7/04/03 Updating the news coverage data on the Appalachian Law School Attack

I have been e-mailed a few questions about the discussion in my book The Bias Against Guns (pp. 24-27) regarding the press coverage of the Appalachian Law School attack. The attack was stopped by two students who had guns. The general question raised by the e-mailers 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. There were indeed many separate stories. The claims seem to be based upon a very superficial recent re-examination of news stories. I had an RA double check the earlier Nexis search. The earlier search was correct, though in the intervening year plus since the original search was done some new stories have been added to the Nexis database (indeed nine mainly non-unique new stories have been added to the database in the last week). (Nexis is the most comprehensive source for these stories.) There are thus now 218 unique stories after duplicate AP and other stories have been substracted. A total of 294 stories, counting duplicates and reprinted stories, were found. An excel file provides a general overview of the stories (the stories in yellow were duplicates) and the accompanying 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 stories actually mentioning that the students used their guns to stop the attacks out of the 218 separate news stories about the attack or 3 out of the 294 total news stories about the incident, 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. Four additional stories mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns but did not mention that the guns were actually used to stop the attack.

One concern has been raised 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. In other words, perhaps the press had no knowledge of this fact until later. Specifically, I have been told by one e-mailer that there were only a few stories after the 17th, and that a large portion of those later stories indeed did mention that the students used guns to stop the attack. Thus the claim is apparently that once the press learned that guns had been used in stopping the attack, they supposedly were only too willing to include this in their stories. To answer this, again we use the Nexis search, and it 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.

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."

To bring up another related issue that has not been raised by any of the e-mailers, Senate Democrats are delaying passage of legislation that would allow former police with at least 7 years experience or current police with at least five years experience to carry their guns with them when traveling across state lines. The threatened filibuster by Senator Ted Kennedy is preventing this legislation from even getting to the Senate floor for a vote. Kennedy claims that the legislation would "do great damage to the effort of state and local governments to protect their citizens from gun violence." He also argued the law would further "undermine the safety of law enforcement." One would think that cases such as the Appalachian Law School attack would have finally provided some impetus for passing less restrictive legislation.

For other post on this topic seeAppalachian law school attack.


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Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

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

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper