Mainstream Media Journalist Guide Firearm Identification
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By Dr. Michael S. Brown

Guns are a sad fact of life in American culture and are a major topic in modern journalism. As a Journalist, you have a duty to get involved and make a difference in this important societal debate. By following certain guidelines, the concerned Journalist can be assured of having the maximum impact on this shameful American problem. The concepts discussed here apply both to broadcast and print media.

For the purposes of this Guide, our work is divided between routine stories about gun violence and the broader coverage of the political debate about gun control. They are both equally important. Let us first address the proper way to construct a news story involving common gun crimes.

Covering common ‘gun violence’ stories

The purpose of routine gun crime coverage is to create the impression of a continuing, growing and terrifying tidal wave of gun violence. Your goal is to plant the fear of guns in the minds of ordinary people, fear for themselves and especially for their children. Let’s start with the basics.

The importance of terminology

The first and most critical principle to remember is that subtle use of terminology can covertly influence the reader or viewer. For example, when describing a gun crime, victims must be shot “by” a gun, not “with” a gun. This may seem like a small detail, but it helps establish the principle that guns are responsible for crime.

Mass shootings get most of our attention and we will discuss them shortly, but most shootings involve only one victim. This should not discourage a talented Journalist. There are ways to make even the smallest shooting incident serve the greater good by following these suggestions.

When telling the story, adjectives should always be chosen for maximum anti-gun effect.

When describing a gun, attach terms like “automatic,” “semi-automatic,” “large caliber,” “deadly,” “high powered,” or “powerful”. Small pistols can be called “cheap” or “concealable.” Almost any gun can be described by one or more of these terms. More than two guns should be called an “arsenal”.

Try to include the term “assault weapon” if at all possible. While it normally applies to rifles, the term can be combined with any of the terms above. Any weapon can be used to assault someone, so you cannot be criticized for this usage. “Assault weapon” is one of our most effective emotional terms, use it often. However, when these weapons are used by police, they should be called “tactical rifles” or “patrol rifles”.

A brief visit to the website of a national anti-gun organization can provide you with a list of the latest talking points and terms like these old classics: “Saturday Night Specials”, “cop-killer bullets” and the criminal’s “weapon of choice”.

Whenever police confiscate guns, they also confiscate ammunition. You must include the number of rounds seized, since the number will seem large to those who know little about guns. You may simply call them “bullets” if that is appropriate for your audience. If possible, find a way to imply that each round could have resulted in a dead child if the police had not intervened. For example, “also seized were 200 bullets, more than were fired at Columbine.”

These days it is important to include the size of a gun’s magazine. If you don’t know, just call it a “high-capacity clip.” The type of ammunition used is fair game too. Hollow point bullets sound especially sinister. The term, “armor piercing” comes in handy too, don’t be afraid to use it.

When discussing laws that allow certain people to carry concealed weapons, call them “hidden guns” as it sounds a bit more sinister.

“Vigilantism” is a word you will find very useful. Technically, a vigilante is someone who goes out looking for criminals to confront, but you should apply the term to anyone who uses a gun in self-defense. It is important that this kind of behavior is marginalized and discouraged, so that the people become more dependent on the police.

Always use the term “shooting” instead of attack, massacre, mass murder, atrocity or similar terms.

Technical details

Don’t worry about getting technical details right. You need not know anything about guns. Many a reporter has accidentally written about semi-automatic revolvers or committed other minor errors. Since most people get their gun knowledge from Hollywood, this is not a problem. Only the gun nuts will complain and they don’t count.

The emotional content of your article is much more important than the factual details, since people are more easily influenced through their emotions than through logic.

One detail that should be mentioned, but is too often overlooked, is the model of the gun used to kill someone. Get this information from the police and do an internet search for other crimes involving this model. This is how gun bans are born and you can be a part of it.

If you run across useful information about safe gun handling or how guns actually work, do not share it with the public. People fear and hate things they do not understand.

