Nate Silver points to shifting gun discourse

Opponents of stricter regulation on gun ownership have accused their adversaries of politicizing a tragedy.

Poll analyst Nate Silver looks at the statistical aspects of gun discourse much with the same care and scrutiny he gave the recent presidential race. On his FiveThirtyEight site he states:

“Advocates of more sweeping gun control measures have argued that the Connecticut shootings are a
demonstration that laxer gun laws can have dire consequences. Let me sidestep the debate to pose a different question: How often are Americans talking about public policy toward guns? And what language are they using to frame their arguments?

“There is, of course, no way to monitor the conversations that take place in living rooms around the country. But we can measure the frequency with which phrases related to gun policy are used by the news media.

“If the news coverage is any guide, there has been a change of tone in recent years in the public conversation about guns. The two-word phrase “gun control” is being used considerably less often than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But the phrase “gun rights” is being used more often. And the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is being invoked more frequently in the discussion.

I’ve tracked the number of news articles that used the terms “gun control,” “gun rights,” “gun violence” and “Second Amendment” in American newspapers, according to the database NewsLibrary.com. (Because the number of articles in the database changes over time, the figures are normalized to reflect the overall volume of database coverage in any given year, with the numbers representing how often the gun-related phrases were used per 1,000 articles on any subject.)

“The usage of all four phrases, but particularly the term “gun control,” has been subject to sharp but temporary shifts based on news events.In 1993 and 1994, when Congress was debating a ban on assault weapons, the phrase “gun control” was used about three times per 1,000 news articles. Use of the term was even higher after the mass shootings in Columbine, Colo., peaking at 3.7 instances per 1,000 articles in 1999. It reached a low point in 2010, when the term “

 

Continued at: “gun control” was used 0.3 times per 1,000 articles — less than one-tenth as often as in the year after the Columbine shootings.

Averaging the frequency of usage over a five-year period reduces the effect of these news-driven fluctuations and reveals a reasonably clear long-term trend. In recent years, the term “gun control” has been used only about half as often as it was in the 1980s and about one-quarter as often as in the 1990s and early 2000s.

4 Replies to “Nate Silver points to shifting gun discourse”

  1. “There is video explaining how CNN did it, featuring an advanced super computer processing job control language (JCL). This is truly a work of genius.”I hate to break it to CNN fan… but… JCL is hardly a modern facility. It had its place, once upon a time. In the days of punch cards.

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