Monday, November 16, 2015

Fox 5 Gets it Wrong on Background Checks

A Fox 5 (Las Vegas) segment irritated many local gun owners, who felt that the piece was deceptive and improperly edited. It focused on the 2016 universal background check initiative which would ban all private gun sales by forcing those sales to go through a federally licensed dealer. The initiative is believed to be the first step in establishing a national gun registration database. Christine Maddela, weeknight evening co-anchor and Denver native, reported. 

Maddela’s report did balance both sides of the argument. Oddly enough, the message that I thought came across the loudest was “criminals will get guns anyway,” even though the perspective of the piece seemed to be pro-initiative. Despite manipulative edits, the cries against more gun control and the futility of the initiative were loud from a lot of the interviewees. Nonetheless, the broader points of the argument were left out and over-simplified to just two blunted viewpoints.

The piece generated an immediate online backlash against Maddela and Fox 5, causing the next evening’s ‘Rant’ to explode over the topic. Rocky Mountain Gun Shows and local gun dealer Fallout Firearms were also blasted because of statements in the report that were allegedly taken out of context. Online, gun owners took to Facebook and Yelp to post damning reviews against both. Both businesses have since explained their positions and blamed Fox 5 for taking their statements out of context. 

Kourosh Haroni, on Facebook, clarified that he was referring to dealer background checks (required by state and federal law) and not private sales. He and Rocky Mountain Gun Shows do not support the initiative or mandatory background checks on private gun sales.

Fallout Firearms and its employee, Alex Acree, quoted in the piece, immediately disavowed the report and declared their opposition to banning private gun sales. Owner Mike Crowder posted the following on his blog: 
“While setting up at the Rocky Mountain Gun show at Southpoint, Fox five was interviewing the promoter for Rocky Mountain Gun Show and she was hammering on him about the ‘Gun Show Loophole’. He remarked that all transactions done at his gun show between dealers was done legally. Then he brought them over to talk to us since we are his out of state transfer dealer for dealers that come in from out of state. 
“I was unable to respond because I was sick and my throat was so sore that it would have been a disaster, so I asked my salesman Alex Acree to respond to them. 
“She asked him if he saw any transfers between people without background checks at the gun show, and he said no because we are required by federal law to do background checks so we do them. She then told him that other dealers in the show do not support background checks, and that they don't work and does he support that, and he said no, background checks absolutely do work, they catch felons and domestic violence all the time. 
She then asked if he supported having background checks between individuals and he said no, he did not support background checks, and he has been involved in many private party sales himself. [emphasis added] She then asked him if he was worried about selling a gun to a felon and he replied that if there is concern about selling a gun to a felon, you can download a form on the internet to help with private party sales that makes the person check that they are not a felon or have any domestic violence charges in their background.
“Of course the footage was edited down to make it seem like Alex replied in context that he supports background checks between private parties, and that Karoush Haroni of Rocky Mountain Gun Shows also supports that, but that is not true, and not how the interview went.
“[…] They showed all of a minute of Alex talking but he spent over 30 minutes with the news crew answering all kinds of questions. They picked out the one minute of footage of him speaking and put it into the context that we support private party background checks […]
“I cannot stress enough that my business DOES NOT SUPPORT background checks between individuals for several reasons. 
“#1. I do not feel that the government should be allowed to tell you that you cannot sell your private property without the government getting involved. If we allow the government to get involved in the sale of private property, what's next? Are they going to regulate me selling my car to someone who had a DUI in the past? […]
“#5 The state makes a lot of money off of background checks. Many people think we profit off of that, but we do not. The state charges us $25 for each background check that we pay monthly. We collect the $25 from the customer, and then pay the state at the end of each month. Last year alone my business paid the NV Department of Public Safety close to $60,000.00 in background check money. Other states are not required to go through the department of public safety and they deal directly with the FBI and there is no fee for a background check in most states, and there is no two hour wait before a DPS employee answers a phone. It is almost immediate with response. […] 
“We as a business are so anti-individual background check that any time someone walks in to do a transfer between private parties, we ALWAYS try to talk them out of using us to do it. We explain that it is completely legal for them to do the background check without using us. We ONLY will do a private party transfer in the store if the two people insist that the firearm go through a FFLs A&D books. If we supported individual background checks we would try to get people in the store so we could charge them a transfer fee and make a little money, but we personally do not believe in that and go out of our way to discourage it since it is not illegal to transfer between private parties.
 “I'm not sure what else I can state to help people understand that we are definitely for private individual liberty and against private party background checks. […] 
“We were sort of thrust into this interview because we are the official out of state transfer dealer for the Rocky Mountain Gun Show. The context that was being used at the time was that there were dealers doing sales without background checks at the Rocky Mountain Gun Show, and we were trying to step in and explain that that simply is not true. ALL transfers between a dealer at the gun show are required to have a background check and no funny business was happening at the Rocky Mountain Gun Show. 
"I can assure everyone reading this that we will never do another news interview with ANYONE again. We were trying to assure the news reporter that nothing illegal was happening at the gun show with DEALER transfers, and there really wasn’t a need for more legislation because everything was happening according to federal law." 
Alex was described as a "gun control advocate", despite making no such comment in his clip. Alex clarified his comments on Facebook, stating that he was referring to the required dealer 'Brady checks' on retail sales (which comprise the vast majority of gun sales).Alex said: 
"She apparently forgot the part during the interview after this where she asked if I supported background checks for individuals and I said "No, I don't. I have personally been involved in several private sales...To set the record straight I am a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and a Veteran." 
Maddela issued this apology: 
"Last night we interviewed Alex Acree regarding background checks for gun sales within a story about the proposed background check initiative. We want to clarify that his opinions are not necessarily those of his employer Fallout Firearms. We apologize for any confusion.” 
Pro-gun control bias?

