Wait a Minute! Media Spin On VA Gun Session Misleading at Best

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam didn’t get what he wanted from a special legislative session, but lawmakers did take action, despite an impression created by the media. (Screen snip, YouTube, Washington Post)

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- Earlier this week when the Virginia General Assembly gathered in Richmond briefly to put an end to anti-gun Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam’s alleged grandstanding on gun control in reaction to the Virginia Beach mass shooting, lawmakers did act but it took the editor of a firearms publication to put it in perspective, while the mainstream press either talked around what happened, or distorted it.

One might conclude that the way this session was reported amounts to an exercise in “Media Bias 101,” which would not be entirely accurate, but not without some merit.
Writing Friday in an Op-Ed for Fox News, Frank Miniter, editor-in-chief of “America’s 1st Freedom,” a magazine owned by the National Rifle Association, explained what other news agencies didn’t.

“Republican lawmakers wisely referred all of the gun control bills submitted to the special session of the Legislature to the bipartisan state Crime Commission,” Miniter wrote. “This will enable the proposals to be studied, so lawmakers can actually craft legislation that would help save lives.”

Northam’s proposals amounted to a “Wish List” that had really no connection to the Virginia Beach slaughter. They were detailed earlier by Ammoland here.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported, “Republican leaders said the session was premature and politically motivated. They assigned the state’s bipartisan crime commission to study the Virginia Beach shooting and the governor’s proposed legislation.”

But instead of making that clear, other news agencies took different approaches.

“Less than 6 weeks after bloodbath at Virginia Beach, Virginia rejects tougher gun laws,” declared USA Today in a bold headline over this lead: “Virginia Republicans slammed the door on a wide range of gun control measures Tuesday, adjourning a one-day special legislative session called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam less than six weeks after a gunman’s rampage in Virginia Beach left 12 people dead.”

No, Virginia Republicans didn’t do that at all, it appears. They did what the Associated Press reported. They referred proposed legislation to a bipartisan commission to study the shooting, before taking any hasty action based on emotion rather than on the facts.

Anti-gunners like emotion-driven action as it typically happens without the benefit of all the facts, and just as typically—according to long-standing complaints from the Second Amendment community—the only people who are penalized are law-abiding citizens who had nothing to do with the crime that motivated all the hoopla in the first place.

That belief was underscored by the remarks of Kris Brown, president of the Brady gun control lobbying group. She said Virginia’s Republican majority was “nothing short of cowards.”

New York magazine’s Intelligencer headlined its coverage of the short Richmond session thusly: “Virginia Republicans Instantly Adjourn Special Session on Guns.” But they didn’t “instantly” adjourn at all. They deferred to the bipartisan commission, which was not mentioned in the report.

What was mentioned was that, “Governor Northam called the special session to put Republicans on the spot not long before the entire legislature faces voters in November.” On that, everyone seems to agree.

However, the analysis also said this: “But it’s doubtful anyone expected so contemptuous a rejection of public concern over gun violence. And aside from whatever rhetoric Northam and his Democrats deploy on the subject, Virginia Republicans themselves are ensuring that it’s understood a vote for them is a vote for the ‘arm everybody’ faction of Second Amendment absolutists.”

The Daily Progress headlined its story with, “General Assembly adjourns with no action on gun bills, election 4 months away,” which also sublimely suggested lawmakers did nothing. The story did acknowledge in the second paragraph that proposals were sent to the bipartisan commission, which meets this fall. That was “action.” It just wasn’t what the gun prohibition lobby wanted.

An editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch perhaps best summed it up: “The special session was a knee jerk reaction to a horrific event, the latest in an ongoing string of tragedies that have scarred the nation. Issued less than a week after the tragedy, it allowed no time for thorough investigation or thoughtful review. Virginians deserve a full debate on this issue. We understand the desire to do something quickly, but hasty actions taken in the passion of the moment seldom have successful outcomes.”

After a blitz of reporting as that surrounding Virginia’s special session, it is not surprising that so many in the firearms community have lost trust in the news media.

For his part, Miniter is an experienced journalist who zeroed on what lawmakers actually did. And the Associated Press did likewise. Other reports made it appear as though the Assembly’s GOP leadership simply slammed the door on the issue and went home.

In his Op-Ed, Miniter outlines some courses of action he thinks could be taken to reach rational conclusions on what can be done to reduce crimes involving firearms. Reflecting the Times-Dispatch editorial, he chastised Northam for “crassly using the deaths of victims to push the current national agenda of those who want to blame guns and law-abiding gun owners for the actions of criminals and the mentally ill.”

The fight over gun rights will not just be confined to Virginia, but it will be a campaign issue on which Democrats hope to score points. What happens in the Old Dominion between now and November should be considered a primer on how the national debate on guns will become part of the 2020 election year fabric. Second Amendment activists will be able to learn, if they pay attention.

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.