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California Gun Ruling Brings out Media Bias By: Tanya Metaksa
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 17, 2001


MANY CONSERVATIVES have complained that the liberal media fails to cover conservative successes. This past week, the coverage by the liberal media of a judicial setback to the gun control agenda was not ignored, but was turned on its head to promote the liberals’ agenda.

The gun prohibitionists and the liberal news media covered the recent California Supreme Court decision in Merrill vs. Navegar with much gnashing of teeth. The case was a result of Gian Luigi Ferri’s rampage in the offices of a San Francisco law firm where he murdered eight people and wounded six. Mr. Ferri, who had a grudge against lawyers, entered the building carrying three weapons: two semi-automatic TEC-9s manufactured by Intratec, which has since become Navegar, and one Colt M-1911 pistol. Although the TEC-9s were the object of the lawsuit, TEC-9s have a propensity to jam and malfunction. Thus most of the murders were actually committed with the pistol.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (BCPGV), formerly Handgun Control, ignoring the facts of the case, took advantage of a high profile tragedy and filed a class action lawsuit against Navegar. The judge who heard the case threw it out of court. BCPGV appealed to California's 1st District Court of Appeals, which agreed with the plaintiffs that they could pursue the theory of common law negligence. That decision was based on Navegar’s marketing the TEC-9 to ordinary citizens with such phrases as "deliver[ed] more gutsy performance and reliability than ANY other gun on the market" making it appealing to criminals.

Fortunately the liberal California Supreme Court read and understood California product liability statutes – especially section 1714.4 of the Civil Code, which was enacted almost twenty years ago and prohibited product liability lawsuits against firearms manufacturers. In a 5-1 decision, California joined the rest of the country in turning back frivolous lawsuits costing industry and taxpayers alike.

Yet, the media wrung its collective hands in anguish with help from BCPGV. Howard Mintz, writing in the San Jose Mercury, says, "the state Supreme Court found that the Legislature effectively immunized the gun industry against product liability and negligence lawsuits in a 1983 statute." The balance of his article is similar to the August 6 BCPGV press release. Similarly, Maura Dolan conveniently used parts of the BCPGV press release in her Los Angeles Times August 7 story.

Thus it was no surprise that almost all media coverage was blatantly biased against Navegar. Only the San Francisco Chronicle seemed to take the time to talk with Ernest Getto, Navegar’s attorney, who "said holding gun makers responsible for the criminal use of their products would leave manufacturers of cars, knives and other products vulnerable to similar suits." The news stories’ spin was to retell the story of the massacre and remind readers of the "horror" of a TEC-9 firearm.

Even CBS couldn’t resist putting a picture of the ugly gun on its website. The only thing they didn’t show was the person shooting the gun. Yet, many gun owners recognized those fingers as belonging to gun prohibitionist Senator Chuck Schumer! For those who want to see the original photo, showing Chuck Schumer having way too much fun shooting a TEC-9, it can be viewed at LewRockwell.com.

Yet BCPGV, like the Energizer bunny, continues to fight. BCPGV’s press release called "on the California legislature to act immediately to right this wrong and repeal the special interest statute invoked by the Court to deny justice to these victims of assault weapon violence." Those lines were the catalyst to an opinion column by USC Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky which began, "The California Legislature should act immediately to overturn the Monday state Supreme Court ruling that protects gun manufacturers from being held liable, even when they design and market their products as tools for mass killings."

Thus it was no surprise that the very next day, the American Bar Association (ABA) meeting in Chicago passed a resolution opposing legislation protecting the firearms industry from state and federal civil lawsuits. Of course, the ABA press release was followed by another BCPGV release commending the ABA for its "forthright condemnation of special interest statutes that grant the gun industry immunity from liability." One good turn deserves another.

Instead of ignoring the Navegar decision story, BCPGV and their media allies twisted it to promote their own agenda. Very little reporting, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, was balanced. Conservatives beware; liberals have become extremely adept at using news to serve their own purposes

 

but the war against freedom goes on.


Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of Safe, Not Sorry a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show, "Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the "McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.


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