Gun control advocate Tim Titolo said in his interview that the background check initiative will make it harder for criminals to obtain firearms by banning private sales. Only slightly harder, actually. Very few criminals actually get guns by sales that would be regulated by the initiative. All the available, pre-existing, criminal outlets would still exist. Maddela and the advocates failed to mention that no mechanism will exist to actually enforce the law or determine if a gun was bought or sold privately without a background check.

Strangely, while a lot of the dealers and personalities, including the self-proclaimed Duke of Fremont street, were against the initiative, the piece definitely slanted toward pro-initiative.

Kristen Kidman, acknowledged as a Fox 5 employee and credited as ‘gun owner’ in the piece, was interviewed, apparently to add credence to the idea that gun owners support private sale background checks. In reality, most do not. It is incredibly misleading, biased, and hardly objective reporting to interview an employee of the same news station, who conveniently has the same opinion that the segment is trying to argue.   

The report did correctly point out that the group leading the universal background check initiative, ‘Nevadans’ for Background Checks, is backed and funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Initiative supporters are very keen to promote themselves as ‘grassroots’ when they are anything but.

Gun owners are wary of media reporting on issues of gun rights. The mainstream media is well-known for having a liberal bias and often distorts coverage of gun related issued. Local gun owners reacted with skepticism in response to Maddela’s teaser Tweets about her piece.

Noted gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg sponsored his own gun-reporting service, The Trace. The Trace is fairly transparent as an anti-gun media outlet dedicated to subtly and not-so-subtly offering pro-gun control propaganda. It claims to present a “moderate” take on the issue of gun violence, yet its articles highlight almost exclusively the problems that guns cause and none of their solutions. While it isn’t the same preaching to the choir as the obnoxious group Moms Demand Action does, it is not the independent journalistic source it claims to be.

Because of the amount of money flowing in to Nevada from Bloomberg an other anti-gun sources, just as in Washington and Oregon, who recently had their own bans on private gun sales enacted, gun owners are wary. Common tactics are getting local news to cover the issue of background checks, ostensibly from the side of supporting them. Reporters were encouraged to apply to a Bloomberg-backed media workshop on 'gun violence'; obviously this was an indoctrination camp on how Bloomberg and his ilk wants gun control covered. 'Did Ms. Maddela attend?' one wonders.