Subliminal tools

Broadcast news teams should have stock video on hand showing a machine gun firing on full automatic. Run this video while describing common semi-automatic guns used in a crime or confiscated by police. At the least, a large graphic of a handgun should be displayed behind the on-air personality when reading any crime story, even if guns are not involved. Guns should be the symbol of crime.

Do not waste words describing criminals who use guns to commit crimes. Instead of calling them burglar, rapist, murderer, or repeat offender, simply use the term “gunman”. This helps the public associate all forms of crime and violence with the possession of guns. (Note that this may soon change to “gunperson” as more women take part in mass shootings.)

Whenever drug dealers are arrested, guns are usually confiscated by the police – this is ripe for exploitation. Mention the type and number of guns more prominently than the type and quantity of drugs. Obviously, the drug dealers who had the guns should now be called “gunmen” rather than drug dealers.

Emphasize stories where people kill family members and/or themselves with guns. It is important to make the public feel like they could lose control and start killing at any moment if they have a gun in the house. This is a good place to include a factoid from a gun safety group, e.g.: “You are 47 times more likely to be killed if you keep a gun in your house.”

Any story where a child misuses a gun or is the victim of a gun automatically becomes front page material.

View every shooting as an event to be exploited. Always include emotional quotes from the victim’s family if possible. If they are not available, the perpetrator’s family will do nicely. The quote must blame the tragedy on the availability of guns, not bad decisions or upbringing. Photos or video of grieving family members are worth a thousand facts. Most people will accept the assertion that guns cause crime. It is much easier than believing that some people deliberately choose to harm others.

Your story should include terms like “tragic” or “preventable” and you must mention the current toll of gun violence in your city or state. Good reporters always know exactly how many gun deaths have occurred in their area since the first of the year. To make this number larger, you should include accidents and suicides in this total, even if your story is about intentional homicide. List two or three of the most shocking recent incidents to give the impression of a continuing and expanding crime wave.

Any article about gun violence should include quotes from anti-gun organizations or politicians who are promoting their latest idea for the next new gun law. One quote should say that we must do something “for the children”. If a proposed gun law seems likely to be ineffective, use the old line, “If it saves only one life, it’s worth it.”

As you know, cities with the strictest gun control laws have the highest crime rates. If you work in one of these enlightened municipalities, it is critical that you blame all gun crime on weapons illegally transported from states with weak gun laws. You may embellish this concept by stating that most crime guns are purchased at gun shows in those states and flow in an “iron river” to your city. Include the fact that criminals are able to buy all sorts of weapons, including machine guns, at gun shows without any background checks.

Themes to avoid

Never question the effectiveness of gun control laws or proposals. Guns are evil and only good for killing, so removing guns from society by whatever means necessary can only be good. Do not discuss the fact that gun laws are often not enforced and do not mention that it takes men with guns to enforce them.

Common sense tells us that nobody ever uses guns for legitimate self-defense, especially women or children. You may occasionally run across stories where ordinary people defend themselves with a gun. These must be minimized or suppressed. One subtle method is to say that the defender had some sort of government training, ie: retired cop or ex-military, which makes their actions more acceptable.

In some cases, armed homeowners actually shoot criminals, but don’t be tempted to deviate from the standard narrative. In these cases, the criminal is now the victim and you should have quotes or video of his relatives saying what a “good boy” he was. The homeowner should be demonized if possible.

Be careful about criticizing the police for responding slowly to 911 calls for help. It is best if the public feels the police can be relied upon to protect them at all times. If people are buying guns to protect their families, you are not doing your job.

Little space should be devoted to shootings where criminals kill each other. Although these deaths greatly inflate the annual gun violence numbers, they distract from the basic mission of urging law-abiding citizens to give up their guns. Do not dig too deeply into the reasons behind shootings. The fact that a gun was involved is the major point, unless someone under 18 is affected, in which case the child angle is now of equal importance.

