Accuracy in Media

When it comes to guns, the mainstream media and alternative media have displayed their lack of familiarity with the subject over the years. Starting with the media’s misleading designation of certain firearms as “assault weapons,” the media has given an unfair shake to the gun rights community that is comprised of legal, law-abiding gun owners.

The budding controversy stirring in Virginia, which pits the Democrat-majority General Assembly against the state’s more conservative counties, revolves around the upcoming state legislature session and the perception that the Democratic Party will restrict gun owners’ rights. At least forty counties in Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment” sanctuaries ahead of the 2020 legislative session.

The media was quick to point out that these declarations were not legally-binding, but were a political statement to the state legislature to not restrict gun owners’ rights.

These declarations spurred Democratic state representative Donald McEachin to suggest that Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) “may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law.” The National Guard responded to McEachin’s statement and said it “will not speculate about the possible use of the Virginia National Guard.” Northam later said that the state could seize guns, “If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books, then there are going to be some consequences.” He added, “But I’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it.”

But in a stunning omission or oversight by the media, few headlines reflected the constitutional crisis that could ensue if the Democratic Party in Virginia and Gov. Northam followed up on its gun confiscation threat. USA Today’s headline did not mention the governor’s remarks and simply read as, “Virginia counties are declaring themselves ‘sanctuaries’ for Second Amendment. Will it affect gun laws?” The Associated Press also lacked context on Northam’s remarks and published the headline which read, “Second Amendment Sanctuary push aims to defy new gun laws.” CNN did not mention Northam’s remarks in its write-up, whose headline was, “Virginia counties move to become ‘Second Amendment sanctuaries.’”

Only The Hill and Newsweek ran headlines that reflected the issue accurately. The Hill’s headline said, “Virginia National Guard responds after Democratic lawmaker suggests it may be needed to enforce gun control measures.” Newsweek ran with the headline, “VIRGINIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE SUGGESTS NATIONAL GUARD BE CALLED TO FORCE ENFORCEMENT OF NEW GUN LEGISLATION.”

It would be unprecedented if a state government mobilized the National Guard to seize guns from gun owners, as the Second Amendment is an enshrined right in the U.S. Constitution. Also, the media’s coverage ignored the possibility of pro-gun rights groups challenging Virginia’s proposed gun-related laws in the courts, which would tie up the hands of state government officials until a verdict is reached.




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