Hidden implications in the coverage of the Senate background check bill | The Knife Media

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(The Knife Media) Implication • noun   im·pli·ca·tion  \ ˌim-plə-ˈkā-shən \ • A conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it’s not explicitly stated.


We often accept as true many conclusions made through implication. In fact, a lot of them are widely accepted in society, so we may not even think to question them. Let’s take a look at some potentially faulty implications in the coverage of the gun control bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday.


Implication #1: Improving reporting to the background check system would have prevented mass shootings, such as theTexas church shooting. (All articles)


The New York Times says the new bill is “inspired by a tragic lapse that allowed the gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to purchase his weapons.” The Guardian discusses previous gun legislation in the context of “a mass shooting that could have been prevented.”


These statements suggest that the gunman would not have obtained weapons and killed people if the background checks were working properly. Unfortunately, more regulations alone don’t always work to curb deliberate acts of violence. Questioning this implication could help us understand the complexities and causes of an issue like violence.


Implication #2: This bill is a positive step for gun control. (CBS News, NPR, The New York Times)


The New York Times implies this view by saying that the measure is “a milestone, albeit a narrow one, in the divisive national debate over gun control.” NPR does it by citing a senator’s tweet about the bill before its release that says, “Big news: super close to a bipartisan breakthrough on gun legislation. Stay tuned…”


Referring to the bill, which has yet to pass either chamber of Congress, as a “breakthrough” or even a small “milestone” suggests it will achieve its objectives. This has yet to be proven.


Implication #3: This bill doesn’t actually do anything to address the real issue, and the U.S. needs better gun control. (The Guardian)


The Guardian focuses more on what the bill fails to do than what it does do.


Its headline reads, “Senate’s new background-check gun bill simply enforces current law.” This could downplay any changes the bill would make if it passes.


The second paragraph then says the bill “would not require a background check on every single gun sale, despite new polling data showing that 95% of Americans – a record high – support these universal background checks.”


At this point, we don’t know how the bill could affect gun violence. It’s possible it could lead to improved reporting and deter some gun purchases by criminals, but we don’t have enough information yet.


Ideally, news outlets would present the most objective information available, rather than implying conclusions without giving data-based evidence. This would help readers explore many perspectives, question implications, and critically evaluate complex issues like gun control.  


Written by Sean Sweeney, Leah Mottishaw and Julia Berry López


Edited by Julia Berry López, Jens Erik Gould and Rosa Laura Junco


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