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Media Outlets Take President Up on Gun Violence Challenge

Count CNN and NBC among those media outlets who took the President up on his call to compare terrorist violence and U.S. gun violence.

A President Obama, frustrated at yet another mass shooting, took to the airwaves Thursday night to comment on the Umpqua Community College attack in Roseburg, Oregon.

He suggested the media has a role in getting the message across that this has to stop and to counter the press releases that will call for more guns and fewer gun safety laws. In an effort to avoid the "politicizing the issue" criticism—though he argued guns threatened the body politic—asked media outlets to publish gun violence stats.

"I would ask news tally up the number of Americans who have been killed by terrorist attacks in the last decade and the number of Americans who have been killed by gun violence and post those side by side on your news reports. This won't be information coming from me, it will be coming from you."

On its website Friday, CNN did just that.

"Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2004 to 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on U.S. soil," CNN reported. "(2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide."

By contrast, it said, "[a]ccording to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2004 to 2013 was 277. In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S.* and found that between 2004 and 2013, there were 36 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism. This brings the total to 313."

NBC took on the challenge on its website as well. It looked at 2001 to 2013 and took a slightly different tack. While it also used Centers for Disease Control stats, it used only homicides and did not include "legal interventionism" (police) or suicides, which would have boosted the number to 394,912.

NBC found that while 153,144 people were killed in firearm homicides over that period, only 3,046 people in the U.S. died in terrorist or possible terrorist attacks (9/11 obviously representing the majority of those). 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.