One very disturbing current trend is the rise in mass shootings by Muslim terrorists. Not only does this make people buy more guns, it also casts doubt on the effectiveness of our common sense gun safety laws. You should take every opportunity to downplay these events and emphasize shootings carried out by white American men. While doing so, you must be very selective in reporting the political leanings of these men. Only right-wing, conservative beliefs should be mentioned.

Never mention the copycat effect caused by media coverage or the fact that we essentially guarantee mass killers that they will be the most talked about person in the country for a few days. Just don’t go there. Mental illness is another factor that should be downplayed. To paraphrase an old saying, “it’s the guns, stupid.”

An important factor in our favor

If you consider the size of the U.S. population, the number of gun deaths is not that impressive, especially when viewed alongside other causes of death such as cancer, heart disease, medical mistakes and others. But when a shooting story makes the national news, its effect is greatly magnified in the public consciousness. To the individual viewer or reader, it will seem like the event took place near them. The accretive effect of the national media also means that people can be bombarded with story after story about gun violence. This serves our goal of creating fear of guns. If a modest shooting happens in your city, do your best to get it onto the national wire services or cable news networks.


Dr. Michael S. Brown is a pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist who has been studying the gun debate for three decades and considers it a fascinating way to learn about human nature and politics.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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        • Why…so…SERIOUS?

          Sorry, couldn’t resist…

          Seriously…(heh) excellent piece and so totally true to the way the media works as a propaganda machine.

          Also seriously, could someone explain to me why it always takes two attempts to post a comment on this site (the first one invariably fails after an excruciatingly long time). Seriously yet again, switch to Disqus comment software – everyone else has.

          Also seriously, why is it that most – but not every – time I try to use “Save Page As” in Firefox to save a page from this site, it fails? Almost never happens on any other site. Really annoying.

          • Indeed. But….maybe it is better to let them become more dislodged from reality, more visceral in their lunatic ravings. We should spend more time manipulating them into more publicly demented and irrational ravings.

    • I couldn’t help thinking, though, that many anti’s would completely fail to notice the sarcasm. It’s a general problem these days. Parody has a hard time staying ahead of the cutting edge of leftism.

      • “I couldn’t help thinking, though, that many anti’s would completely fail to notice the sarcasm. ”

        That’s because Marxists, Leftists, Socialists, and Dimowits are like cats: they have no sense of humor, and resent being laughed at.

  1. The problem is that we dont have journalists anymore. They are all editorialiats. Journalists report facts. All we get now is news satuated with biased comments. Try and read or listen to 1 news story and note the adjectives.

      • Blamo has it correct. When reporters got all uppity and impressed with themselves they became “journalist”. And much BS phonies and “actors”.

        Any pansy “journalist” that uses the BS term ‘Gun Violence’ has a mulekick to the “groin” overdue.

        • “Journalists” were a joke with an axe to grind even back when Orwell aspired to speak for the downtrodden proletariat by slumming with the homeless in London & Paris for material to go in his communist propaganda articles while not mooching off his family.

  2. Well done. Great insight and guidance for supporting any and all efforts to remove guns from the public. Especially useful is the admonishment to ignore gun killings involving criminals offing each other; make gangland shootings “disappear” from news outlets.

    I don’t know how many parts this handbook for investigative journalism requires, but I cannot wait for the next installment. This handbook should get the same level of attention and adherence as “Rules for Radicals” (the time for incremental, gentle, mannerly discussion of the river of blood caused by guns is long past). Since there seems to be no copyright claims to the handbook, when I have a complete copy, I will print off a dozen copies and deliver to all the TV stations and print media in town (we are a little out of the way here, and behind the arc of history). Modernizing our journalism in this town will really put us on the map. There is one possible downside: the use of the techniques in the handbook might result in a significant drop in gun shootings, removing a ratings winner from the airways. It might be prudent to advise journalists here to take this slowly, and string out the message for as long as it keeps the public buying stuff the advertisers are trying to sell. If the message is too effective, it might bring on an economic downturn for local media. (Gotta think some more on that)

  3. The only shameful thing about the media’s handling of the gun issue is that they are not journalist they are pundit for gun control ONLY!

