Why Don't They Understand?

How is it that so many in the public have opinions about guns, safety, and violence, which are actually the exact opposite of the facts? It's one of our big frustrations. As you commit to the "20 in 2020" campaign (contributing 20 minutes a day to Second Amendment activism), remember that much of the public gets its information from the general media, which means they are lied to daily. Here's what I'm talking about.

I wrote this for Guns and Ammo magazine in 2003. It is as instructive today as it was then. The only difference is that the general media seems to be even more inclined to slant the news and even lie about it. This is what we are up against, and it's why you must be part of the solution by getting informed, getting engaged, and sending out information through every outlet you can find.

August 2003
When tens of thousands of NRA members gathered in Orlando last spring for the annual meetings, it created opportunities for meetings that might not normally occur. Of course, there was the predictable “protest” by the million moms, who were about 999,980 short. 

With thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children, all well-behaved, streaming into the convention center, the media flocked to the dozen or so protestors. I had a rare chance to watch the coverage change over the course of a couple of hours one morning. Watching the local 6:00 am television news, the anchorperson reported that there were a dozen demonstrators marching in support of more gun control laws, and a couple of hundred marchers, including the Second Amendment Sisters, who were there in support of gun rights. Those numbers sounded right, judging from what I had seen the day before.

At the 6:30 am broadcast – the same station – the story had changed. Now the protesters were about a hundred, marching in support of and against gun control laws. Note how the ratio has changed.

Only 30 minutes later, however, someone had changed the script yet again. Now, it was “several hundred marched in support of stricter gun control laws.” This was the same person reading the news, but someone behind the scenes was changing the script. It’s unlikely anyone else made note of the specific changes, but it is certain that anyone hearing that last report would “know” that there was a huge turnout of anti-gun protestors. Also, viewers of the latest broadcast would get no idea that there were marchers in support of gun rights, much less the fact that the pro-gun marchers outnumbered the antis by five-to-one.

Spinning The Media
After I went off the air, (I did the Gun Talk Radio show from the floor of the NRA annual meetings) I was packing up the equipment when a photographer wandered into the room. He and I were both wearing badges identifying us as “Media.” He struck up a conversation that went in a direction he never imagined. The badge I was wearing did not identify me as being with Guns & Ammo or Hunting Magazine.

Since my background is in photography we started talking about cameras and equipment. He was shooting for one of chessthe local newspapers, so I asked him how the people attending the show there had treated him.

He paused, then said that they had treated him very warmly, and that everyone was willing to talk with him, or to have their pictures taken. It was, he said, the most pleasant group of people he had ever photographed.

“I thought they would think that the media is biased against them,” he said.

“Oh, they know that the media is biased against them,” I replied. “That doesn’t prevent them from showing their good manners. They know they aren’t going to get a fair shake from your paper, but they still are willing to talk to you because they know they are right.”

He looked stunned.  

“Look,” I said. “Your paper is going to paint these people as rednecks, yet you just said they were the most pleasant people you had worked with. These folks aren’t dangerous, but I guarantee that the coverage will have that bias.”

He countered that there is, in fact, a big “gun problem,” so talking about that in print is legitimate.

Then you should talk about people who misuse guns, I said, but don’t smear these good, decent, honest people with that brush. That’s bigotry, pure and simple. 

He looked like I had hit him in face with a fish. Media folks think they are the only ones who can define bigotry, and that it could never apply to them.

“You wouldn’t use name calling and nasty cartoons with any other group, but you feel like it’s a free shot to do that to gun owners, even though there are 80 million of us,” I pressed on. “Do it to blacks, Jews, Hispanics, women, or other groups, and you recognize it for what it is – bigotry.”

 At this point, he is getting the idea that I’m not with another local media outlet.        

“You’re with the media?” he questioned. “Who are you with?”

“I write for Guns & Ammo and Hunting magazines.”

“Oh. Well, no wonder you feel that way,” he said, as he literally shrugged off my argument, thinking he could just dismiss me. 

“What an arrogant and insulting thing to say,” I fired back. “Because I write for magazines in this field, you dismiss my viewpoint. Have you considered that, perhaps, I’ve spent more than 30 years writing about this, have done the research, and can support my position? How do you support your bigotry in the face of clear evidence that you are wrong? Your own experience here shows that these are good, responsible, safety-minded people, yet you easily slip back into the ‘those people’ mindset.”

At this point, he was on the ropes, but I wasn’t letting him off. I hammered him with the John Lott book, “The Bias Against Guns,” pummeled him with Lott’s and Kleck’s university-level research showing that we are safer when honest people have guns, and then I asked how often his newspaper carried stories of firearms used in personal protection. He bobbed and weaved.

He tried tossing out “assault weapons,” but I countered that the firearms covered in the Clinton gun ban are not machine guns, are used for hunting and competition, and that the FBI says more people are killed by fists and feet than by these so-called “assault weapons.” At all times, I kept my voice low and was pleasant, but I also was firm, and never let him get away with any of the standard gun-control myths.

Finally, he tossed in the towel, admitting that he really didn’t know much about the subject. Sure, he was probably just trying to rid himself of the maniacal gun writer, but he did wrap up by saying this was the most interesting conversation he had had in two days of covering the NRA meetings. I wrote down several web sites for him to visit, if he wanted more information.

He had walked into the whirling propeller of a radio talk show host coming off the high of three hours of solid pro-gun talk, and he never knew what hit him.

Each of us, in our own situations, can do the same. A quiet, determined answer to every single smear of gun owners is what is called for. A lie left unchallenged becomes the truth.

Step Up To The Plate
That was almost 20 years ago. We have much better means of using social media these days. We can stay informed through the web. We know when a state legislature is taking up bad bills and we can organize and act.

The only question is whether we will do it. And as I've said many times, there really is no "we." There is you and there is me. We act individually. So, what will you do this year to help take control of the House from gun-banning Democrats, keep control of the Senate (where federal judges are confirmed), and keep President Trump in the White House so he can continue to put Second-Amendment friendly judges on the bench? Twenty minutes a day. You. Me. All of us. Do that, and we win. ~ Tom

Tom Gresham
Author, outdoorsman, gun rights activist, and firearms enthusiast for more than five decades, Tom Gresham hosts Tom Gresham's Gun Talk, the first nationally-syndicated radio show about guns and the shooting sports, and is also the producer and co-host of the Guns & Gear, GunVenture and First Person Defender television series.


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