Accuracy in Media

A former NRA and gun rights lobbyist recently penned an editorial on what the media gets wrong about the debate about gun rights and gun reform. Politico ran the editorial, written by Richard Feldman, which editorial explained how the media could frame the issue more accurately on guns.

Feldman’s piece, headlined, “I Was an NRA Lobbyist. Here’s My Road Map for Gun Reform,” strongly emphasized the need to avoid demonizing the regular American gun owner in the media and in political rhetoric. Feldman correctly pointed out that when he began his career as a gun rights lobbyist in 1984, gun rights was a bipartisan issue instead of a purely Republican Party platform and named several Democratic lawmakers as evidence (he named congressmen John Dingell of Michigan, Jack Brooks of Texas, and Frank Church of Idaho).

He lamented that “Democrats…aren’t exactly helping things” in creating meaningful bipartisan reform of gun legislation. Feldman asked, “Instead of bumper sticker sloganeering, why not approach this issue not as enemies but as compatriots?” Then, he criticized the mainstream media narrative surrounding guns.

First, he said that the media and politicians should “stop saying ‘universal background checks’ because that specific proposal makes criminals out of responsible gun owners. Current background checks are for some commercial sales, but does not cover when gun owners give a firearm to relatives or close friends. Instead of using the oft-repeated “universal background checks,” he suggested that the media should recognize the nuances within the proposal and help educate politicians and the American people on the tricky nature of background check legislation. Feldman recommended an exemption for relatives, friends, and co-workers whom the seller knows well, while requiring background checks to all commercial sales.

Feldman criticized the overlooked and underreported reality that illegal gun sales play a part in gun violence. He blamed the current political divisiveness, and when reading between-the-lines, the mainstream media for ignoring real issues:

“Why have you never heard anyone talking about this before? It’s simple; there is no political advantage to solving this (or any) gun-related problem if we can’t make political hay from the controversy. Issues are only useful when they are “us or them,” “black or white” with little to no nuanced middle ground.”

He then suggested that everyone remember that “not every gun owner is crazy” and how there are legitimate concerns about government overreach on the proposed “red flag” laws, which restricts gun ownership for those accused of the intent to commit violence.

Lastly, Feldman debunked the “assault weapon” definition in the mainstream media. He pointed out how “[t]his is semantic doublespeak at its finest.” Feldman said the word “assault” can cover any gun “if that’s your intent” and that it is “just misleading labeling.” He reiterated that firearms are semiautomatic, not automatic, and how fully automatic guns are heavily regulated and “rarely seen by police or used in crimes.”

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