflect much of reality.

Generous person that I am, let me help the Austin Fox News folks with some topics for real news coverage they could engage in regarding guns and gun sales:

  • Gun and ammunition sales have been going gangbusters since late last year when Barack Obama and his bunch of ‘we never met a bad gun control law” Democrat buddies came to power in Washington. The Wall Street Journal made this a front page story a few weeks back. People fear a big government that’s hostile to their 2nd amendment rights and they are stockpiling weapons and ammo while they can. Maybe reporters can ask people about why they fear big government’s likely gun grab and why they’re stockpiling. The reporters might actually serve a wide audience of people a little bit and tell us when more ammo is going to get back on the shelves at reasonable prices. Wait. That would come with hell freezing over. Never mind.
  • The Texas legislature, run by Republicans (ostensibly), is seeking to continue a 14-year trend of empowering law abiding Texas citizens with Castle and concealed carry laws. Currently, legislators are concerned about innocent university students and their vulnerability to wacked out mental cases (like Columbine and Virginia Tech), and they are considering expanding right to carry laws on college campuses. Will Republicans succeed in giving their constituencies the rights allowed them with the 2nd amendment, particularly their fundamental human right to protect themselves from bodily assault in an educational setting?
  • A quick Google search for “crime statistics for Texas” pulled up the 2007 Crime in Texas report compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Guess what? Violent crime offenses have maintained a mostly steady rate for the years 2003-2007, and decreased from a high point in 2002. The 2007 stats showed a 1.2 percent decrease from 2006 (see page 4). The stats don’t define the role of guns in those violent crimes, but maybe a good reporter could ask what role concealed handguns have played in persuading bad guys from wreaking more havoc on innocent law abiding citizens? Will Texas see even fewer gun related murders as Texas expands Castle and carry laws? And even more importantly, will TV news reporters and their producers ever learn that there is this nifty ‘search engine’ thing called “” where they can quickly get information on issues they’re reporting on? As mentioned previously, I'd guess Google is used more for vanity searches than expanding their insular view of issues.
  • A chart on page 7 of the 2007 Crime in Texas report shows that murders have decreased from 2,149 in 1993 to 1,415 in 2007, despite the state’s adding 5.87 million people or 20 percent in that same span. If gun sales are on the rise, and legislators are enabling more 2nd amendment rights, and guns are bad, shouldn’t the opposite occur? Shouldn't the news be that gun-related murders and accidental gun killing are on the rise? The reporter lets the Brady campaign people insinuate that in their comments, but even the stats spewed by that activist seem skewed. Again, news reporters should review the last sentence in the previous bullet point about this nifty thing called where they could check facts.
  • In addition, the chart on page 7 of the Crime in Texas report shows reductions of volume and rate of every category of crime as well since 1993, when the population exploded 20 percent. What role did the increase of a legally armed citizenry play in that decline since 1993? Maybe the reporter would look at the growing numbers of people who pass training courses to acquire their concealed handgun licenses? Again, probably too much to ask.
  • An intrepid reporter might also note from page 7 of the report that murder rates continue to fall in Texas, from 11.9 rate to 5.9 rate in 2007. That’s half. Hmmm… would it be too much to infer from these stats that more good citizen-friendly gun laws contribute to a higher rate of safety, lower rates of murder? The notes on page 15 of the report indicate that "Firearms were used in 68 percent of all murders reported [in 2007]. All other weapons made up the remaining 32 percent." So of the 1,415 murders in 2007, 962 were gun-related. A more complete report might examine previous year's gun-related stats and see whether they are on the rise or fall. I guess the key word is "intrepid", a characteristic in short supply at Fox Austin.

To think that I pulled up all that data in about 10 seconds and came up with six decent stories that align with reality – instead of the Brady campaign president’s skewed views of guns’ role in society – demonstrates a certain fear-mongering depravity with little basis in fact in the reporting we’re seeing from the folks at Fox.

I’m available – for a price – to advise the local Fox folks whenever they really want to get fair and balanced.

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