Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)

May 16, 2004 Sunday FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 1004 words

HEADLINE: We don't need no stinking scientific method

BYLINE: Vin Suprynowicz

BODY: From Mesa, Ariz., Alan Korwin, author of 'The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide' and ' Gun Laws of America' ( sends in occasional updates on theperfidies of his local statist daily, the Mesa Tribune.

Seems a psychology professor at Arizona State University -- one William Fabricius -- and his 17-year-old son, John Denton, decided to count newspaper stories in the suburban daily that mentioned gun use over a period of three months back in the spring of 1998, when the lad was 12. The duo then wrote up a report, concluding from this 'evidence' that, 'Almost nobody uses their guns in self-defense.'

This 'finding' appeared on the front page of the Tribune on April 8 and has subsequently been published in the Canadian journal 'Injury Prevention.' (See

The problem with such methodology is obvious. What's the most common way a firearm is used in self-defense? A woman leaving a shopping mall at night might find a strange man trailing her to her car. Turning, she produces a handgun from her purse, holds it where it's visible, and announces, 'I have a gun. You're frightening me. Go away.'

We may never know what the fellow had in mind, since 99 times out of 100 he goes away. No shots are fired; no police are called; no story appears in the newspaper.

Even when shots are fired, most newspapers will cover only that tiny minority of incidents that can be 'spun' to justify more gun control.

In my own books, I've documented the way the national press ignored the 1999 case of 21-year-old Richard Gable Stevens of Santa Clara, Calif., who left notes indicating he intended to rent a handgun at a local shooting range, kill everyone there and then 'go out in a blaze of glory' as the nation's latest massmurderer.

Why have you never heard of Richard Gable Stevens? Because as he herded the three employees of the National Shooting Club out into the alley, one of them, who unbeknownst to Stevens had a .45-caliber pistol concealed under his shirt, shot him. No self-defense story there for professor Fabricius and his son to count, since America's press corps hardly ever covers stories where gun use prevents a killing spree.

I've also documented the case of 9-year-old Ashley Danielle and 7-year-old John William Carpenter, killed in 2000 by a home invader with a pitchfork in Merced, Calif., because a newly enacted state gun control law meant their older sister could no longer get at the family guns to defend them. That one also got no national coverage -- didn't serve to advance the victim disarmament agenda, did it? Interestingly enough, John Lott's latest fine book, 'The Bias Against Guns, ' documents the fact that newspapers and TV rarely cover defensive gun uses even when they learn about them -- the actual phenomenon professor Fabricius ended up measuring by counting his newspaper stories! John even found that when citizens with guns held killers at bay till police could arrive (as after the school shooting in Pearl, Miss.), America's newspapers inexplicably but almost invariably left out the fact that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens had been used to stop those killing sprees.

As Mr. Korwin points out, the 'study' to which the Tribune decided to give such prominent play has about as much validity as someone poring through three months' worth of newspapers and concluding the vast majority of African-Americans are either sports stars, entertainers or felons on trial ... since those are the times we're most likely to find pictures of blacks in the newspaper.

That would be palpable nonsense, of course. So why is it the Mesa Tribune (quite correctly) wouldn't prominently publicize a ludicrous 'finding' like that... yet happily runs this equally laughable nonsense from the ASU professor and his son?

Mr. Korwin says a Tribune staffer told him, 'I went back over (reporter Marija Potkonjak's) story just now and saw no 'editorializing.' Everything was clearly attributed to the people who were the subject of the article.'

Alan Korwin replied: 'The widespread media notion that if someone says something it's printable news and factual is complete abrogation of responsibility. The idea that a statement, inaccurate on its face, still deserves the supportive treatment this story got is the death knell of any credibility for the media. ... '

Alan is correct. Folks in my trade often fall back on the lazy excuse that, 'We didn't lie, we properly attributed the statement. If the speaker wasn't telling the truth, blame him.'

This is fine if some politician is telling a whopper. Then the newspaper's job is indeed to report exactly what the fellow said -- and then proceed to prove it's a lie.

But every community has a small cadre of harebrained loonies who would doubtless be overjoyed to write up a 'report' on their 'findings' if they thought they could get front-page play in the local newspaper.

So ... once again ... why did the Mesa Tribune cover this absurd 'study' by the professor and his teen-aged son?

Because it confirmed the existing anti-self-defense prejudices of the newspaper's statist publisher and editor, of course. (Full disclosure -- that newspaper canceled my own column, some years back, after I agreed in print with G. Gordon Liddy, asserting that it's justifiable inAmerica to kill strange armed men who break into your home late at night withoutpresenting any warrant.)

Be sure to tell me the next time the Tribune runs a 40-inch interview with New York state Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, headlined, 'Government schools a huge welfare jobs programs purposely designed to turn our children into muddle-brained slaves.'

After all, they wouldn't be endorsing those views, but they do have a duty topresent them, so long as they're fully attributed ... right?

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of the books 'Send in the Waco Killers' and 'The Ballad of Carl Drega.' His Web site is

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Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

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