By John R. Lott Jr.
I have been e-mailed a few questions about the discussion in my new book (pp. 24-27) regarding the press coverage of the Appalachian Law School attack that was stopped by two students who had guns. The general claim is that there are nowhere near 208 unique stories and that in order to get that number I must have counted each time an AP story appeared as a separate story.
This is simply incorrect. Given that the claims were apparently based upon a very superficial recent re-examination of news stories, I had a research assistant go back and redo the Nexis search to double check the earlier work. In the intervening year plus since the original search was done some new stories have been added to the Nexis files (indeed nine mainly non-unique new stories have been added in the last week). (Nexis is the most comprehensive source for these stories.) There are now 218 unique stories after duplicate AP and other stories have been removed. A total of 294 stories were found. An excel file [Link coming soon] provides a general overview of the stories (the stories in yellow were duplicates) and a MSWord file provides the specific stories. There is also an additional story that explicitly mentions using a gun defensively raising the total number from 2 to 3. The story that was previously not included in the earlier Nexis search was from the Asheville Citizen-Times. Two more stories have also been added to the file that mentioned that Bridges and Gross had guns, but these additional stories did not mention that they used the guns.
By any measure, whether the comparison is 3 out of 218 or 3 out of 294, virtually none of the stories actually mentioned that the students who used their guns to stop the attacks. Both the measures of unique versus total stories provide interesting information. The unique stories come from over 70 different writers or TV shows. Even including the additional stories where guns were mentioned but it was not mentioned that the guns were actually used to stop the attack raises the number of stories from 3 to 7.
I have also been asked about whether virtually all the stories that left out the fact that students used guns to stop the attack were published right after the attack. Specifically, I have been told that there were only a few stories after the 17th and that a large portion of those stories mentioned that the students used guns to stop the attack. The claim is apparently that once the press learned that guns had been used in stopping the attack they were only too willing to include this in their stories. The Nexis count indicates that there were 151 stories from the 18th to the 22nd, 106 of which were unique stories not republished elsewhere. Therefore about half the stories were run on the 16th (the day of the attack) and the 17th, and the other half were run from the 18th to the 22nd. The three stories actually mentioning that guns were used to stop the attack were run on the 18th (two stories) and the 19th (one story). None of the 60 stories that were run from the 20th to the 22nd mentioned this fact. However, many of these later stories (particularly on the 22nd) were different than the earlier ones in that they focused on the people who were released from the hospitals after the attack.
Finally, I was also asked about whether there is an inaccurate reference to the New York Times in my book The Bias Against Guns. I point out that the book notes (pp. 279): "The two Nexis hits that mentioned that the students retrieved guns from their cars but did not use them were from the New York Times and NBC's Today. One newspaper op-ed that I wrote on this topic incorrectly implied that the New York Times had completely ignored that the students who stopped the attack had a gun. The number 208 was also transposed so that it was listed incorrectly as 280."