ABC Highlights Absence of Gun Control Discussion

In light of recent high-profile shootings, Friday's World News with Charles Gibson featured a report that seemed to lament the absence of public calls for additional gun control. While not directly advocating new gun laws, the report cited statistics often used by those who support gun control. Before correspondent Pierre Thomas cited a poll showing 60 percent of Americans "favor stricter gun control laws," Gibson introduced the piece: "Well, there are 230 million guns in America. There are more guns than there are adults. In the past incidents, like the one in Kirkwood, would rekindle debate over gun control. But as ABC's Pierre Thomas reports, gun control advocates are now mostly silent." (Transcript follows)

After listing several recent instances of gun crimes, pointing out that some guns were bought legally while others were "taken from family members," Thomas continued: "What, if anything, can be done to stop the violence? Polling shows three-quarters of Americans believe the Constitution guarantees the right to own guns. But six in ten Americans favor stricter gun control laws. And yet, even those who support more restrictions on guns admit they've been losing ground."

After a soundbite from gun control advocate Paul Helmke, who complained that "politicians are afraid to talk about" gun control, Thomas relayed that those who oppose gun control are more likely to voice their views: "The politicians who are talking are the ones who support gun owner rights. Just today, 55 Senators and more than 250 Congressmen filed a brief to the Supreme Court opposing Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban."

Then came the report's only argument against gun control as made in a soundbite by Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who argued that "maybe if these people had had their own weapons to defend themselves, maybe some of these things wouldn't have happened."

Thomas concluded: "For the most part, that's the argument that appears to be winning."

For ABC, this was only the latest example of such reports favoring more gun laws. In April 2007, after the Virginia Tech shootings, reports on Good Morning America and World News similarly lamented the absence of new gun control initiatives, and on World News, also anchored by Gibson, correspondent Brian Ross portrayed Virginia's "lax" gun laws as being at fault. In July 2007, World News Sunday suggested that opposition to gun control by rural areas in Pennsylvania was to blame for Philadephia's murder rate. Also in July, World News with Gibson incorrectly implied that a murder suspect in New York City bought his gun from a gun store in Virginia, ignoring the fact that the gun's original owner had purchased it legally, and contended that criminals often go to shops for their weapons.

Below is a complete transcript of the report from ABC's  World News with Charles Gibson from Friday February 8:

CHARLES GIBSON: Well, there are 230 million guns in America. There are more guns than there are adults. In the past incidents, like the one in Kirkwood, would rekindle debate over gun control. But as ABC's Pierre Thomas reports, gun control advocates are now mostly silent.

PIERRE THOMAS: One week in America. Outside Baltimore, a 15-year-old boy charged with killing his parents and two brothers. Five women shot dead in a clothing store outside Chicago. Three people murdered in a suburban Maryland restaurant. In Los Angeles, a man kills three family members and a police officer. Then, last night, a city hall becomes a shooting gallery. And this morning in Baton Rouge, a nursing student guns down two of her peers before killing herself. Handguns were the weapon of choice in many of the shootings. Police suspect the guns were purchased legally in some cases. In others, taken from family members. Or bought on the black market. What, if anything, can be done to stop the violence? Polling shows three-quarters of Americans believe the Constitution guarantees the right to own guns. But six in ten Americans favor stricter gun control laws. And yet, even those who support more restrictions on guns admit they've been losing ground.

PAUL HELMKE, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: The conversation about what to do about guns is not happening. Almost universally, regardless of party, regardless of ideology, regardless of which office they're running for, the politicians are afraid to talk about it.

THOMAS: The politicians who are talking are the ones who support gun owner rights. Just today, 55 Senators and more than 250 Congressmen filed a brief to the Supreme Court opposing Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban.

Senator KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-TX): People believe that they should have the right to defend themselves. Maybe if these people had had their own weapons to defend themselves, maybe some of these things wouldn't have happened.

THOMAS: For the most part, that's the argument that appears to be winning. Pierre Thomas, ABC News, Washington.