  4. I have a nice PDF version of my 2016 Edition Journalist’s Guide to Gun Violence Coverage if anyone wants to make it available on their website for download. You should be able to find me on Facebook under “DrMichaelSBrown”

  5. Dr. Brown. Nice satire by the context is everything. We are talking about huge amounts of money spent on journalists, be it direct gifts or dedicated PR people who provided technical, legal and expert talking points, at least $20 million in spin per year and that counts.

    The gun control lobby is spending literally millions on cash handouts to journalists, all of it as education grants, tax deductible to the funders . That is not tin foil. Kendeda Foundation (the seventh largest funder of the gun control lobby) is giving $5 million this year to “mid career” journalists — read working journalists not in school, as “education grants” to write about gun control. That $5 million is being channeled through NPR stations led by WAMU in DC. combine that with junkets, other journalism grants by other facets of the lobby, and you are up at $10 million per year in handouts to reporters.

    Beyond the direct bribe handouts, you have millions spent per year by the lobby on having ready professional staff to “help” the reporters.

    Money matters. This anti-Second Amendment lobby is outspending NRA by about 20:1. It is literally a DNC goldmine since ALL that spending on the media is tax deductible and virtually opaque and with DNC pressure on its moderate members, 100% partisan to the benefit of one party.

    • Makes one wonder how NRA can be the supercalifragilisticexpealidocious political monster the gun grabbers keep whining about.

    • CC, thanks for the info. I have heard the name Candida Foundation on NPR but thought it was all about promoting the civil rights of yeast. I just thought they were taking identity politics to the next level. Now that I know the correct spelling, I will start watching them.

  6. This is by far the most painstakingly thorough guide to this subject that I have ever seen. Only one omission, in relation to criminal-on-criminal violence, which the article says must be downplayed and hidden. Instead, it should not be ignored, but captured as an opportunity to inflate statistics of mass killings: every incident of “scumbag shoots scumbag(s)” should be lumped in what is reported as a “mass killing.” An excellent and instructive example of this was when/how Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Slate Magazine both listed Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon pressure-cooker bombers, as a “victim of gun violence” [in that case the police shot him, but it illustrates how no opportunity must be missed to inflate lists of victims and the apparent scope of those counted as victims]. Still, notwithstanding that omission, this article is a piece de resistance of how to maximize fact-free confusion and fear associated with guns. The author should be an immediate nominee for a Pulitzer prize, or a Putztwister prize, or something.

  7. IS it satire?!? As mentioned the leftard “media” rarely reports the unvarnished truth. Breaking! CBS evening snooze has a fit about 3D printed gunz. And gets it wrong. Complete with ex-ATF idiot…

  8. Silly me.
    I thought that “gun control” was all about hitting the target that your aiming at.

  9. “You must include the number of rounds seized, since the number will seem large to those who know little about guns.”

    The Congressionally chartered CMP recently announced that they are selling .22 LR ammo in case lots. Each case includes 10 bricks. CMP is being VERY strict; a customer may order a MAXIMUM of 2 cases in one year. They are doing the very best they can to limit ammo purchases to a common sense limit of 10,000 rounds per customer per year.

    I thank my Congressman and Senators for keeping their thumbs firmly on this “Government Sponsored Entity” for the security of a free state.

