At the National Journal, the long-time reporter and commentator Gwen Ifill of PBS Newshour turned in a post on Dec. 21 headlined "The Truth of Gun Politics: No One Has Good Answers."
The post, under the rubric "Gwen's Take," is supposed to be one of those comments from a seasoned professional that cuts through the verbiage and is willing to speak the naked truth.
"I think it's fair to say we've all been crying for a week," she begins. Then she tells us that her search for the truth about guns began with conversations with "normally smooth-talking lawmakers." She mentions only two. And one of them, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, says she does have an answer: she wants a ban on assault weapons. Sen. Mark Warner says when his daughters asked him what he was going to do about the Newtown shootings, "he realized he didn't have a good answer." Ifill persisted. "I sat down across from Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday morning, and I realized no one has good answers," she writes.
Ifill's conclusions rests on three interviews, none of them with an expert on public health, injury control, or gun violence. Her tears must have clouded her vision; it's time for her to dry them, take a clear look at the problem of guns, and stop telling us there are no answers. That conclusion leaves Americans powerless. And it plays directly into the hands of the gun lobby, as if her post had been scripted by Wayne LaPierre. If no one has answers, no one can take action against guns.
There are a variety of studies and proposals in links that Google turns up easily. One can find research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis is another good source. It might be the case, as Joe Palazzolo and Carl Bialik reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, that much more data is needed to resolve some gun-control issues, but that is not the same as saying there are no answers.
Ifill apparently can't find answers in the small Washington circles in which she travels. She would have served her readers by doing a bit more reporting before committing fingers to keyboard. In Washington, reporters too often seek answers by talking to politicians, when they should be talking to the professionals who have studied the issues.