Monday afternoon ABCNews.com was quick to put up a speculative posting, without any real knowledge of what the shooter used, headlined, “Lapse of Federal Law Allows Sale of Large Ammo Clips” (NewsBusters item
), and a bit later ABCNews.com posted an interactive poll with a very leading question: “Do you think this incident is a reason to pass stricter gun control legislation?” But in a World News
story, while Jake Tapper highlighted calls for stricter gun laws, he also gave equal time to calls “for greater access to guns” so people can protect themselves and he undermined ABC's idle ammo clip posting by pointing out how since “politicians don't necessarily know the details” of what really occurred, “they don't know whether any laws were broken or any loopholes need to be closed.” Tapper also discredited the assumption of the unscientific ABCNews.com poll, citing how a Gallup survey found the public is “more inclined to blame these incidents on the ways parents raise their children or on popular culture than on the availability of guns.”
After recalling how following the Columbine shooting, then-President Bill Clinton “called for the Republican-controlled Congress to close the loophole. It did not, which still angers Marjorie Lindholm, at the time a Sophomore at Columbine,” Tapper pointed out how “a massacre in Texas in 1991 prompted a complete opposite reaction -- for greater access to guns” since a patron at the restaurant had to leave her gun in her car “so as not to violate the law against carrying a gun in public.”
Neither the CBS Evening News
(at least in the first half of its one-hour broadcast, DC's CBS affiliate did not carry the second half), or the NBC Nightly News
devoted a story to gun control or other remedies.
A “The Blotter” blog, run by ABC's investigative unit led by Brian Ross, at 2:30pm EDT posted: “Lapse of Federal Law Allows Sale of Large Ammo Clips
.” An excerpt:
High capacity ammo clips became widely available for sale when Congress failed to renew a law that banned assault weapons....
Virginia law enforcement officials have not identified the weapon used in the shootings today at Virginia Tech, but gun experts say the number of shots fired indicate, at the very least, that the gunman had large quantities of ammunition.
"When you have a weapon that can shoot off 20, 30 rounds very quickly, you're going to have a lot more injuries," said Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The ABCNews.com home page, by late afternoon, asked: “As Seen on World News: Is Shooting Grounds for Gun Control?” Clicking on the link launched an interactive pop-up
There are at least 29 confirmed dead in the shooting at Virginia Tech University, making it the worst campus shooting in American history. Law enforcement officials believe the gunman was firing at least two 9mm semi-automatic pistols.
Do you think this incident is a reason to pass stricter gun control legislation?
- Yes. This shows the violence that can occur when someone has access to handguns.
- No. Violent shootings are isolated incidents and it's irresponsible to link them to gun control.
- I'm not sure. I need more information.
Tapper's story on the April 16 World News
“Gun violence on a campus, a reminder of that grim morning at Columbine High School eight years ago this week. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 others, before turning the guns on themselves that day. A public outcry followed. Violent video games and movies were blamed, as were goth culture, heavy metal music and bullying. Then-President Bill Clinton pushed for stricter gun control. Harris and Klebold bought their guns at a gun show, which are exempt from federal background check laws. So, Clinton called for the Republican-controlled Congress to close the loophole. It did not, which still angers Marjorie Lindholm, at the time a Sophomore at Columbine.”
Marjorie Lindholm, former Columbine student: “We're the ones who can change this and nothing's changed since Columbine. You know, and it does make me sick. It makes me physically ill.”
Tapper: “A massacre in Texas in 1991 prompted a complete opposite reaction -- for greater access to guns. At a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, a gunman came in and killed 23 people. Suzanna Hupp who survived the attack, had left her handgun in her car, so as not to violate the law against carrying a gun in public. Convinced her parents might still be alive if she'd had her gun with her, Hupp led the change the law to allow Texans to carry concealed weapons. Whatever remedies they seek, Americans regularly react with revulsion to shootings such as today's, but so far these types of crimes have not fundamentally altered public opinion on guns. Polls show Americans support stricter gun control, but they are more inclined to blame these incidents on the ways parents raise their children [45% in Gallup poll shown on screen] or on popular culture [26%] than on the availability of guns [21%], a sentiment then-Governor Bush expressed in a presidential debate in 2000.”
Bush, October 11, 2000: “There seems to be a lot of preoccupation, not necessarily in this debate, butn just in general on law. But there's a larger law, love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.”
Tapper: “Americans seem skeptical, Charlie, that the evil intentions or actions of one man can necessarily be prevented by laws.”
Charles Gibson: “Jake, it's going to be some time in coming, I suspect, as we get reaction from law enforcement people around the country and from legislators about this. But has there been immediate reaction today?”
Tapper: “Nothing, in terms of any calls for action. People, politicians, don't necessarily know the details yet. They don't know whether any laws were broken or any loopholes need to be closed. So right now, there's just been an outpouring of sympathy and support.”