In mid-January the NRA warned its members about an insidious effort by Enemy Numero Uno (Mike Bloomberg) to make yet another attempt to rob Americans of their Constitutional right to gun ownership by sponsoring what they call an "anti-gun indoctrination camp" to teach gullible reporters and other media folks how to research and write about guns. What Bloomberg's really trying to do is foist his own 'discredited' research on attendees at this conference in yet another effort to distort and cover up the real (i.e., positive) truth about guns.
The program is organized by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the Columbia School of Journalism (dartcenter.org/) and during this two-day workshop in Phoenix this coming May, attendees will actually hear from both sides in the gun debate, a significant and I believe first-time coming together of scholars and influencers whose views run the spectrum of the good news and the bad news about guns. On the one hand we have Garen Wintemute, an ER physician out of California, who has been a thorn in the side of the gun industry since he published studies on the manufacture of small, cheap handguns whose only real use was to arm people who wanted to commit crimes. At the other end of the spectrum, showing up to push the "guns are good" message, will be S.E. Cupp, whose attacks on Bloomberg and other gun-control 'threats' gets her airtime on the usual red meat outlets like Fox and Blaze, while also showing up on the other side with appearances on MSNBC.
Standing in the middle will be an economist by training but a remarkable gun researcher by vocation named Philip Cook, who has been conducting important and valid research on the social utility of guns for more than forty years. In general, Cook's work has focused on the economic costs of gun violence and his conclusions in these studies, as well as other work on gun violence, leaves no doubt as to where he stands; i.e., he's no friend of the folks who claim that Americans need to own more guns. But this past year Cook and his colleague, Kristin Goss, published a balanced and reasoned summary of the gun debate, and while they didn't attempt to hide their own concerns about the proliferation of guns in American society, they also found good reasons why many Americans don't want to give up their guns.
The fact that the NRA should attempt to malign a public conference whose speaker's list contains one of their most ardent supporters shows you how unwilling or unable they have become when it comes to listening to any voice other than their own. But a quick look at some of the information that has lately appeared on their own website makes me think that perhaps the NRA research and editorial staff might benefit from attending a conference where they might learn how to understand and explain facts.
I am referring to a story that just appeared on the NRA-ILA website attacking Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by Gabby Giffords, for what the NRA says is a 'bogus' claim that the number of people who die from gunshots each year equals the number of people killed in accidents involving cars. The story is bogus, according to the NRA, because the number of people who die from shootings that are ruled as accidents are a tiny fraction of the number of dead people pulled from vehicular wrecks. But of course that's not the point of the ARS story at all, unless perhaps we should figure out and compare gun deaths to the number of car accidents in which a driver actually tried to kill someone else using his car.
That Mike Bloomberg is asking professional media folks to come together and listen to both sides of the gun debate is a refreshing and important event. Refreshing because it hasn't happened previously, important because public policy is only successful when it reflects every valid point of view. I hope the conference is a great success.