NBC Hypes ‘Pediatricians Tak[ing] on Gun Lobby’

In another case of advocacy journalism by NBC, the network's NBCNews website published an article pushing for greater gun control, citing the work of a pediatrician trade group. NBCNews.com senior writer Maggie Fox began her story by approvingly gushing that "to pediatricians, gun control is a public health issue, not a political one."

The entire article is full of quotes portraying the American Academy of Pediatrics' "renewed push to try to get Congress to pass gun control measures" at odds with the NRA and other pro-gun groups.

Rather than writing an actual story weighing the pros and cons of future gun control legislation, Fox sympathized with the doctors lobbying for greater gun control, all but insisting that their concern is purely from their standpoint as medical professionals who care for children:

The NRA has sponsored legislation to stop pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home -- something that really puzzles doctors who routinely ask about other safety issues, such as using car seats and wearing helmets while riding bikes.

Nowhere in the article did the author nor the testimonials quoted explain why pediatricians should essentially treat gun ownership like some disease. Furthermore, nowhere in the article did Fox note that the Academy has a long history of pushing for liberal policies. For example, the Academy endorsed ObamaCare and defended the health care overhaul in three amicuss brief to the Supreme Court.

On tobacco, the Academy favors "banning all forms of tobacco advertisements from all media" -- a push that completely disregards the First Amendment rights of tobacco makers -- as well as hiking taxes on the product, a move which does little to prevent teen smoking but does much to encourage cigarette smuggling.

In addition, the article is peppered with statistics trying to persuade the reader to view guns as extremely violent and dangerous in and of themselves, including quoting Dr. Matthew Miller of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center who complained that, “Where there are more guns in the United States, there are more people dying.” Miller went so far as to mention that, “369 kids up to 14 of age who were murdered using guns in states with high rates of gun ownership; 97 were killed deliberately with guns in low-ownership states.” 

Nowhere in the article did Fox feel the need to mention that far more children die each year from accidental circumstances such as drownings or accidental drug overdoses than from guns. Wouldn't consistency mandate that the Academy push for federal laws requiring a fence with a locked gate around backyard swimming pools or a federal law requiring parents to have a lock and key for their medicine cabinet?  Of course it would, and a skeptical journalist would note such a discrepancy, but that would cut against NBC News's political agenda to pour water on the Academy.

Fox also pushed misleading data that states with high gun ownership not only had more gun related deaths but more murders in general. She ignored new federal data that shows that gun related deaths have significantly declined over the last decade.

The author’s only semblance of challenging pro-gun control talking points is to say that gun-rights advocates challenge the data, such as Miller’s false findings that, "people are 2.7 times more likely to be murdered if they have firearms in their home," data that have been refuted by groups beyond pro-gun supporters. 

The article ended by lamenting the NRA’s efforts to pass legislation in different states that, "forbade doctors to ask about guns in the home" which Miller says shows that, "the chilling effect persists."

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.