WaPo Channels European Disgust at Tech Shooting: What Price Gun Rights?

The easiest place to find liberal disgust at American gun laws in Tuesday's Washington Post was in Kevin Sullivan's roundup of international reaction from London. The headline was "Shock, Sympathy, And Denunciation Of U.S. Gun Laws: British Newspaper Asks, 'What Price the Right to Bear Arms?'"

One British expert even claimed you could easily buy automatic weapons along with your yogurt and bologna at the supermarket:

"I think the reason it happens in America is there's access to weapons -- you can go into a supermarket and get powerful automatic weapons," Keith Ashcroft, a psychologist, told the Press Association. Ashcroft said he believed such access, along with a culture that makes gun ownership seem normal, increases the likelihood of such attacks in the United States.

Guns and butter? That might be true of a big chain store like a Target or Wal-Mart that has both, but "supermarket" isn't usually the term that comes to mind then. I can't buy an automatic weapon at the local Safeway. The psychologist's comment was preceded by this sentence: "In Britain, there was shock at the scale of the killings, but many people said they were not surprised, seeing the United States as a nation obsessed with guns, where firearms are easy to obtain." The article chronicled European disgust:

Early editions of Tuesday's London papers were dominated by huge headlines and photos of police hauling the wounded out of a building at Virginia Tech. "Executed at Uni," said the Daily Mirror, using British slang for university. The Daily Mail's headline, meanwhile, asked, "What price the right to bear arms?"

Gun ownership is strictly regulated in Britain. The Home Office, which is in charge of public safety, said gun crime accounts for less than half a percent of all crime recorded by police, according to the Press Association.

In a special report on BBC 24 Monday evening, a commentator, Gavin Hewitt, said mass murder on school campuses had become "part of the American landscape." The network showed video footage of Columbine High School in Colorado and the Amish shooting in Pennsylvania, and noted that the powerful U.S. gun lobby had blocked gun restrictions that Europeans regard as simple common sense. "Even after today's horrific tragedy, laws are unlikely to change," Hewitt said.

In France, news of the shootings dominated the Web pages of every major French newspaper. Bloggers responding to the reports overwhelmingly blamed the tragedy on what they called lax American rules on gun ownership.

"In France, it is incomprehensible for us to understand what could prompt someone to own a handgun," a blogger identified as Aliosha wrote on the Web site of the daily newspaper Liberation, adding that it is "the right (almost the duty) for each American to be able to obtain a weapon without much trouble."

I wonder if The Washington Post ever looks at a European social trend and interviews Americans to denounce how backwards the English or the French are for their laws. Or does the liberal press just aim to design a one-way street of denunciation to the American cavemen who have yet to adopt European laws wholesale?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis