On April 17, Pew Research published an analysis on the shift in public opinion whereby a clear majority of Americans support gun rights over gun control for the first time in more 20 years.
Part of this analysis focuses on how the media has reported — and perhaps over-reported — crime in order to frighten Americans into supporting more government intervention via gun control. In so doing, the media inadvertently contributed to the success of the very pro-Second Amendment movement they hoped to topple.
On December 10 Breitbart News reported Pew’s findings that 52 percent of Americans believed that “it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns” than it is to pass more controls on gun ownership. Only 46 percent of respondents believed passing more gun control was more important.
Such a ratio in favor of gun rights has not been seen the late 1980s / early 1990s.
Pew’s Andrew Kohut says that while no one thing can said to have caused this shift, “many blame it on the nature of news coverage, reality TV and political rhetoric.” And he said these things are not without consequence, as “today, those who say that crime is rising are the most opposed to gun control.”
This is 180 degrees from where the images of guns on the evening news, the near-endless reports and examinations of “mass shootings,” domestic gun crime, and attacks on children were supposed to end up. But here we are, and Americans believe the proper response to crime is for citizens to be armed.
The Washington Post made the same point by focusing on Obama’s habit of exaggerating gun stats. The paper suggested Obama is actually hurting the gun control movement with his hyperbole on gun crime statistics and America’s place in the world among gun-owning countries.
They backed this up by citing examples of exaggerations and outright false statements which were put forth by Obama during a speech to students at South Carolina’s Benedict College on March 6. These included, but were not limited to, his claim that “the United States [has] the highest homicide rate among the industrialized world.”
Although this claim is false — and intended to increase support for gun control — it actually pushes Americans to buy guns for self-defense.
The Washington Post says this kind of approach has “poisoned” the gun control movement, and the Pew analysis is congruent with this conclusion.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.