The media and guns – things they should know

By Larry S. Moore

As firearms and self-defense activists, we see a lot of news stories that involve guns. Unfortunately much of it involves the misuse of firearms. Even more unfortunate is the inaccurate reporting of firearms use and misuse in these stories.

Many of us read the mainstream media reports and wonder if the media has an agenda to make any use of a firearm sound bad. I suppose some do, but I think much of it is not intentional. Most reporters, and indeed most of the public, are uninformed about firearms terminology. I believe they tend to write stories the way they have seen other reporters write them. Of course, reporting using a flawed model, only results in worse reporting.

I can actually forgive the reporters if they don’t get the periods or technical terminology relating to calibers correct. It is confusing. Telling a .30-06 from a .30-30 (or a 30-06 or 30-30) can be confusing. Other misuse of terminology is like the old “fingernails on a blackboard” that grates on the nerves. Some are so wrong that they're laughable.

Some terminology usage that grates on my nerves includes...

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  • Use of the term bullet for every part, piece and type of ammunition. The bullet is the projectile fired from a cartridge, either from a rifle or handgun. Of course, I’ve also heard trap shooters say “hold on while I get more bullets”, when their shotguns never shoot a bullet.
  • Semi-automatic, auto, full-auto or autoloader are terms the media uses quite interchangeably. They certainly do not mean the same. Generally, a semi-automatic firearm should be so described. The media often uses “auto” in pieces to describe a firearm, such as a “9-mm auto” leaving the uninformed public to assume a fully automatic firearm.
  • Referring to the concealed handgun license (CHL) as a permit. It is not a permit. My CHL does not contain the word “permit”. I am not sure why this bothers me so much, but it does.
  • Guns have models and names just like cars and appliances. The media generally uses the term “assault weapon” to mean any variety of firearm, often either rifle or handgun. If I hit you up side the head with a hammer, you might just consider that an “assault weapon”. Take the time to get the name and model correct.
  • “Common sense gun laws” is another one. Please quit telling me what is and is not common sense. I can recognize what is or is not common sense. I don’t need anyone to dictate what is good for me.
  • Use of the term “victim” for someone who is committing a crime. They are not a victim except in the extreme sense that they lack the capability of being law-abiding.
  • The term “shooter” is often used for the person who fires a gun. It is even applied to the person who acts in self-defense. They may have fired a gun in self-defense but the term makes them out to be the criminal. There is a major difference between the perpetrator of the crime and the citizen who is acting in self-defense. The media should recognize and accurately report that difference.

    Many gun clubs and organizations have held firearms days or open houses for the media. These are a good idea but generally are not well attended by the media. Perhaps it is a scheduling problem or the media outlet is not willing to pay for their reporters to attend. I know ranges in the Dayton area who have offered their facilities to the reporters of the Dayton Daily News. I offered to help teach a basic class for the Dayton Daily News at no charge. We never got past the talking stage. I even offered to bring the necessary firearms and books to their (posted) offices. More needs to be done to educate the reporters so they can better, more accurately, and fairly report on firearms. The question is how to accomplish it.

    Many times the reporter attempts to portray themselves as an expert. My Grandfather offered advice along the lines that sometimes it is best to shut up and let someone wonder if you are an idiot rather than open your mouth and prove it. This is usually what happens when trying to portray ones self as an expert.

    Reporters should understand that many knowledgeable and well-informed people read their stories. When the reporter uses the wrong terminology or does not get the basic facts right, it shows. When I read some of these stories with glaring errors or a distinctive anti-gun slant, I make a note of the outlet and the reporter. From that day forward, I will read any piece in that outlet or by that reporter with skepticism. I may not know the topic in a future article, but I will always question did they “get it right this time”. Perhaps that is why we increasingly see the media as having a credibility problem.

    Anyone in the media reading this may consider it an open invitation to contact Buckeye Firearms. We will arrange for qualified instructors in your area to work with your media outlet for such a class. The volunteers at Buckeye Firearms are willing and have the resources to tailor a class to meet your needs and the demands of accurate reporting.

    Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a Region Leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award.

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