Sunday, October 23, 2005

Support for Brazilian gun ban weakening

Brazil is set to hold a referendum on whether or not to ban civilian sales of guns and ammunition. As with all other civilian disarmament schemes, the purported goal is to reduce violent crime. Reports I've read over the past couple of weeks indicated that the referendum was certain to pass.

But a funny thing happened when Brazilians were able to hear both sides of the debate:

Before the referendum, support for the ban was running as high as 80 percent. But in the weeks before the referendum, both sides were granted free time to present their cases on prime-time TV, and the pro-gun lobby began to grow.

In a survey released Wednesday by Toledo & Associates, 52 percent of those questioned said they would vote against the ban, while 34 percent would support it. The poll questioned 1,947 people in 11 Brazilian state capitals on Oct. 8-15, and had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

"Most of the media supported the ban, so before the television spots, nobody gave it much thought, but when the pro-gun lobby got equal time the opinion really shifted," said Jessica Galeria, who researches gun violence for the Viva Rio think tank. "They were smart, using images of Nelson Mandela, Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall to link owning a gun with freedom."

The media greatly influences public opinion. If the media presents only a certain point of view then it is easy to sway public opinion in a desired direction. But force the media to let the marketplace of ideas flourish, and the end result may be quite different.

A liberal-dominated media wont to present only its own editorial opinion as unbiased news has cursed the US for decades. Thankfully, the Internet has changed this for the better. Yes, the 'net is full of filth, but the low barriers to entry enable all viewpoints to be heard, even those that mainstream media dislikes.

This is a perfect example of why communications monopolies and censorship -- by the government or corporations -- are bad.

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