Gutowski: We Need More Firearm Policy Beat Reporters

Time Magazine
October 25, 2018

Washington Free Beacon staff writer Stephen Gutowski told Time magazine more media outlets need to commit reporters to firearm policy beats to legitimize their coverage of firearm related events.

"If you're just dropping a general assignment reporter in from 10,000 feet [after a mass shooting or other event], they're going to make mistakes, which is going to lead to people questioning the media," Gutowski told Time for its Guns in America profile.

"I'm a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon and I mainly focus on firearms," Gutowski said. "I'm basically a firearm policy beat reporter there, which is actually quite rare in our media today, especially mainstream outlets."

"That's part of the problem you see with respect to how this issue is covered," he continued. "Certainly, there's political bias that's an issues, certainly there are some reporters that are biased one direction or another, especially, frankly, in the anti-gun direction."

"But most reporters want to do their best to cover an issue fairly," Gutowski continued, "and one of the main reasons we don't see that much is that we don't have reporters dedicated to this issue. That's something I'm trying to change, trying to legitimize this as a beat and as a focus."

Gutowski compared his beat to the more heavily staffed labor beat, noting that around 40 percent of homes contain a gun owner but less than 10 percent of homes include someone who is in a union.

"There's a lot of gun owners in this country, this issue affects everyone out there," he said.

Time's Nov. 5, 2018 edition features a photographic mural of "245 people–hunters and activists, teachers and police officers, parents and children." Time invited the participants in three U.S. cities, Dallas, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., to "share their views and describe their experiences in a search for common ground" on guns in America.

Other participants in the Guns in America profile include actress Alyssa Milano, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D., Ariz.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D. Conn.), Rep. Steve Scalise (R., La.), and many activists on both side of the issue.

"These are scary times," Giffords said in her interview. "We must stop gun violence, protect our children, our future, let them lead the way. Do you have the courage to fight? Stand with me. Vote, vote vote."

"I live everyday with the embarrassment that I didn't work on gun violence before Sandy Hook," Murphy told Time.

"My life did change that day ... Ever since, I've tried to peel back this mythology around the issue of gun violence and the politics of gun violence," Murphy said. "The gun lobby, the NRA, would like people in this country to believe this is controversial, that this is a third rail in American politics. What I've learned in the last six years is that couldn't be farther from the truth. Americans have basically made up their mind, they want common sense changes to gun laws, they want universal background checks, they want people to get a permit before they can own a dangerous weapon, they by and large don't want assault weapons–military grade weapons–on the streets."

"The Second Amendment is an important individual right," Toomey said. "It's a personal right ... As such, gun ownership really became a very deeply ingrained part of American culture, not uniformly in all parts of the country, but in an awful lot of the country. It remains an important part of our culture today. I am a gun owner ... It's a big part of the culture of Pennsylvania. I feel strongly that the Second Amendment should be observed."

Scalise, who was critically wounded by a gunman while practicing for a congressional baseball game in 2017, spoke of his experience and the importance of guns being in the hands of responsible gun owners.

"I've experienced both sides of this debate," Scalise told Time. "But ultimately, it was people with guns that were able to counter the shooter and save the rest of us."