Katie Couric led Wednesday's CBS Evening News by trumpeting a victory for gun control and featuring a one-on-one interview with a gun control advocate. “An historic alliance between Democrats and the NRA produces the first major new gun control bill in years,” Couric teased. “Tonight, they're closing the loophole that allowed the Virginia Tech killer to buy his guns.” After that plug for House passage of a bill that still must go through the Senate and be signed by the President, she teased another story, one seemingly more crucial but didn't get to until 14 minutes into her newscast, “A CBS News exclusive: For the first time, the Director of the FBI details the nuclear threat that America faces today” from al Qaeda. Couric led by touting how the closing of “the loophole that allowed Seung-Hui Cho to buy the guns he used in the April massacre despite his history of mental illness” is “the first major new gun control legislation in more than a decade and it has the backing of the NRA.”
After NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre got one sentence in the story from Sharyl Attkisson (“We'll work with anyone if you protect the rights of law-abiding people under the Second Amendment and you target people that shouldn't have guns”), Couric turned to Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
. She started by asking him to assess the effectiveness of the proposed new law before fretting that it doesn't go far enough: “What about gun shows though? Won't they still be permitted to buy them there?” She also let Helmke ruminate on what “motivated”the NRA to back the bill. Helmke used that as a chance to forward a talking point: “It's too easy in this country for dangerous people to get guns. We have very weak gun laws. We need to strengthen these things.”
ABC's World News led with the new attack on the al Askari Mosque in Samara (the second story o CBS) and NBC Nightly News began with their latest poll on an “angry America” with only 19 percent seeing the nation going in the right direction and approval for Bush at 29 percent and for Congress as 23 percent, followed by the mosque attack.
Neither ABC or NBC, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, mentioned the House passage of the bill to require states to provide the FBI with the names of those mentally ill who should not be allowed to buy a gun.
Couric opened the June 13 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.
Following Attkisson's report, Couric interviewed Helmke via satellite:
COURIC: Paul Helmke is President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He's in our Washington bureau tonight. Mr. Helmke, we just heard Sharyl Attkisson talk about the fact that there are 2.5 million mentally ill people who should be prevented from buying guns in this country. Will this new law do that?
HELMKE: This law will definitely help. Brady background checks do work. It stopped over 1.3 million people that are prohibited purchasers from buying guns in the past to have more complete records is gonna make all of us safer.
COURIC: What about gun shows though? Won't they still be permitted to buy them there?
HELMKE: There's still a lot more that needs to be done and I hope that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA will follow through on the statements they've made today and let's strengthen the background checks. Background checks work and if we can get them applicable to all sales of guns, then we can make all of our communities safer.
COURIC: A lot of people might be surprised that the NRA supported this legislation. We heard Wayne LaPierre explain why. But what motivated them in this case?
HELMKE: I think it's the situation where post-Virginia Tech they realized that the American people want to do something about the easy availability of guns to dangerous people. It's too easy in this country for dangerous people to get guns. We have very weak gun laws. We need to strengthen these things.
COURIC: Paul Helmke. Mr. Helmke, thank you very much.