Alternative reality: Anti-gun journalists ignore facts to push agenda

By Chad D. Baus

One of the things that has surprised me most over the past few years as I have interacted with the media as they prepare news stories is the lengths some journalists are willing to go to in order to create their intended angle on a story.

Before, when reading stories in the newspaper, and noticing how particular points or angles are missing, I always just assumed that the points just hadn't been made by the people the writer interviewed.

Now that I've participated in so many interviews, however, I have had more than my share of experience with reporters who I know had all the facts (because I provided the information), yet still chose to write their own version of the "truth."

The latest example of this comes in the form of a lengthy interview between Ken Hanson, Buckeye Firearms Association's Legislative Chair, and Columbus' The Other Paper writer David Niven about HB541, a bill introduces by state Representative and Buckeye Firearms Association endorsee Steve Buehrer.

Click on 'Read More' for the story.

David Niven's The Other Paper story (later published in the The Athens News), begins like this:

    State lawmakers hope to pass a ‘shoot first’ bill

    Worthington resident Allen Davis allegedly opened fire on a group of high school students near his yard last Tuesday, critically wounding one. Davis is currently in custody facing felonious assault charges. While the senseless tragedy has prompted an outpouring of emotion in the community, several Ohio lawmakers have taken a more dry-eyed approach.

    Concluding that shooting someone in Ohio currently leads to too much legal liability, 22 House members and 15 state senators have co-sponsored legislation that would make it harder to prosecute people who use deadly force in what they claim to be self-defense.

Niven's suggestion that lawmakers' "dry-eyed" response to Allen Davis' crime was to introduce HB541 is ridiculous - and he knows it. The legislation was introduced months before Davis acted. But that clearly wasn't the "truth" Nivens wanted to write.

The very headline of Niven's story belies a bias, since 'shoot first' is terminology adopted by gun ban extremists to describe Castle Doctrine legislation, which seeks to reverse the recent course of activist judges who have decided to make victims responsible for being attacked.

According to Hanson, Niven was given "extensive background and analysis on why Castle would not have impacted the Worthington shooting at all." Yet Niven still included the following caption under a mugshot of Allen Davis:

    Self-defense would trump the duty to retreat: It’s unclear whether Ohio’s proposed law would have helped alleged Worthington shooter Allen Davis

There is nothing "unclear" about it, and again, Hanson made that very clear to the writer.

Again, from the story:

    The bill, which is similar to a recently enacted Florida law, eliminates the duty to retreat, which means that you would have the legal option of killing even if you could simply walk away from a threat without further danger to yourself. The bill also establishes that anyone who enters a home or vehicle without legal permission can be presumed to intend bodily harm, and therefore can be legally killed by the occupant.

Niven's description of the practical application of this bill is absurd. The "Castle Doctrine" portion simply says that if a criminal breaks into your home, your occupied vehicle or your place of business, you may presume he is there to do bodily harm and you may use any force against him. What's more, one wonders what life-threatening scenario Niven can imagine where it would be possible to "simply walk away" from a violent attacker.

The story continues:

    “It’s a public-safety kind of bill,” said state Rep. Stephen Buehrer, the primary sponsor of the legislation.

    “It’s a very ancient premise in human history that a man’s house is his castle,” the northwestern Ohio Republican added. “If an intruder or an invader enters your castle, you’ve got the right to repulse that intruder from your home. My bill returns us to what the law has been, probably, since the Middle Ages.”

    But John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, sees the legislation as more medieval.

    “It’s a license to blast away,” Murphy said.

Later in the article, Murphy said there are numerous situations where someone enters a home uninvited without being a threat. “You could have a neighbor who thinks he has an informal privilege to enter your home. He takes one step inside, and you blow him away,” Murphy is quoted as saying. “Under the bill, you’re immune from murder charges.”

John Murphy needs to retire if he thinks a neighbor could walk into your house and that is covered by Castle.

The story did allow a bit of light to shine in, in the form of comments from state Rep. and Buckeye Firearms Association endorsee Keith Faber, a co-sponsor of the bill, who says he believes eliminating the duty to retreat is crucial.

    “If there’s a home invasion, what are my obligations? Do I have to run to my safe room and cower behind the door?” asked Faber, a Republican from western Ohio.

    “Do I have a right to defend myself? Some would say, ‘No. Wait until they break in, rape and molest your children, and then ask them to leave.’”

    But opponents of the bill question when, if ever, a homeowner has been prosecuted in the kind of scenario Faber envisions.

    “There’s nothing here, no case, no story that would justify this bill,” said Zack Ragbourn, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which calls the legislation the “shoot first” bill. “We don’t have people lined up to go to prison for defending their home. And if there aren’t any now, it’s hard to see how there will be any less if the bill passes.”

The article ends with a summary of the "truth" Niven clearly set out to portray, regardless of the facts discovered along the way:

    In the Worthington case, the proposed law would not necessarily clear the alleged shooter, but it might strengthen his defense if he could show he was in fear for himself or others.

    That the Worthington incident could be used by gun-control supporters to dampen enthusiasm for the bill angers gun advocates.

    “We have to manage the public relations, so the anti’s don’t get to run away with every single incident,” said Ken Hanson, legislative chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “The anti’s are never squeamish about dancing in a pool of blood.”

Neither, it would appear, are some journalists squeamish about editorializing the news to fit their anti-gun agenda.

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