The New Yorker Magazine Talks About Guns.

On July 1, 1972 The New Yorker Magazine published a book-length article, ‘Fire in the Lake,’ by a 32-year old journalist, Frances Fitzgerald, which set a standard for contemporary reportage, in this case, reportage on Viet Nam. Not only did this work achieve a degree of importance and influence in the annals of non-fiction writing, it also solidified The New Yorker as the prime media venue for content that could define the narrative on any subject for years to come.

I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s work when  I read The New Yorker piece about the NRA written by  Mike Spies, staff writer for The Trace (where you can also read this piece.) Because it occurs to me that in certain respects, the debate about gun violence bears some resemblance to the disagreements about Viet Nam; i.e., neither side in either argument was able to produce a narrative which was sufficiently cogent enough to convince the other side. In the case of Viet Nam, Fitzgerald’s writing ended that debate. So the question now is: could The Trace produce a narrative that would do the same for the gun violence debate?

It’s one thing to write a kiss-and-tell story about how the NRA is flimflamming money. Big deal. If anyone on the gun-control side thinks that such an article will make gun owners rethink their love of guns, think again. Going after the NRA is a simple and easy way to attract some readership from the gun-control gang, but it won’t do anything to change how gun owners and even non-gun owners think about guns.

When it comes to gun violence, we have a simple problem. It’s not that we have 300 million guns floating around, because at least two hundred million or more of those guns never figure in gun violence events at all. The reason we have gun violence is because Americans have free access to those small, high-powered handguns which are purchased by people who believe that having a Glock on your night table or in your pocket will keep you safe.

And despite incontrovertible evidence proving that guns are more of a risk than a benefit no matter how they are stored, a solid majority of Americans believe the reverse. And since less than 40% of Americans are legal gun owners, obviously there are many non-gun owners who also believe in what scholars like Alan Fiske and Tage Rai call ‘virtuous violence;’ namely, that using a gun to protect yourself is a good thing.

My friends who conduct public health research into gun violence can publish as many articles as they like showing that this reasonable law or that reasonable law may, if enacted, result in fewer gun injuries and gun deaths. But the truth is that the only way to really reduce or eliminate gun violence is to restrict ownership of certain types of extremely-lethal guns. But the more we try to regulate gun ownership, the more we will need buy-in from the folks who own the guns. And the only way that will happen is if someone explains why so many Americans believe that nothing will keep them as safe and secure as owning a gun.

I am still waiting for the first researcher to figure this one out. Because until and unless this issue is explored and understood, the community which wants to reduce gun violence is going to go nowhere fast. Yea, maybe red flag laws will bite off a bit of risk and injury here and there. But in case you didn’t know it, after Colorado passed a comprehensive background check law in 2015, gun violence in that state increased by fifty percent. 

So here’s my challenge to Mike Spies and his colleagues at The Trace. Why don’t you sit down and instead of covering yet another case of mismanagement at Fairfax, think about writing a definitive study on the realities of gun ownership which will do for the gun debate what Frances Fitzgerald did for the debate about Viet Nam. You obviously have the talent and The New Yorker has the space.


The New Yorker Magazine Figures Out Why People Like Guns.

Leave it to The New Yorker magazine, the most liberal of all liberal voices in the media marketplace, to figure out how to come up with a different view on the demonstrations and marches taking place on March 24th. Not that The New Yorker has published a single word about March 24th; but they can depend on the fact that their readership will overwhelmingly support that march to give some added credibility and exposure to a report from Dana Goodyear about how guns are viewed by kids who like being around guns.

skidmore1             The biggest flight from reality in this shabby piece of reportage is the opening statement which concocts a ‘parallel realm’ of young gunnies for whom guns signify “safety, discipline and trust.” And to drive this point home, Goodyear talks about how her photographer – Sharif Hamza – noticed that when he visited some 4-H clubs he noticed the difference in culture from what he observed in Brooklyn where kids play soccer or go off to ski, but never fool around with real guns.

What an amazing discovery!  My God, to think that you won’t find kids shooting guns in Brooklyn (at least not legally-owned guns) but you will find youngsters toting and shooting live guns at a rifle range in some hick town.  Of course, neither Hamza nor Goodyear has ever gone to a gun show in a Boston suburb like Wilmington, or in Kingston, which is less than 50 miles from New York, or in Lebanon, PA which is about 30 miles from Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall. Know who you’ll see wandering around at all these shows? Plenty of New York, Boston and Philly residents, who just don’t happen to live in a place where they can walk out the back door of their homes and shoot off a gun.

Should I be surprised that upper-class, Ivy Leaguers like Dana Goodyear don’t know the first friggin’ thing about guns?  Of course not. But what I am somewhat surprised about is the degree to which a so-called ‘responsible’ journalist writing for a so-called ‘responsible’ journal like The New Yorker would attempt to sensationalize, and in the process, distort something as mundane and inconsequential as the role of guns in small towns. Going into a  town like Lockwood, MO (population: maybe 1,000) and discovering a teenager like Cheyenne Dalton wandering around with her AR-15, is about as unusual as learning that 80% of the voters in Lockwood voted for Donald Trump. Does The New Yorker magazine have a single subscriber who lives in a community where four out of five voters went for Trump?

Lockwood is located roughly 240 miles away from Skidmore, where in 1981 the local bully, Ken McElroy, was shot to death by several town residents while the rest of the townsfolk stood there and watched. Shootings like this take place in inner-city neighborhoods all the time, maybe more than 20 times every single day. But when a shooting occurs in East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood not far from where Hamza lives, it’s never referred to as a ‘vigilante’ event, even though such assaults are usually witnessed by multiple neighborhood residents who then shut up and go about their normal ways.

The point I’m making is that the reason this piece by Lockwood was published is because The New Yorker editors know they will get some readership mileage by talking about the March 24th demonstrations by not talking about them at all. If they had run an interview with David Hogg or Emma Gonzalez, it would have been no different from how everyone else in the liberal, gun-control media world has covered the events of March 24th.

There’s nothing like the shock value created by taking advantage of the fact that your audience has no earthly connection to what you are talking about. Which means you can say whatever you want, even if you are no less ignorant than the folks who will be surprised by what you want them to believe.