NBC's Williams Highlights Pro-Gun Ruling Ignored by Other Networks
Of the broadcast network evening news shows, on Friday the NBC Nightly News uniquely covered the "history-making" federal court ruling striking down Washington, D.C.'s restrictive gun control laws. While anchor Brian Williams made the story his show's lead item, with correspondent Pete Williams calling it "the most important gun control ruling in 70 years," the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News ignored the story entirely.
Pete Williams set up his report relaying the story of D.C. resident Tom Palmer, "who was once assaulted and wants a gun in the house for self-defense." A party to the lawsuit against D.C., Palmer argued that since "criminals don't obey the law," that "it's the law-abiding citizens who are disarmed by this law." The report then featured opposing viewpoints in the form of soundbites from Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty and gun control advocate Paul Helmke complaining that the ruling could "weaken gun laws nationwide." (Transcript follows)
Notably, according to a January 2000 study by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens on media coverage of gun issues, while all three major broadcast networks were found to be substantially biased in favor of gun control, NBC was relatively least biased compared to ABC and CBS.
Below is a complete transcript of the story that appeared on the Friday March 9 NBC Nightly News:
Brian Williams, in opening teaser: "The right to bear arms: Tonight, a major court decision on gun control that is sure to stir up passions on both sides of the gun fight."
Brian Williams: "Good evening. As long as there have been firearms and for as long as there's been a Constitution of the United States, there's been a debate in this country over the definition of the right to bear arms. Today in Washington, a federal court struck down the law that bans guns in the nation's capital. It is one of the strictest gun control laws in the country. And when this case is all over, that right to bear arms just might have a whole new definition. We begin here tonight with this history-making case involving an emotional topic. Pete Williams starts us off in our Washington bureau this Friday night. Pete, good evening."
Pete Williams: "Brian, good evening. This is the most important gun control ruling in 70 years because for the first time a federal appeals court has used the Second Amendment to strike a gun law down. Today's ruling is a victory for Tom Palmer, a Washington, D.C. resident who was once assaulted and wants a gun in the house for self-defense."
Tom Palmer: "The fact is that the criminals don't obey the law, and they do have guns. It's the law-abiding citizens who are disarmed by this law."
Pete Williams: "He was one of six who went to court to challenge the city's strict gun law, passed as an anti-crime measure 30 years ago. It outlaws handguns or rifles, except for residents with permits, mainly police or security guards. But today, by a 2-to-1 vote, a panel of the federal appeals court here said the law violates the constitutional right to bear arms. Washington's mayor says the ruling could put more guns in the hands of young people."
Mayor Adrian Fenty (D-Washington, DC): "I am personally deeply disappointed and quite frankly outraged by today's decision. Today's decision flies in the face of laws that have helped decrease gun violence in the District of Columbia."
Williams: "The ruling revives a long fight over the 27 words of the Second Amendment. Gun control advocates argue that the phrase 'well-regulated militia' means owning a gun is a group right subject to restriction. But the court today said the right to bear arms is an individual right for private activities, including self-defense."
Charlton Heston, holding up a rifle at a past NRA convention: "From my cold, dead hands!"
Pete Williams: "That's precisely the view the National Rifle Association has advocated for decades. Legal experts say today's ruling launches a huge battle."
Tom Goldstein, Legal Expert: "This is a monumental case that sets up the biggest fight over gun rights in the modern history of the United States."
Pete Williams: "New York and Chicago have similar strict gun laws, and a host of local and federal laws regulate gun ownership. Gun control groups fear if today's ruling stands, it could weaken gun laws nationwide."
Paul Helmke, Gun Control Advocate: "You're allowing any sort of a gun law, whether it's a waiting period, a background check, you leave it open to challenge."
Pete Williams: "The city says it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, Brian."