Dunblane Massacre Resource Page

No Guns, No Press

As reported in "The Liberator Online" Vol. 4, No. 7

The August 10 attack by Buford Furrow against children at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles received enormous media attention. The case also set off further demands for gun control and hate-crime laws. Farrow's crime was atrocious and certainly merited coverage. But was the fact that guns were involved a major reason for the massive media coverage? If Furrow had used a car, instead of a gun, to commit his assault, would his crime have received as much attention? "We don't have to suppose," reports Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby "Less than four months ago, just such an enormity took place. The media scarcely blinked. "On May 3, Steven Abrams drove past the Southcoast Early Childhood Learning Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., where 40 small children were frolicking noisily in the playground. Deciding, as he later told police, 'to execute those children,' he pulled a U-turn, headed back toward the playground, and floored the accelerator. The car - a 1967 Cadillac sedan - tore through the chain-link fence, sent the jungle-gym flying, and plowed into the crowd of children. It stopped only when it ran into a tree."

Abrams was unhurt, but he killed two children and injured four children and a teacher. In contrast, Furrow wounded five children, killing none.

"Two dead, five injured - Abrams's violence was far more grisly than Furrow's, and led to a grimmer body count," Jacoby writes. "The sheer horror of the crime, if nothing else, should have attracted frenzied media attention. But it didn't involve guns, and it wasn't fueled by racial or ethnic bigotry, so it attracted almost none.

"On May 5, many papers around the country ran an Associated Press story on the Costa Mesa massacre. Perhaps half a dozen ran a follow-up, also from the AP, on May 9. And that was it. No drumbeat of daily coverage, no flood of editorials and opinion columns, no army of reporters flying out to see for themselves. The story was fully reported in California. It was virtually ignored everywhere else.

"Does a homicidal attack on toddlers only make it to the front page when the killer uses a gun? Is attempted mass murder only newsworthy when the victims belong to an official minority group? Perhaps the nation's editors and producers have a sound journalistic reason for paying so much attention to Buford Furrow when they had paid so little to Steven Abrams. But none comes to mind."

(Source: Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, 08/23/99)

Posted: 1 Sep 2001