Last week I wrote a column about a report on a Fox affiliate station in York, PA that presented a very balanced view on whether physicians should talk to patients about guns. What was interesting was the fact that a television station covering what is a very politically-conservative, gun-rich region would actually run a story which seemed, on balance, to promote the idea that doctors should be able to inquire guns.  Given the lengths to which the NRA has gone to muzzle doctors who want to discuss this issue with patients, I found it surprising that a somewhat “pro-doc” slant would come from Fox News.

docs versus glocks                I wasn’t the only one who found it interesting because this post made it all over the web and was featured on sites owned by gun partisans on the Right and anti-gun partisans on the Left.  I thought it would be instructive to look at these sites in a little more detail to get a flavor for how the average person, gun owner and non-gun owner, lined up on what has been a highly-contentious issue.  And what I discovered didn’t leave me with any warm and fuzzies in terms of the degree to which either side in the gun debate understands what the other side is talking about.

Let’s look at the pro-gun side first, in this case a blog published by MN (for Minnesota) Gun Talk.  The conversation began with a link to the story out of York, PA as replayed on Yahoo News.  This was followed by 40 posts, but as is usual in such blogs, the majority written by just a couple of folks. And it goes without saying that even though the original story quoted two doctors as stating that they were asking about guns solely in terms of preventing gun accidents, none of the gun owners on this blog took the doctors at their word.  For that matter it’s not clear that any of the bloggers even bothered to watch the clip from Yahoo News.  For the most part they were too busy throwing the usual dumb comments and dumber profanity back and forth between themselves.

The other side of the gun fence was a website devoted to baby care, birthing and a host of other very compassionate issues which ran a story about Florida’s gag law in which the blogger was critical of any attempt to prevent physicians from talking to patients about guns. The story was followed by a reader’s poll in which readers who felt that pediatricians had the right to inquire about guns outnumbered readers who were against such inquiries by a ratio of six to one. Of the 185 comments that followed the story, they were overwhelmingly posted by readers who felt that their pediatrician was behaving properly in asking about guns, and a significant number of bloggers on this site admitted that they didn’t and wouldn’t own guns at all.

I find these websites much more revealing about the average person’s thoughts on gun issues than the pronouncements that come down from the formal, advocacy groups on both sides.  Not that the views of the NRA are contrary to what their membership believes, nor would Brady or Everytown take a policy position that wouldn’t be favored by the supporters of those groups.  But what you get from these blogs and websites is what individuals at the street-level are thinking, not what a professional media or communications staff feels will promote their agenda and point of view.

There’s only one little problem.  I read all 40 posts on the pro-gun blog and nearly all of the 185 posts on the baby center site and I must say that the tone and content of the two threads were about as far away from each other as what I get when I look at content from Brady or the NRA.  People who like guns are willing to accept and/or deny certain risks, and people who don’t like guns won’t accept those risks.  And you’re not going to close this gap by pretending that there’s a way to make guns “safe.” That’s not what guns are designed to do.

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