The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Britain riots, Fox's O'Reilly asks: where are the guns?

August 16, 2011 |  6:58 pm

BillOreilly Fox News personality and sometime media critic Bill O’Reilly thought he detected yet another case of liberal media bias last week, this time coming from England. The subject was guns.

As my "On the Media" column suggests, the recent riots in Britain have raised a lively discussion about whether social networks and cellphone communications should be limited.

O’Reilly suggested on his Fox News program that the social unrest should spark another debate. But he said “the BBC and the other liberal British press” had been remiss, failing to report how  British cops and shop owners weren't armed well enough to rein in the chaos.

If you “don’t have a gun, you’re in real trouble,” facing rioters, O’Reilly said.

"The difference between America and Great Britain is that here in America many of us are armed because of the Second Amendment," O'Reilly began. "In Great Britain they don't like guns . . . .the cops don't even carry guns."

No doubt a loaded firearm would have caused some hooligans to think twice before, as the Brits say, pinching (shoplifting) a pair of trainers (sneakers), or attempting much worse.

Of course, arming the populace can have other consequences, as O'Reilly should recall, since he was in Los Angeles at the time of the 1992 riots.

Fifty-four people died in L.A., about two-thirds of them from gunshot wounds. (Eleven of the dead were shot by police or the National Guard.) In the riots that swept several British cities this summer, a total of five died. One of them was by a gunshot. (Three others died after being intentionally run over by a car. One  man was beaten to death.)

A Los Angeles Times account a few months after the riots showed the mixed impact of private gun ownership. Widely distributed pictures showed Korean American shop owners defending their stores. But not all the gunfire went toward the right targets. The story described a group of Korean American youths who went to help the shop owners, only to be mistakenly shot themselves. Edward Song Lee, 18, died of his wounds.

Fox News Correspondent Amy Kellogg told O’Reilly last week that, despite the London riots, the debate about arming the police, or allowing more guns in the hands of private citizens, “has not come up.” O’Reilly is not ready to drop the subject, it seems. He ended the discussion predicting that, in the event of continued trouble, “the gun debate will ramp up.”

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Fox News' top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly has helped drive the entire cable network's ratings higher. Last week, he wondered why the media had so little to say about the lack of guns in rioting Britain. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times