Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Step Up the War against Guns

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Step Up the War against Guns

Article excerpt

Statistics are almost superfluous. They are convincing, horrifying and a desperately urgent issue everywhere, except on our front pages. So are the cynical excuses editors give about not doing more.

We are talking about guns, guns, guns, gunning down infants on the streets, teen-agers and teachers in classrooms, and adults at high noon and at midnight.

The United States has the highest street crime rate in the industrialized world -- and climbing.

Try these figures on your piano: In 1990, there were 2,419 homicides in Germany; 1,145 homicides in England and Wales; and 23,438 homicides in the United States.

In Texas, studies show that four of every 10 residents own more than two guns. There were 50 million guns in private hands in 1950, and the number has doubled every 20 years to at least 200 million today. Most are handguns.

People, especially those living in crowded neighborhoods, are becoming more and more isolated from each other. They are suffering a crisis in confidence, mostly because too many bullets from handguns are settling too many arguments.

In every poll, murderous street crime is the number one citizen concern. So what else is new? Nothing, except that the American press is still lagging behind. It just does not get it.

I can hear the editors, chant: "Why, we've been for gun control for years. We take crime very seriously, but too much crime stuff turns off our readers," etc., etc.

Baloney. The press has just nibbled at the edges of the gun story. Now, more than ever, a full-court offensive by the nation's newspapers would have an impact. The NRA is on the run. The politicians are waking up. Everyone knows that overpopulation, joblessness and big-time drugs have spawned the omnipresence of handguns, but guns are a problem that a determined press can grapple with.

It is time to square off against guns. We are talking a sustained newspaper crusade. That means more reporting, tougher investigative work and stronger editorial pages. It means editors must gird themselves against reader complaints, against charges of racism and worse.

Here are some approaches:

Concentrate on the manufacturing level. This is my favorite idea, because, for years, we have worked on the retailing level--on the sale of guns-and look where the effort has taken us -- not very far. …

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