Monday, November 1, 2010

7 Suggestions For Reporters Who Cover Stories Involving Firearms Involved Offenses

As a credentialed Firearms Trainer/Self-Defense Instructor, I have a vested interest in staying current on news stories involving firearms, lethal force, and self-defense. I follow these stories closely, as I supplement the official Michigan CPL/Self-Defense Class training that I provide to my students with actual case studies from the headlines of local newspaper stories.

With very few exceptions, I notice either erroneously reported nomenclature, badly stated technical information, information that could be reported in a way that would more helpful to informed readers, or information that should not be reported at all.

Suggestion 1: Don't Report The Names Of Crime Victims
Detroit is apparently a town where relatives of alleged violent predators have no qualms about making threats towards victims who shoot their assailants in apparent self-defense. As such, reporters should shield and not report the names of violent crime victims. In one recent case, security concerns from members of one dead alleged carjacker led to a wounded victim changing hospitals.

Suggestion 2: Always Report An Accurate Description Of A Wanted Suspect
In quite a few news stories involving violent attacks, a full description of the suspect-at-large is incomplete. It would seem that - at a minimum - the predator's race would be relevant yet it is absent in many reports. I would hate to believe that "political correctness" in our society has reached an absurd level such that reporting a critical metric, such as race, is taboo in a news story.

Suggestion 3: Stop Referring To A Concealed Weapons Permit
The state of Michigan only issues a Concealed Pistol License (CPL). As such, a holder of that license is only authorized to conceal carry a handgun. Other states, such as Kentucky, issue Concealed Weapons Permits which allows the licensee to carry a variety of weapons such as throwing stars, TASERs, batons, and brass knuckles.

Suggestion 4: Report The Caliber Size Of Firearms Used In The Story, If Known
Many readers of stories involving the use of firearms would want to know the caliber sizes of firearms used in the reported incident. There would indeed be value-added info conveyed if readers knew not only how many times a person was shot but also knew the caliber size of the firearm used in the shooting.

Suggestion 5: De-Emphasize "Possible Charges" In Self-Defense Cases
In cases where the evidence reported seems to suggest a valid self-defense incident, reporters should de-emphasize the term "possible charges." Using that phrase sends a chilling message throughout the community that victims using lethal force to defend themselves from predators will be prosecuted. While it is true that every shooting will be reviewed by the County Prosecutor for legality, there is no need to send an unintended signal to the law-abiding community-at-large.

Suggestion 6: When A Victim Has Been Cleared In A Shooting, Report The Status Of His Firearm
It would be value-added for reporters to state whether a handgun has been returned to its owner in cases where the shooter has been cleared of any wrong-doing. This bit of trivia would be helpful to many observers, as persistent rumors on the street refuse to die regarding the non-timely return of firearms to their owners.

Suggestion 7: Use The Correct Technical Terminology
News reporters are notorious for not using the correct technical nomenclature when referring to firearms. If necessary, they should be required to attend a basic firearms class to learn the difference between a magazine and a clip, the difference between a bullet and a cartridge, and learn how to correctly specify a handgun's caliber size.
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