Every once in a while, someone comes along with a really bright idea for doing something positive or useful about reducing gun violence. Not that joining an advocacy group or sending an email to your local Congressman isn’t a positive idea, but it’s not very new. On the other hand, there’s a young man sitting, of all places in Oklahoma, who has done something positive and new to reduce gun violence, which is funny given the Oklahoma is probably the most gun-rich state of all.
I’m talking about Devin Hughes and a new website, GVPedia, which had a soft launch last month and now is good to go. The site is basically a reference library containing publications which inform about gun violence, and to his credit, the collection of more than 700 articles includes work on both sides of the gun debate – I suspect this is the only online venue which allows a visitor to access articles written by David Hemenway and John Lott. But if you want to create a credible knowledge source about any topic, then you need to include all points of view.
The website bibliography can be searched either by topic or the usual a to z. There is also a small but growing collection of ‘white papers’ designed to give members of the gun violence prevention (GVP) community some basic information and talking-points if/when they find themselves in a public or private discussion about guns. I understand that plans are afoot to make the site more dynamic, including sponsoring gun-violence research, developing infographics that could be used for online debates – all of these activities and others being directed by Jen Pauliukonis, whose GVP creds are far beyond reproach.
So that’s the good news, and I want to congratulate Devin, his Board members and his major financial supporter (who wishes to remain anonymous but it’s not Mayor Mike) for moving this whole effort forward and getting it online. But that was the easy part, now the heavy lifting begins.
First and foremost (and I’m sure Devin and his crew have been talking about this but it needs to be said publicly nonetheless) even though GVPedia is unique to the discussion about guns, this uniqueness in and of itself doesn’t mean that the site and its associated activities will necessarily get the exposure or public presence which it deserves and needs. As much as I believe that the 1st Amendment should apply to what appears on the web, I find sometimes myself thinking that maybe getting rid of net neutrality isn’t such a bad idea. Because if nothing else, eliminating open access might (but might not) tend to curb some of the excessive digital content which continues to grow every day. I put up my first website, believe it or not, in 1995. And it was easy to build an audience because where else were the early internet surfers going to go?
I have an idea for getting GVPedia noticed, however, by a very wide audience, an idea which may or may not align with the strategies of the website’s managers, but perhaps should be taken into account. I would run some notices on websites, blogs and Facebook pages not just favored by the GVP, but used by Gun-nut Nation to communicate amongst themselves. For example, I belong to a bunch of private Facebook groups which promote guns; one of them is devoted to building your own AR-15 and more than 75,000 people have joined. One of the Glock private groups on Facebook enlists more than 30,000 followers – such numbers aren’t unusual on many of the better-known gun blogs.
Donald Trump started a ‘university’ so that he could peddle some drek. By opening GVPedia to researchers from both sides of the gun debate, Devin and his crew have made it very clear that the ultimate value of this effort rests on a search for truth. So why not invite everyone to join the search?
And by the way, GVPedia is a 501(c)(3). Send them a few bucks.