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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 7/14/2002 9:41:07 AM EST
Never Mind the Sword. Here, the Pen Is Meeting the Smith & Wesson.

www.nytimes.com/2002/07/14/nyregion/14GUN.html

July 14, 2002
Never Mind the Sword. Here, the Pen Is Meeting the Smith & Wesson.
By IVER PETERSON

DANBURY, Conn., July 12 — Karen Ali covers the courts for The News-Times in
Danbury, but when it came to guns, she didn't know a flintlock from a
firing pin.
"I was covering a murder trial," she said, "and I didn't know what a
magazine was until I asked another reporter."
That's why Ms. Ali was at the Wooster Mountain Gun Club today, popping
away with assorted revolvers, automatics and rifles, as a guest of the
National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun manufacturers group. She was
shown how the things she calls bullets — which are actually called rounds
— are loaded in the magazine, and how the magazine goes into the receiver,
which is inside the handle, called the grip, of an automatic, or in this
case, a semiautomatic. And so on.
America's gun culture was not born on the wild frontier or in Hollywood
fantasies but here in the river valley towns of Connecticut, where some of
the great names in firepower — Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson — got
their start and where many are still located.
Yet to expect the members of the Eastern news media to be able to compare,
say, the advantages of open sights versus closed sights as readily as they
can discuss the relative merits of arugula versus endive is to ask the
impossible, to hear the gun makers tell it.
To them, the problem is far from academic. While gun sales have been
increasing, especially after the attacks of Sept. 11, the gun
manufacturers are under severe threat from a series of lawsuits that seek
to hold them and their distributors responsible for abetting criminal gun
violence. And the gun industry believes it sees a lack of basic
understanding about its main product in the news stories about the gun
control debate.
So in a breathtaking act of faith, manufacturers figured that putting guns
in the hands of reporters for a day might help win, if not sympathy, at
least understanding.
"We just thought we ought to be talking to you guys," said Michael Bane, a
Colorado writer and publicist who has organized a dozen or so shooting
sessions for the news media around the country. To be invited, it helps to
have written an article the industry deemed negative.
"And when you have a question about shooting, maybe you'll call us," Mr.
Bane continued. "Lots of reporters, when they have a question about guns,
they call the Brady people, which is like calling the Klan for information
on the N.A.A.C.P."
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, as it happens, is one of the
groups that is suing the gun makers, and Dennis Henigan, its legal
director in Washington, did not like Mr. Bane's quip at all. "I find the
quote just outrageous and insulting," he said. "To compare us in any way
to the Ku Klux Klan, to me, it just suggests an increasing desperation on
the part of the gun industry."
Yet Mr. Henigan did not dispute the gun makers' sense that the news media
is not always gun savvy.

-- continued --
Link Posted: 7/14/2002 9:42:06 AM EST
"That is probably the case, but no more than journalists are conversant on
other dangerous products," he said. "The mistake, though, would be to turn
to the gun industry for that information rather than other sources,
because they have their own profit-motivated bias."
With the news media out to lunch and the courts bearing down on them, the
gun people are looking for friends wherever they can find them. They have
one in David Rostcheck, a representative of the Pink Pistols, a gay
shooters group whose symbol is an inverted pink triangle with a shooter
inside, and whose motto is, "Pick on someone your own caliber."
"Gun owners face many of the same biases the gay community has faced,"
said Mr. Rostcheck, who was at the range that day. "They don't always get
a fair shake in the media, and they don't know how to get their point of
view across."
Mr. Bane said all types find a warm welcome in the gun world. "The way we
see it is, if you shoot, we're cool," he said.
He said he didn't expect that every scribbler would be won over by the
kick of a gun and a whiff of gun smoke. But it appeared to have had the
desired effect on Ms. Ali, from The News-Times. She still doesn't get the
fascination with guns — "I think they're ugly, and in the movies they look
so cool, you know?" — but she liked a cute little number from Smith &
Wesson called the LadySmith.
"I got a kick out of shooting, and I'm thinking of getting one," she said.
"I want to get one. I really do."

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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