Straight Shootin'

'The Arizona Daily Star' Is Running Public Relations B.S. As Genuine Opinion.

By Jeff Smith

IT FROSTED ME ferociously a few days back to read a column on the op-ed page of The Arizona Daily Star, comparing a national firearms safety program to the Joe Camel ad campaign aimed at getting impressionable kids to start smoking.

Smith The piece was written by Susan Glick and Josh Sugarmann. Are they journalists? No, at the end of the piece they were identified as executive director and health policy analyst for something called the Violence Policy Center. Most readers never get to the italics at the end, so they wouldn't know that the writers were writing about themselves, free from the constraints of checking facts or giving the other side its due. The column began:

In its efforts to hook kids on guns, the National Rifle Assn. is following a trail blazed by the tobacco industry. The Violence Policy Center takes a hard look at the NRA's Eddie Eagle "gun safety" program in its new study "Joe Camel With Feathers: How the NRA with Gun and Tobacco Industry Dollars Uses its Eddie Eagle Program to Market Guns to Kids."

Strong stuff.

The column goes on to describe how this study "uncovered" contributions made by gun manufacturers to the NRA, and how the NRA put earmarked funds into "education" programs in the form of "grants." The authors used lots of quotation marks like the above to convey the impression that lies were being told. Lies were being told, but by the writers, and one step removed, by the Star. The study whence sprung all the "uncovered" conspiracy was written by Glick and Sugermann, for the Violence Policy Center which they helped found, and which pays them. But nowhere in the column did the authors refer to "our study" or "the study we were paid to produce, and then write about as though we were reporters covering a legitimate news event."

Do you think that if Phillip Morris had a couple of its public relations staff produce a phony "study" showing that smoking cigarettes improves a teenage boy's chances of getting laid after the senior prom, that the Knight-Ridder newspaper syndicate would distribute it and the Star would run it? Hell no. Not even if the italics at the end of the column identified the writers as belonging to some sort of policy center.

A fraud is a fraud. Except if you're a member of the current, hand-wringing, anti-gun press establishment and you no longer trust the people to live free under the Bill of Rights.

And what about Eddie Eagle? As a columnist and occasional reporter, a gun-nut, an NRA member, but a passionate believer in personal freedom and responsibility, I can promise you that the Eagle is a promoter of gun safety and education. His message is:

Be careful with guns. If you find one lying around, DON'T TOUCH IT. Notify an adult. And if you're going to use a gun, take a safety course first.

Nothing about the Eddie Eagle program tries to sell guns to kids.

Glick and Sugermann are lying.

And to a lesser extent the Star is lying.

As a person who believes that freedom is messy and inconvenient for government, but preferable to the alternatives, I mourn the Star's unconsidered opposition to our Second Amendment rights, and our birthright to protect and defend ourselves.

As one who makes the grocery money filling the holes between newspaper ads, I detest their being dishonest about it. TW

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