A rifle in one hand, a laptop in the other. Behind the scene with pro-gun bloggers
"Cowboy Blob" and other online commentators fill the press box at the National Rifle Association convention.
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“If you compare the pro-gun activity in the blogosphere versus the pro-gun-control activity, the scales have just tipped tremendously in their favor,” says Josh Sugarmann, founder of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, which advocates for more gun control in the US. “There’s much more engagement, more involvement, and they clearly have more free time than people on our side of the issue do.”Skip to next paragraph
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In the process, gun bloggers are taking on issues like gun control preemption laws in Philadelphia and putting pressure on firearms firms for their choice of spokesmen. And while their reach can be argued, their rise appears to mirror polling data showing that Americans, sometimes by double-digit gains, increasingly favor more gun freedoms, not gun control.
Gun control groups have roughly 150,000 members in the US while gun rights advocates number closer to 12 million, with perhaps as many as 80 million Americans owning some 200 million firearms.
The Internet presence of gun rights advocates actually began in the early 1990s, making them early adopters of the Web as a social and information tool. They took the lead on issues like concealed carry laws which have now spread to nearly 40 states, says Mr. Patrick, the University of Toledo professor.
“If you’d asked a policy expert in 1987, ‘Twenty-five years from now, are we going to have liberation of concealed carry laws or more control?’ they would have said that we’d have more restrictions -- and they’d be wrong,” says Patrick. “The question is: How did they succeed? How do you succeed in the face of conventional wisdom, common sense and elite opinion?”
The answer, Patrick says, lies partly in the “horizontal interpretive communities” otherwise known as blogs. Largely ignored, criticized, and even ridiculed by mainstream media, gun owners started their own listservs and bulletin boards, often putting out releases with titles like “Gun news the media didn’t report today.”
Passion, bloggers say, has replaced pay as incentive to inform the masses.
Looking at names like “Bitter,” “Gunnuts,” and “The Smallest Minority,” followers of the growing gun-blogging scene could well imagine some pretty rough-and-tumble characters behind the Internet handles. But at a meet-and-greet with industry reps at Majerle’s restaurant after Friday’s convention, the “blog bash” attendants looked more like attendees at an insurance industry convention, with some Hawaiian shirts thrown in for good measure.
Bob Flyzik at “Cowboy Blob” is retired Air Force from Tucson who specializes in political caricature and photo-editorializing with Photo Shop. He describes his blog as “gun fun and gun fun not.” His profile lists him as “professional hermit.”
“I’m a hopeful skeptic,” he says.
Mike W. at “Another Gun Blog” is a baseball-capped 23-year-old law clerk whose dad is a big-time anti-gun prosecutor out East.
Some came late to guns. Growing up, Daniel Pehrson’s mom wouldn’t even let him have a BB gun until he was 16. He began shooting real ammo at a range in his early 20s, and realized that many states “were trying to make it so difficult to be a law-abiding gun owner that they’d simple give up.” His site, Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association, has become one of the biggest social networks in the gun world, drawing nearly 4 million visitors a month and featuring thousands of discussion threads.