CBS Devotes More Time to Those Opposing New Gun Rights Law Than Supporters

Tuesday's CBS Evening News gave attention to a proposed new gun law that would strengthen the right of gun owners who hold a concealed weapon permit to carry a weapon across state lines into states with more restrictive gun laws than where the permit was obtained. As he presented arguments both for and against passage of the law, while Orr presented two soundbites opposing the law and only one from a supporter of the law, the report also devoted twice as much time – 35 seconds versus 17 seconds – to the anti-gun arguments opposing the law compared to pro-gun arguments supporting it.

Orr began his report by relaying that supporters of the new law "call it a crime fighting tool," and by showing a clip of Republican Senator John Thune arguing that potential hate crimes victims could protect themselves more effectively if the law were passed.

The CBS correspondent then touted the views of "450 U.S. mayors who signed this full-page ad in USA Today," and showed two soundbites opposing the law -- one from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the other from Democratic Senator Charles Schumer -- as both argued that the new law would increase crime:

BOB ORR: But opponents, including 450 U.S. mayors who signed this full-page ad in USA Today, say the bill, if passed, will put police and citizens in greater danger.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I-NEW YORK CITY): This is about as anti-police, pro-gun trafficker piece of legislation that has ever come before the United States Senate.

ORR: And opponents note the timing is terrible. Violent crime is plunging, with big city murders nearing 30-year lows.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): It could reverse the dramatic success we've had in reducing crime in most parts of America.

Despite the mountains of evidence that higher rates of gun ownership lead to less crime while excessively restrictive gun laws can increase crime rates, Orr did not take time to cite any such supporting statistics for the argument that the law would help people protect themselves. Statistics were also ignored showing that those who take the time to apply for concealed carry permits are much less likely to ever commit crimes with firearms than criminals who simply ignore gun laws and carry their weapons anyway.

And as Orr passed on the anti-gun argument that the timing is "terrible" because crime rates have dropped to historic lows, the CBS correspondent seemed to accept the assertion as fact as he used the word "note" while relaying that "opponents note the timing is terrible," rather than using a word like "argue" or "claim," which would have acknowledged the possibility that the argument may be incorrect.

But when Orr later passed on the NRA’s pro-self defense argument, the CBS correspondent used the word "argues." Orr: "But the National Rifle Association argues the right of self-defense should not stop at the state line, a point that resonates with conservatives and Democrats from pro-gun states." But on the bright side, Orr did at least acknowledge that even some Democrats are pro-gun.

By contrast, in June 2007, when a new gun control law was passed in response to the Virginia Tech massacre, Couric blatantly touted passage of the new law, without any attention to the argument that the law may have little practical effect, and even interviewed gun control advocate Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign. Katie Couric began the June 13, 2007, CBS Evening News:

Hello, everyone. Congress is trying to prevent another Virginia Tech. The House voted today to close the loophole that allowed Seung-Hui Cho to buy the guns he used in the April massacre despite his history of mental illness. It's the first major new gun control legislation in more than a decade and it has the backing of the NRA. House passage came on the day a federal report was released on the Virginia Tech shootings. Among the key findings: Information states have about people prohibited from buying guns is not making it into the national registry. That's exactly what this new law addresses. So we'll begin on Capitol Hill with Sharyl Attkisson.

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Tuesday, June 21, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Here in Washington, you'd be hard pressed to find an issue that generates as much emotion as gun control. Tomorrow, Bob Orr tells us the Senate votes on an amendment that would mean big changes for gun owners.

BOB ORR: The pro-gun amendment, tacked on to a critical defense funding bill, would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines. Sponsors call it a crime fighting tool.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE (R-SD): One of the best ways to help prevent hate crimes against potential victims of hate crimes is to allow them to defend themselves.

ORR: But opponents, including 450 U.S. mayors who signed this full-page ad in USA Today, say the bill, if passed, will put police and citizens in greater danger.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I-NEW YORK CITY): This is about as anti-police, pro-gun trafficker piece of legislation that has ever come before the United States Senate.

ORR: And opponents note the timing is terrible. Violent crime is plunging, with big city murders nearing 30-year lows.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): It could reverse the dramatic success we've had in reducing crime in most parts of America.

ORR: Under the new law, gun buyers could obtain permits in states with weak regulations and then carry the weapons unchecked virtually anywhere. But the National Rifle Association argues the right of self-defense should not stop at the state line, a point that resonates with conservatives and Democrats from pro-gun states. Opponents are still trying to find a way to kill the gun measure without putting defense funding in jeopardy. But Harry Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, says he'll vote to approve it when the roll is called tomorrow. Bob Orr, CBS News, Washington.