I honestly don’t even know how to process the terrible story that’s run in the Montana Standard and Independent Record, analyzing the impact of President Obama’s speech today about the need for more stringent background checks for gun purchases in the United States. With feverish rhetoric and wholly unsupported claims, it suggests that the state took off work en masse to buy semiautomatic weapons once Obama made his remarks.
Let’s start with the opening two sentences:
Sweeping executive action on gun control has Montanans rushing to add to their gun cabinets, even as their elected leaders take aim at President Obama. Obama on Tuesday unveiled a spate of new measures meant to tighten law enforcement’s grip on firearm sales.
Without any support in the article, other than overheated partisan claims that contained no substance, the opening suggests that Obama took “sweeping action” and that his speech signaled an effort to “tighten law enforcement’s grip” on legitimate gun buyers. While that language might be appropriate in an NRA press release, nothing about what President Obama today remotely qualifies as a sweeping set of changes and certainly doesn’t represent a dramatic increase in the power of law enforcement. As I noted earlier today, even the NRA initially responded by suggesting nothing substantial changed after the Obama proposal, and The Atlantic argued persuasively tonight that responses to the proposals were overhyped. Either way, though, characterizing Obama’s moves as sweeping should have been presented as a viewpoint of someone in the story, not as a fact. The language simply doesn’t match reality.
Despite Representative Zinke having a record of supporting gun control measures, he was quoted as condemning President Obama’s tyranny, without any context or analysis. And the story doesn’t even provide a quote from Senator Tester, who told the Great Falls Tribune:
“I’m looking closely at this to make sure that it doesn’t infringe on our Second Amendment rights or erode our western values while also protecting us from folks who would do us harm,” Tester said. Tester noted in his email that he supports closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns at gun shows without a background check and voted for the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey bill on background checks in 2013.
Worse, I think, is the claim that Montanans are “rushing to add to their gun cabinets” as a result of the Obama speech. The evidence? That there were three more gun sales than normal for a Tuesday at one gun shop in Helena—and the two people quoted in support of that thesis either didn’t know about the speech at all, or decided to purchase a gun without having watched it. I’m not an expert in statistical analysis, but a rush to buy guns that is not.
There’s a reason gullible gun enthusiasts are convinced that President Obama wants to seize their guns, despite all evidence to the contrary: the right wing media and gun lobby keep scaring them. It certainly doesn’t help when the mainstream media, which already hypes crime, spreads that message without evidence and without any context.