Local TV News Not a Paragon of Public Debate

Local TV news is a horrible medium for reporting nuanced issues. It's a half-hour of coverage, repeated several times, designed to get the most viewership to sell ad-time. Also, because of the ‘sound bite’ culture that pervades the entertainment industry, much information is left out. Is seven seconds really enough to communicate someone’s opinion? Years of experience, education, and thought goes into the formulation of an opinion. Condensing the product of decades into a few seconds is disingenuous as the context necessary to develop and informed opinion is absent from the news material. 
“Not by accident, 7 seconds is the length of the average sound bite in news media. On TV or radio, 7 seconds is how long your spokesperson usually gets to make a point. [...] In online and print media, 7 seconds translates into 23 words or less—a headline and a subhead, or a headline and two bullets. Most of us receive hundreds of emails a day.” (source
A full, fair, and accurate investigation into a topic cannot be made in a six and a half minute video filled with cuts measured in mere seconds. The Boston Globe decried this kind of reporting in its investigation of sound bites: 
“There are plenty of reasons to distrust sound bites and the kind of journalism that produces them. First and most obviously, we miss out on the variety and authenticity of hearing people speak at length, and in their own words.” 
Complex reasoning cannot be hashed out in a 23 word clip, especially when the only part of the conversation used is one that promotes the story’s agenda. Presenting all angles of the story, just the flashy and noisy ones that will tune out screaming children, turn heads from ironing boards, and lift eyes from dinner plates, is not something that is within the interest of local TV news. Their job is to attract viewers in order to sell commercial air time; journalism has always been secondary.

Don’t believe me? Just think about those teaser commercials through Prime Time getting you to hang-on until the ‘Death Storm 2015’ weather report or the story “Will this common grocery store product kill you? Find out a 10,” comes on.

AG Gancarski of explains the problem with local TV reporting: 
“[…] news outfits are owned by powerful holding companies with real agendas and no real interest in anything local, beyond what's best for business. They share reporters and reportage, editorial perspectives, sponsors and sets, and everything that makes a newscast a newscast. [...] 
“[former Action News reporter Cathi Carson (Florida) said] ‘The problem with local news is they are hyper-focused on the competition instead of the content," she says. "The average viewer is not watching all three news outlets at the same time. They don't care if one station had the story two minutes before the other. Somewhere along the way, the race to beat the other stations became the guiding force in local news.” 
Worst of all is that many people simply do not have the time or the inclination to seek alternative sources of news, such as this blog. By years of literal indoctrination, they accept local TV news and the cable outlets as their only sources of information. This report and future ones like it may be the only information they base a vote on their Second Amendment freedom on.

Thankfully, Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet have been able to change this, but the detailed reporting found in newspapers and magazines have either disappeared or are ignored. Low-information voters, those informed by what they catch briefly on TV or hear from others, are the ones who will make choices, often detrimental, based on reports like this one.

I am charging Fox 5 with dereliction of duty. If they do not have an anti-gun agenda and did not want to portray gun shows and gun dealers as supporting the initiative, why did they select the few relevant sentences from many minutes of interview time they did? Facts from the interviewees don't square with what Fox 5 showed. Such reporting that we saw here does not engender gun owners to trust local media.


Sadly, our culture does not have time for the in-depth, primarily written media of the past. On this blog, some of my articles are wildly popular, others not so much, yet those who do take the time to read get their answers they need. has been steadily demolishing long-standing rumors and myths in the Nevada gun community. Despite a short attention span for society as a whole, those who want to know the truth and the full story will seek it out.

As editor, I am an unabashedly biased journalist-activist. To our friends in local TV news, we want better reporting. Don’t try to indoctrinate people, don’t talk down to us, and don’t try and fool us. Provide accurate and objective reporting or don’t try it at all.

-G. C.

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