legislative debates

A comparative analysis of media and legislative rhetoric on gun control

by Samyuktha Mahadevan

This study tests several hypotheses about media and legislative rhetoric about gun control in 3 countries: the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, while also drawing on evidence from Australia. A topic modeling analysis demonstrates that all three countries had similarities in their discourses, though there were not always consistent alignments between frames used by the media and by the legislature. More importantly, I identify the frames unique to each country. The discourse surrounding guns in the United States is far more complex than it is in either Canada or the United Kingdom, indicating the many ways that both policymakers and the media attempt to address the issue. In particular, in the United States, cultural- or identity-based frames play a large role; rights-based arguments, hunting, legal precedent, and the NRA were salient frames. In Canada, this effect was almost non-existent, which is surprising considering the existing scholarship on Canada and its relationship with guns. Hunting appeared as a salient topic in the media of both countries, confirming one aspect of the culture argument. Although we often use cultural and identity based arguments to defend gun ownership, the results from this study could flip that argument on its head and argue that such values are distractions from the issue at hand, which countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have addressed without cultural constraints.

Text analysis methods used: web scraping, lexical analysis, topic modeling.