April 24, 2002
On September 11, after two jets crashed into the Twin Towers in New York, the
major television networks were faced with a crucial decision. Should they show
the frightful scenes of victims jumping to their deaths from upwards of eighty
stories? NBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS chose not to. Whether or not you agree with the
networks, there is little doubt that their refusal to show all the news affected
our attitudes about the attacks. Had those scenes been shown, American resolve
to crush the terrorists might have dug even deeper.
The major networks affect opinion by what they don't show as much as by what
does appear on our television screens. Nothing illustrates this more clearly
than the unseen side of the gun issue.
For instance, when was the last time the networks interviewed someone who
used a gun in self-defense? Since these cases are almost never shown in the
national media, millions of viewers assume that they never happen. School
shootings, stories of employees going postal and gunning down co-workers, and
even gang-related shootings are regular fare on television news. But because
stories of armed self-defense are unseen, the implication is that guns are only
used for harmful or criminal purposes.
Here are a few examples of stories you never saw.
On March 14, in a case that seemed a natural for national news, a football
star was gunned down while trying to hold up a liquor store. Derrick Breedlove,
a talented tight end, had recently signed a scholarship to play for Hampton
University in Virginia. Scouts were already touting him for an NFL career. But
when he entered the liquor store wearing a ski-mask and brandishing a sawed-off
shotgun, Breedlove was shot and killed by a clerk.
On April 2, Virginia "Sue" Devoe was attacked in her Clintonville,
Ohio home. Her former boyfriend, James Ryan McVey, kicked in the front door,
dragged her through the house by her hair, and repeatedly kicked her. Then he
attempted to kidnap her. That's when Devoe's 91-year-old neighbor came to her
aid. Shirley Becraft drew his handgun and shot the intruder. McVey's death ended
years of violent assaults on Devoe. A local investigator praised Becraft,
saying, "It's hard to know where she would be now if he hadn't [shot
On March 18, in Orange City, Florida, Robert Shockey waited inside
Blockbuster Video for his son, who worked there, to close the store. The store
had been the scene of a violent armed robbery a month before. Shockey, who has a
permit to carry a concealed weapon, saw two ski-masked robbers burst through the
doors. One carried a hunting rifle and threatened an employee. Shockey pulled
his handgun and shot the gun-wielding assailant. When the second robber reached
for the rifle that his accomplice had dropped, Shockey shot him. Police not only
ruled the shooting self-defense, they stated that they planned to give Shockey a
"good citizenship award."
And so it goes. On March 5, Bethan Scutchfield, a 71-year-old invalid from
Colville, Washington fatally wounded a stranger who broke into her house and
knocked her to the floor. On March 6, an 83-year-old San Antonio woman shot a
teenager as he tried to break into her home. On March 3, in Pembroke Pines,
Florida, two robbers pointed semiautomatic weapons at businessman Corey Dacres
but the victim pulled his own gun and shot both of them. Dacres, who has a
permit to carry a concealed weapon, was not injured.
Cases of armed self-defense occur thousands of times
each year. What is the price we pay for the black-out of such stories by the
networks? Like a shadow war, viewers who aren't shown both sides of the issue
Robert A. Waters is the author of "The Best Defense: True Stories of
Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm." His second book,
"Guns Save Lives: True Stories of American Defending Themselves with
Firearms," will be published in May. http://www.robertwaters.net.
Mr. Waters' archive on our site can be found at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Waters.