I have both appreciated and criticized Dan Baum’s work on gun culture before (esp. his book “Gun Guys: A Road Trip”). He’s clearly writing from a particular perspective: a liberal who likes guns. He especially likes target shooting and collecting old guns. He’s a bit of a Fudd in that way.
But I am always very interested in people who try to talk across the divide between the purists on both sides of the debate over guns in American society. So when I saw his name pop up recently, first on The Truth About Guns blog and then in an essay on Al Jazeera America, I took note.
I skimmed the article – headlined: “Dear gun control advocates: Gun owners are your allies” — and thought he offered an interesting take on the issue. I saw him arguing that gun laws don’t ultimately prevent gun crime, that gun control advocates don’t help reduce gun crime by haranguing gun owners, and that even though gun owners themselves are not part of the problem, they can be a part of the solution.
I Tweeted the link to the article from my account @gunculture2pt0: “Thoughtful piece by @danielsbaum Only gun owners have the power to make this country safer from gun violence alj.am/1z90buc.” And received a nearly instantaneous series of comments from @PC_Banned_Humor (read below from bottom to top).
Perhaps I had read the essay to fast or too much through the lens of my own interests. @PC_Banned_Humor send a screen cap of one passage in Baum’s essay with some text highlighted.
Because “law abiding gun owners let it happen.” What law-abiding gun owner wants to be lumped in with people who knowing violate federal law (straw purchases) or those who would knowingly provide a gun to a wife-beater or the adjudicated insane?
I had seen Baum as encouraging gun owners to be part of the solution to the violence we all abhor, but another reading shows him to be saying that gun owners are at least part (if not all) of the problem. Some others joined in on the Twitter conversation, highlighting ways in which Baum seemed to be blaming gun owners for being victims of crime, as can be seen below.
So, although I still do hope that we can find ways of talking across the great gun divide, I don’t think Baum has helped that cause with this particular essay. (For another critique, see the Practical Eschatology blog.)
For me, my interaction with @PC_Banned_Humor was a learning experience, and actually one of a few such interactions I have had with people on Twitter recently. Although it is difficult to engaged in a sustained conversation on that medium, it does connect you to people who you may not otherwise encounter in everyday life. And that, in this case at least, was a good thing.