Accuracy in Media

Progressive activists and their allies in the mainstream media, including MSNBC host Al Sharpton, are framing the tragic Parkland, Fla. shooting debate around restricting access to legally-purchased guns.

This ignores the elephant in the room: criminals obtaining weapons illegally. We can and should do more to keep guns away from mentally-ill people and those like the Parkland suspect that have long rap sheets of police encounters and juvenile delinquency.

John Carlson outlines this framing problem in The Wall Street Journal editorial pages.

“A University of Chicago study found that only 3 percent of Windy City gun crimes were committed with legally purchased guns. A federal study in 2004 put the percentage of gun crimes committed with legal guns at 11 percent. By and large the problem isn’t guns—it’s that people who shouldn’t have them are getting them and using them … According to FBI statistics, in the four years from 2012-15, 1.2 million guns were stolen from people, and another 22,000 were stolen from gun stores.”

On his MSNBC program, Sharpton called for a ban semi-automatic weapons but said nothing about how increased penalties for stealing a firearm or engaging in straw purchases of guns would be the constitutionally sound approach to preventing gun crimes. Even though federal law makes straw purchases of handguns a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, enforcement is lax.

Despite what Sharpton said, more guns don’t mean more crime. As Carlson also reported, the number of guns in America grew by nearly 50 percent between 1993 and 2013 while gun homicides fell by nearly 50 percent during the same time.

Too often, mainstream media framing the gun debate seek to implement what Harvard Kennedy School leadership professor Ronald Heifetz calls a “technical fix for adaptive challenges.”

It’s easy to put a quick, band-aid “technical fix” and curtail the Second Amendment of law-abiding citizens while ignoring the much bigger, adaptive problem of stopping criminals from getting their hands on the guns to begin with.

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