CBS Pushes Gun Control as ‘a Public Health Issue’ Like Seat Belts, Airbags, Anti-Smoking Campaigns

On Thursday, the CBS Evening News seized on the deadly shooting of two local news reporters in Roanoke, Virginia to promote the idea that gun control should be treated like “a public health issue” akin to seat belts, airbags, and anti-smoking campaigns. 

In a tease early on in the program, fill-in anchor Maurice DuBois explained that “[s]ome public health officials say gun violence, just like car accidents and smoking-related illnesses can be prevented or at least reduced.” He then promised that “[w]e’ll have both sides of that issue later.”

When it came time to air the two-minute-and-12-second report, however, the time devoted to gun rights advocates paled in comparison to that of the argument in favor of rebranding gun control measures with one minute and 42 seconds going to that side versus only 22 seconds for the gun rights side (with seven seconds highlighting CDC statistics on suicides involving guns).

Prior to correspondent and Sunday anchor Jeff Glor’s report, DuBois claimed that “gun violence” is “on rise” with “some public health officials say[ing] it’s time to change our approach to the problem.”

As National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke astutely pointed out on Wednesday, that claim simply doesn’t hold up. In fact, violent gun crimes have tumbled since the mid-1990s with both gun homicides and non-fatal incidents down over the past two decades.

Nonetheless, CBS plowed ahead with Glor remarking how:

It is not the first time we've seen a horrific shooting. It is not the first time it's been recorded, but for many, this is a first: Thinking about gun violence, the same way we think about car accidents or smoking, as a public health issue. 

Glor then introduced American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin, who argued that: “Seat belts, airbags, and all those things we didn't have before have dramatically reduced the number of automobile crashes and the human toll from that. We can do the same thing with firearms.” 

Citing shootingtracker.com, Glor repored that “once a day in this country, four or more people have been shot in a mass shooting so far this year” plus the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claim that “more than 90 people are killed by a firearm everyday.”

Following another Benjamin soundbite, Glor summarized policy proposals individuals like Benjamin are seeking: “Benjamin says a public health campaign that focuses on securing guns in the home, increased firearm safety training, and more screening of the mentally ill focuses less on gun control politics and more on prevention.”

It was only after a fourth Benjamin soundbite that Glor turned to Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott Jr., who rejected the premise that “gun violence should be treated as a public health issue.” 

When Glor asked “[h]ow does more guns mean less crimes,” Lott responded: “Every country in world or place in the world that's banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates. It's not just Washington, D.C. and Chicago.”

With time running out in the piece, Glor went back to Benjamin for a response to Lott’s line of thinking: “The Second Amendment is real, let's respect it, but let's figure out how to save lives together.”

On the Thursday morning newscasts, the CBS Evening News’ counterpart CBS This Morning and ABC’s Good Morning America advanced the gun control narrative in their coverage of the horrifying WDBJ tragedy.

The relevant portions of the transcript from the CBS Evening News on August 27 can be found below.

CBS Evening News
August 27, 2015
6:35 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Later: Guns in America]

MAURICE DUBOIS: Some public health officials say gun violence, just like car accidents and smoking-related illnesses can be prevented or at least reduced. We'll have both sides of that issue later on in the broadcast. 

(....)

6:46 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Guns in America]

DUBOIS: The United States has about 4 percent of the world's population, but nearly half the civilian-owned guns. With gun violence on rise, some public health officials say it's time to change our approach to the problem. Here's Jeff Glor. 

JEFF GLOR: It is not the first time we've seen a horrific shooting. It is not the first time it's been recorded, but for many, this is a first: Thinking about gun violence, the same way we think about car accidents or smoking, as a public health issue. 

AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION’s GEORGES BENJAMIN: The real tragedy here is that a lot of it is preventible. 

GLOR: Georges Benjamin is the executive director of the American Public Health Association. 

BENJAMIN: Seat belts, airbags, and all those things we didn't have before have dramatically reduced the number of automobile crashes and the human toll from that. We can do the same thing with firearms. 

GLOR: The website shootingtracker.com estimates once a day in this country, four or more people have been shot in a mass shooting so far this year. According to the CDC, more than 90 people are killed by a firearm every day. [TO BENJAMIN] 90 people every day, is that getting worse? 

BENJAMIN: It's getting worse. Look at what's happening in our big cities. A lot of it’s gang related, but it's not always gang related. 

GLOR: Benjamin says a public health campaign that focuses on securing guns in the home, increased firearm safety training, and more screening of the mentally ill focuses less on gun control politics and more on prevention. 

BENJAMIN: You can do it a nonthreatening manner and the nonthreatening aspect is what we really need to move this issue forward. 

GLOR: The notion that gun violence should be treated as a public heath issue, do you buy that? 

CRIME PREVENTION RESEARCH CENTER PRESIDENT JOHN LOTT: No. Not really.

GLOR: John Lott is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of the book More Guns, Less Crime. [TO LOTT] How does more guns mean less crimes? 

LOTT: Every country in world or place in the world that's banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates. It's not just Washington, D.C. and Chicago. 

GLOR [TO BENJAMIN]: To those who say this is another attempt to restrict gun ownership and seize firearms how do you respond? 

BENJAMIN: The Second Amendment is real, let's respect it, but let's figure out how to save lives together.

NB Daily Guns Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS Evening News National Review Video Maurice DuBois John Lott John Lott Jr. Jeff Glor Charles C. W. Cooke
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