Given the recent comments from an Oak Park newspaper writer, I thought this would be a good opportunity to mention the other interactions I’ve had with local news media:
The emails from Oak Park’s local newspapers:
On November 24, 2008, John Huston, a reporter with the Pioneer Press sent me the following email:
I stumbled onto your site, not sure how, but I was curious to see a lot of
posts about Oak Park’s crime/handgun ban. Your profile says you live
outside Chicago, not sure if that means Oak Park. I write for the local
paper and would love to hear your thoughts on the place.
I then sent the following reply, to which Mr. Huston never responded:
I do live in the area, and I’m quite familiar with the village of Oak
Park. Due to the politically charged nature of the gun rights issue,
I’ve decided to remain anonymous – and therefore respectfully decline to
say whether I live in Oak Park (or give my name). With those caveats,
I’m more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.
On June 26, 2008, Chris LaFortune, a reporter with the Oak Park Oak Leaves sent me the following email:
Hello, my name is Chris LaFortune. I am a reporter for the Oak Park Oak
Leaves. I came across your site today while searching for information on Oak
Park’s gun ban. I was wondering if you’re an Oak Park resident and if you’d
be willing to be interviewed for a story I’m doing on the village’s gun ban,
given today’s Supreme Court ruling. Please let me know if you are interested
in being interviewed, and how I might contact you.
I then sent the following reply, to which Mr. LaFortune never responded:
I would refer you to my website, learnaboutguns.com, for the perspective of a law abiding, pro-gun-rights individual. In particular, the following article summarizes my viewpoint on the Oak Park handgun ban: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/06/27/oak-park-il-fears-impending-handgun-ban-lawsuit/
If you have any questions not addressed by that article, just let me know.
My thoughts on the media in general (with respect to guns and gun owners):
I’ve noticed that in general, the mainstream news media tends to be biased against guns. For example, this story discussing a proposed “assault weapon” ban devotes just a few sentences at the end to the pro gun rights viewpoint, despite spending paragraph after paragraph on the anti gun rights viewpoint. When a criminal violates a great many laws (including an outright gun ban) and goes on a killing spree, the newspapers tend to print the comments of anti gun politicians, and devote little to no time pointing out that the numerous anti gun laws failed to prevent the tragedy – but did ensure the victims were defenseless. Nor do stories of armed self defense get much attention in the mainstream media. I think that part of this can be attributed to anti gun bias on the part of some editors. Another explanation could be that what “bleeds leads,” and stories about armed citizen stopping a crime without firing a shot aren’t believed to be as compelling as stories about unarmed citizens suffering brutal torture at the hands of a criminal. Another possibility is that readers’ attention spans may be seen as too short to have a complex discussion of the causes of crime and myths about guns, especially when it is easier to just blame guns for violence and propose feel good measures that accomplish nothing. Finally, it could be that readers of a newspaper want to read stories that reinforce their existing beliefs, and might cancel their subscriptions were the newspaper to offer a dissenting viewpoint. Since newspapers are for-profit corporations, with high expenses, there seems to be a tension between the goal of reporting the news in an unbiased way, and making profits.
I’ve also noticed that gun owners are often vilified by the media, and so I am wary about sitting down for an interview. As a law student who has helped prosecute individuals in court, and who has also seen plenty of civil lawsuits, I am all too aware that just one poorly chosen phrase can be misconstrued, and used against the speaker. This is all the more true insofar as interviews with the news media are concerned, as they seldom print everything that the interviewee says.
Why I handled the emails from Oak Park’s local newspapers the way that I did:
I promptly replied to each email, offering the reporters the content of this website and my willingness to answer any follow-up questions (by email) that they might have. I did not, however, offer any personally identifiable information, due to the fact that the majority of people in the area that I live are opposed to gun rights, and I don’t wish to suffer harm to my career prospects. Nor do I wish to subject myself and my family to publicity, as we enjoy being private citizens. Finally, although I’m a law abiding person, I still wish to avoid the type of harassment and scrutiny that befalls higher profile gun owners.
Why I believe anonymity is not a problem here:
I also see no reason why my desire to remain (pseudo)anonymous should impinge upon the credibility of my pro gun rights arguments. As far as I see it, the need to name a source matters when that source is presenting original facts, such as who robbed the bank, whether there were weapons of mass destruction, or whether an incriminating meeting took place. In such cases, the veracity/sincerity/narration/memory/self interest of the person are all key in determining whether what they are saying is the truth, and without being able to investigate the person’s identity, one cannot know whether the source is a pathological liar or the most truthful and trustworthy person on the planet.
But when an anonymous individual offers a discussion of publicly known facts, there is really no such credibility issue. When I mention a news event involving guns, I provide a link to a major media outlet where the fact that the event occurred can be proven up. When I discuss a pending lawsuit, I provide links to websites where the complaint and other legal documents can be found. When I discuss a court case that has been decided, I provide the legal citation (or slip opinion for very recent decisions) so that those who care to read the court’s entire opinion can do so. Indeed, most of my articles here, especially the ones concerning why I support gun rights, primarily consist of the application of reason and thought to already known facts. As such, my ideas would be of equal validity whether I expressed them in person after stating my full name, address, and social security number, or whether they were passed out in flyer form by a homeless man who hadn’t bathed in a month (although that hypothetical homeless man would probably have a good deal of difficulty getting anyone to read the fliers). Ideas really should be evaluated in and of themselves, rather than judging the speaker and imputing that judgment upon the idea.
Similarly, whether I reside and/or work in Oak Park should not affect the validity of my thoughs on Oak Park’s failed handgun ban. Whether I live in Oak Park, another nearby suburb, or Timbuktu, I am equally capable of knowing that criminals ignore the handgun ban, and that the police fail to solve the vast majority of armed robberies. I’m also capable of seeing that citizens who ignore the handgun ban and have a gun for self defense are able to defend themselves against robbers, unlike the majority of unarmed crime victims.