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The Blacklist Misinformation on Guns

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Michael Hill

These days, television entertainment shows depict gun owners either as buffoons or criminals. They never portray regular civilians using guns to save lives, and instead like to show firearms falling into the wrong hands.


On Friday's episode of “The Blacklist," a robber fatally shoots a young woman working at a convenience store. A minute earlier, the woman had been admitted to the college of her dreams. 

The robber obtains his gun through what the show calls a “classic straw purchase.” The gun maker is warned of the straw purchase, where the gun was being purchased on behalf of someone else who was prohibited from buying a gun, but the president of the company demands that it proceed.

This episode, which had 4.83 million viewers, describes the criminal's handgun as “the gun of choice for violent young criminals” because it is the “cheapest 9mm on the market.” According to the show, the gun maker is trying to “flood high crime neighborhoods with cheap guns.” 

When the news media blames the gun maker for the young woman’s death, the company thinks that the solution to its PR problem is to wrap itself in the 2nd Amendment. The company puts out a press release announcing a $250,000 donation to the NRA. This is a highly unorthodox PR tactic, which doesn't appear to have ever occurred in real life. 

The show misses any sense of balance. Poor people are the most likely victims of violent crime and stand to benefit the most from the availability of inexpensive guns. Poor blacks, in particular, need to have the option to legally protect themselves and their families.  


In fact, drug gangs, the biggest perpetrators of urban crime, who regularly use guns as part of their job don’t want to buy the least expensive guns. 

In the episode, FBI agent Donald Ressler claims to be an NRA member and talks about the purpose of the 2nd Amendment to protect a “well-regulated militia.” But this was just one reason for the 2nd Amendment, and there are more timeless reasons for why the founding fathers believed in an armed citizenry. 

The president of the gun maker does make a reasonable argument when the FBI agents ask whether it makes sense to hold his company responsible for the crimes committed with its guns. He suggests that it makes no more sense to blame car companies for crimes committed with their cars. Of course, this fictitious gun maker is not such a sympathetic character, having encouraged straw purchases by criminals who then used guns to kill innocent victims. But that's not something gun makers do in real life.

"The Blacklist" has made these exact same arguments in previous episodes. In 2018, an episode begins with a group of people accusing an inexpensive gun maker of being a purveyor of death. They say that the cheap guns are only designed for use by criminals and that the man making the guns is just in business to make money off of killing people. There is even a dig about how the law protects the gun maker from being sued for purposefully killing people. The gun seller gave no persuasive moral defense, only responding that it is perfectly legal for him to make a profit in this way.


While "The Blacklist" stands out, there is a lot of stiff competition on misinforming viewers. Recent episodes on shows such as the ABC’s "Quantico and Agents of Shield," CBS’ "Ransom and MacGyver," and BBC’s "Doctor Who" have televisions characters tell viewers that they hate guns. It is almost as if they are trying to condition their audiences to do the same. They say gun owners endanger the lives of others, get in the way of police doing their job, and are racist hicks.

Their misinformation on guns is pervasive. Virtually all the criminals on television are using machine guns and outgunning police, never mind that there have only been two murders since the 1930s involving machine guns. Earlier this month, NBC’s “Chicago PD” indicates that semi-automatic handguns function like machine guns. At the end of March, CBS’s “FBI: Most Wanted” claimed that civilian-owned AR-15s are guns used by the military and that they are machine guns.

Entertainment shows are major vehicles for propaganda about gun control, and shape people’s views on the issue. Network executives know this. If the networks’ only consideration is really just entertainment value, there would be more scenes of citizens using their guns heroically. Viewers can be forgiven for not knowing that there are millions of defensive gun uses every year, but the executives should know better.


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