  10. That has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Except for the fact that I wanted to weep over the truth of it. I remember Dan Rather reporting a shooting on a New York City subway. (Several citizens subdued and disarmed the shooter as he changed magazines. Good for them!) As I recall the shooter used a Ruger 9mm P series pistol. Rather said the shooter used, and I paraphrase, “The weapon of choice of drug dealers and terrorists everywhere. The assault gun.” Really? Okay. Let’s expand. I’ve arrested people for assault with bottles, (in one case homicide), knives (again, more than one homicide), sticks, furniture, bricks (including cinder blocks), motor vehicles and pretty much any other inanimate object you can imagine. It’s people violence. Not gun violence. But, there I go again, clouding the issue with facts.

  11. I got to “..shameful American problem.. and thought ‘Oh H3ll No.’

    This can’t be right….I did not read past that point, wondering what kind of frikin deranged article this was.

    Read first comments…go back and read the whole thing.

    You had me going TTAG.

    • “You had me going TTAG.”

      Actually, it was the good doctor who had you going. Reading and thinking are not supposed to be optional skills for the inquiring mind. Congratulations on your admission that reading superficially can rob you of a great experience.

  12. Oh! I cry blasphemy! My H&K 91 and Galil ARM labeled as an AR-15. I became ill at my stomach.

  13. 2 guns and 100 bullets is the minimum needed for an “arsenal” in MSM parlance. Also, you never see news about the guns in that chart. It’s more like AR15=AR15, AR15 before 2012=AK47, AK47 and SKS after 2012=AR15, shotgun=AR15, and all handguns are Glocks, no matter what.

  14. Here’s the brutal reality about journalists:

    They’re mostly liberal arts or humanities majors with a J-school grad degree to prove just how gullible they are (getting a grad degree in a dying industry – might as well have a PhD in buggy whip production).

    They think that because they know what an Oxford comma is, they’re terribly intelligent.

    The truth is, they’re rather dim.

  15. Ah, Dr. Brown, your dear Uncle Screwtape would be proud of you! Well done.


    C. S. L.

  16. I am constantly amazed at how stupid journalists are willing to sound by not even doing the more bare research about a topic before opining on it at length. Well, maybe not constantly anymore. I didn’t appreciate just how intellectually lazy and often dishonest reporters were until I got involved in policing and guns, two areas that are almost devoid of any journalistic integrity or base knowledge. You’ll find exceptions, to be sure (more in the subject area of policing than guns) but it’s rare and they usually don’t get far.

  17. The doc’s excellent satire is good fodder — dare I say “ammo” — to practice with. Like this:

    “Guns are a sad fact of life in American culture and are a major topic in modern journalism.”

    The anti’s start from those assumptions all the time, without being as direct.That satire is funny because it says up front what they’re all the time trying to mean, and hoping you don’t notice. (Myself, I can’t hear any of a bunch of agenda-mongers talk without seeing Aykyroyd on Weekend Update. The whole joke was him blurting out the otherwise unspoken subtext.)

    One response to their BS is call out the assumptions they haven’t bothered to justify.

    “Sad fact? Guns are awesome, and its awesome that we have them, here. Sorry, I didn’t hear the rest; I was distracted.”

    Make them make an argument, assert a fact, or both. If you decline to accept their implication, they’ll *usually* slide into the argument they didn’t make the fist time…

    “But, US gun violence is higher than …”

    You can go any of 23 ways with that, that you can’t go with the initial statement.

    “Been dropping like a rock for a couple decades…”

    “Oh, you mean that UN thing from a few years back? Outside a few urban kill-zones we’re ahead of everybody on that list. Not that that matters. It’s very local to not where legal gun owners are…”

    “Does that number include the 2.5 million or so DGUs each year, because I think those are mostly a good thing…”

    • “Does that number include the 2.5 million or so DGUs each year, ”

      Tried that one out on anti-gun BIL. His response was CDC is wrong because, NRA, mass shootings, children, schools. On any other pronouncement from CDC, you can take the findings to the bank because, science, global warming, cigarettes.

      You can tweak an anti-gun nut, but first investigate the cellular mass upon which their hair (or hat) sits. Might not be anything inside, meaning conversation is futile.

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