Response to “The Best Reporting on Guns in America”

ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom based out of New York City that produces “investigative journalism in the public interest,” put together a list of the best pieces they could find about guns.  To our chagrin (but not to our surprise) Guns.com did not make the list.  

What did make the list?  Well, some familiar articles that all bend toward the pro gun control agenda.  After all, when it comes to big city investigative journalism and guns, there’s only one story to tell, i.e. lax gun laws are ruining this country. 

The truth is that one doesn’t even need to see the list to know that it will be biased; all he/she has to do is consider the source.  For example, any newsroom that states the following is immediately suspect:

“We uncover unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform. We do this in an entirely non-partisan and non-ideological manner, adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality. We won’t lobby. We won’t ally with politicians or advocacy groups.”

To invoke Shakespeare, “They doth protest too much, methinks.”  In other words, ProPublica’s adamant claims of remaining impartial probably holds that the opposite is true; that they are heavily biased, indeed. 

But I digress.  Their selection of articles is, of course, the real proof.  On the top of that list is Jill Lepore’s New Yorker Article, “Battleground America.”  The editors at ProPublica write that Ms. Lepore’s article is an “excellent primer for the modern day gun debate.”  And that it provides “great context” for the other articles on the list. 

Jill Lepore, New YorkerI wrote a quick response to “Battleground America,” which you can check out here.  My main beef was that she used what I believe is errant data to argue that gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades.  Also, I criticized her for failing to mention that although we have an astonishing number of guns in this country (90 guns per hundred people), our crime rates continue to fall.  My point, putting more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens has no positive correlation to crime rates.

Though, to be honest, my response to her article was just okay.  Who really nailed it was David Kopel, Research Director of the Independence Institute, who – when I asked for his thoughts about Battleground America in a Guns.com interview – said, “The article was very good at reinforcing the prejudices and fears of people who have lots of education but are very narrow-minded. This a core competence of The New Yorker.”

(For additional reference, Robert VerBruggen of the National Review wrote a wonderful rebuttal to Lepore’s piece, check it out here).

Another choice selection from the ProPublica list is the recent Fortune article, “The Truth about the Fast and Furious scandal.”  You remember this one, right?  This was the article that argued that the ATF did not intentionally allow guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and that much of what was widely reported about the investigation was “replete with distortions, errors, partial truths and even some outright lies.” 

I took the time to challenge the claims made in the Fortune article.  And my conclusion was rather simple, an objective look at the facts would suggest that it was either by intent or incompetence that more than 2,000 firearms crossed the border, but either way the Justice Department and the ATF should be held fully accountable for their role in the botched operation.  Bottom line, heads need to roll.

But given its esteemed pedigree, ProPublica shouldn’t take my word for it.  Instead, the editors should look to Sharyl Attkisson, a Washington-based investigative correspondent for CBS News.  Attkisson has written a boatload of articles on Fast and Furious.  In fact, her unbiased reporting on the ATF’s gunrunning earned her the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting (she was awarded the honor this past June).  Her reporting on the story suggests that the ATF did intentionally allow guns to fall into the hands of known Mexican drug cartels.

Now, I can keep going down the ProPublica list, article by article, to point out the apparent bias in each piece – but I think you get the picture, i.e. this list was assembled by individuals who lean in the direction of gun control.  The reality is that they could have assembled a more balanced list, one that would have given the public a more comprehensive understanding of the issues.  Why not, for example, include the “Emily Gets her Gun” report, which detailed the many loops one has to jump through to obtain a handgun in D.C., this was an excellent article, especially for an organization hoping to “uncover unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform.” 

Personally, I think the editors at ProPublica need to reexamine their core philosophy of impartiality and in doing so, they should be reminded of that quote by Orwell, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”