CNN Leans Towards Gun Control and Its Supporters

January 12th, 2011 7:10 PM

CNN indicated its sympathy for gun control on Tuesday with two segments on The Situation Room where sound bites from gun control supporters outnumbered gun rights supporters by a three-to-one margin. During the first report, correspondent Dana Bash stated that Senator Patrick Leahy "supports gun rights," even though the Democrat actually has the opposite record on the issue.

The previous evening, during the 9 pm Eastern hour of Monday's Anderson Cooper 360, the network's senior political analyst, David Gergen, indicated that he supported stricter gun control, in the wake of the attempted assassination on Representative Gabrielle Giffords, during a segment with Tea Party activist Dana Loesch.

GERGEN: ...How is it possible that someone who is this unhinged, when so many people understood that he was in mental deterioration, that he could still walk into a gun store and buy- you know, 9 mm semiautomatic Glock handgun, and also, then carry it concealed? I mean that's- if there's some cultural insanity here, it is the fact that we haven't put a stop to the capacity of these deranged young people to buy guns and then spray at people. It's just unbelievable.

Loesch retorted, "It's not the gun law. It's the fact that he was refused from the military. He made a death threat before, and he had problems and was removed from community college. None of this was reported....The fact that if his behavior had been reported, he would not have been able to purchase a firearm- end of story."

Twenty hours later, 39 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of Tuesday's Situation Room, Bash reported on the efforts in Congress to reinstate the ban on high-capacity magazines for guns. The CNN correspondent played three clips from three staunch advocates of gun control: Senator Frank Lautenberg, former Vice President Al Gore, and Paul Helmke of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The only gun rights supporter she featured was Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. Bash also made her reference to Senator Leahy's supposed position on the issue and played a sound bite from the Vermont Democrat:

Dana Bash, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgBASH (voice-over): Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire with a gun using a magazine holding up to 30 bullets before he was tackled while trying to reload. Some Democrats in Congress argue such high-capacity magazines should not be legal and are pushing for a ban.

SENATOR FRANK LAUTENBERG: That enabled him to do the kind of damage that he did. So there is no earthly reason for these weapons to have that kind of bullet capacity.

BASH: In 1994, President Clinton signed an assault weapons ban that did make high-capacity magazines, like the one Loughner allegedly used, illegal. But the ban lapsed in 2004 without much of a fight. Senior Democrats, who had been front and center on gun control, concluded it was bad politics.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: We believe it is time for some common-sense gun safety measures.

BASH: Democratic strategists believe Al Gore and other Democrats lost critical votes in rural America by pushing for stricter gun laws, and are still weary of the issue. Liberal Senator Patrick Leahy supports gun rights.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY: Gun control is probably not a winning issue.

BASH: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is a gun rights supporter, too. In fact, even before Republicans took control of the House, pro-gun forces had gained ground, passing measures like allowing firearms in national parks and in luggage on Amtrak. Still, in the wake of another tragedy, the 2007 shooting spree at Virginia Tech, Congress did act to strengthen reporting requirements for gun background checks. Gun control advocates want to seize the moment again.

PAUL HELMKE, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: It has directly involved a member of Congress. It involved a congressional staffer who's now dead. It involved a federal judge who's now dead- the 9-year-old who's dead. I think when it hits that close to home, hopefully, the folks on the Hill will wake up.

BASH: But opponents argue high-capacity magazines are already out there, and say banning them is pointless.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS: Bad guys are going to get guns. They're going to get clips. They're going to do bad things, if that's what their intention is. We should not divert our attention from what the real problem was here. We had an individual who has expressed violent intent, who clearly had some mental instability along the way.

According to Project Vote Smart, gun rights groups have consistently given Leahy poor ratings, while pro-gun control groups have given him mediocre ratings over the past decade. As for Senator Reid, a July 3, 2010 report by Manu Raju and Jonathan Allen of The Politico stated that the Nevada Democrat "has a mixed record on guns: His marks from the NRA have ranged from A+ to F over the years, according to Project Vote Smart, and the Gun Owners of America frequently gives him an “F” rating despite his 100 percent score from the group in 2006."

Just before the bottom of the 6 pm Eastern hour, Allan Chernoff's report, which focused on Representative Carolyn McCarthy's proposal to reinstate the ban on high-capacity magazines, bore the same three-to-one ratio between gun control supporters versus gun rights advocates, with all three clips coming from McCarthy, as opposed to only one from Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America:

CHERNOFF (voice-over): As the Tucson tragedy unfolded, New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy flashed back to a shooting on the Long Island Railroad, when a gunman killed her husband, Dennis, and wounded her son Kevin 17 years ago.

REPRESENTATIVE CAROLYN MCCARTHY: When you hear about it, it hits at home and you go back to where you don't want to go.

CHERNOFF: In spite of her pain, McCarthy has no plan to call for a limit on gun sales. Instead, she is proposing a ban on the sale to civilians of so-called extended magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, the type of gun magazine that Jared Loughner allegedly used in Tucson.

CHERNOFF (on-camera): In this particular tragedy, would this have made a difference, the proposal you have?

MCCARTHY: Oh, absolutely. Look at how many bullets he got off, and the majority of those bullets found a way to either kill someone or injure someone.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Only when Loughner had spent his ammunition and tried to reload were bystanders able to tackle him. But the Gun Owners of America argue, a limit on ammunition a limit on their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: People need large-capacity magazines if they have the misfortune of being in a situation where there is more than one attacker.

CHERNOFF: The National Rifle Association refused to address the issue directly, saying only, 'At this time, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate.'

McCarthy, aware of the gun lobby's power, expects a huge challenge in getting her limited legislation through Congress, even after the latest horrific tragedy.

CHERNOFF (on-camera): So, you are not confident that this proposal will actually become law?

MCCARTHY: I would say that I'm going to have a battle.