We talk (a lot) here on TTAG about the Left and the Right here on TTAG. And to be fair, there’s some debate on how far right or left any given public figure, reporter, or commenter might be. But the thing about it is that where hearts and minds are changed is in the center. And exactly where that center is located is a question for some serious debate.

There’s a classic story about three blind men feeling an elephant. One says “It feels like a rope.” Another opines, “No…it feels like a wall.” The third says, “You’re both wrong – it feels like a firehose.” Thing is, no matter what they report, it all depends on their perspective as to what they report.

The TTAG Intrepid Reporters club met with Fearless Leader last night for a really nice dinner (thanks, RF!) and a chin wag on topics gun-related. One of the topics that came up concerned why the public is generally politically and Constitutionally deaf regarding gun laws.

RF asked our waitress, “Do you know what the 2nd Amendment says?” She didn’t. (But she did use a lifeline and ask a friend to get the right answer.) In fairness, she also thought there were 20 Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and was only able to correctly identify the right protected in the First Amendment.

Sadly, her response is typical of your average American. And you can wonder how anybody form an opinion on anything, if they know nothing about our government, current events, and important issues.

Bottom line: it’s the media that performs the function in society that informs the public about the issues du jour. But what happens when the media goes from reporting the news to editorializing on the news? Simply put, the public goes from being told what’s happening to being told what to think. And that’s dangerous in a number of ways.

Turns out, your perceptions of what’s normal is largely dictated by the input you receive. Certain input influences you more than others, for instance as a child, it’s likely that your parents will have more influence over how you form opinions than something you hear from a friend. But as adults, it’s the totality of the input we hear and see that pulls us in one direction or another.

So what does this have to do with guns? Plenty. Back when our country was founded, if you’d tried to limit the number of guns you could buy in a given month, or tried to pass a law limiting the number of musket balls you could keep on hand for your flintlock, the general populace would have looked at you as if you’d gone mad.

Today, there’s some strong evidence that a government background check on a person who wants to purchase a firearm does not have any significant effect on gun violence. In other words, the number of people denied a gun or arrested for trying to purchase a gun when they don’t qualify is statistically insignificant.

So why do it? (Hint: because it makes people feel as if the government is Doing Something To Address The Problem.)

If you ask the average bear on the street about background checks, I’d wager that even the most conservatie of gun owners would say “well…as long as they aren’t too invasive, I guess they’re okay.” Conversely, if you asked people “if it’s true that background checks do nothing to deter gun violence, would you be in favor of scrapping the entire system?”

I’d bet most people would argue that background checks are a good thing. Why? Because it feels right and logical. Why is that true? I’d argue that it’s because it’s what they’ve come to accept as the truth, because it’s what they’ve had drummed into their heads by the media.

Public opinion is largely a product of (or victim of) groupthink. And anybody challenging the conventional “wisdom” faces an uphill battle, when they try to buck that trend. The problem with relying on conventional wisdom and public opinion, is that it’s too easily swayed (over time, that is) and bears little connection with logic, reason, and statistical fact. Yet, it’s the center that determines the course of the country.

If you’re a regular TTAG reader, you’re used to reading lively debate, for we welcome the opportunity for all to comment on any given story, and we do our best to allow all viewpoints to be heard. But we freely admit that, while our goal is to tell the Truth About Guns, we’re human. And as such, we’re subject to the same human nature that affects/afflicts the rest of humanity.

So what’s the answer? Try this: Take nothing for granted. Challenge your Premises (regularly!). Question Authority. Ask Questions. And here’s the biggie: THINK FOR YOURSELF.

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12 Responses to Just Where is the Center, Anyway?

  1. Great post. The convention coverage has been really enjoyable. Keep up the good work, guys.

  2. As a society we have become constitutionally ignorant, brought to us by decades of dumbed-down education standards and an echo-chambered media. The left seems especially prone to believe that if it sounds like a good/right/moral thing, then it MUST be constitutional. Right?
    Witness Madam Pelosi’s incredulous reaction when asked if she thought the health care bill was constitutional (“Are you serious?”, or something to that effect). She can’t conceive of it being anything but, due to her own moral certitude.
    I believe the same attitude infects the hoplophobic amongst us. Violence is bad, guns are the tool behind most violent acts (no idea if that’s true but it doesn’t matter to them anyway), therefore banning guns MUST be constitutional. Right?

  3. Brad, First of all I’d like to thank you guys for the convention coverage. I’m enjoying it.

    Your point that, the number of people denied a gun or arrested for trying to purchase a gun when they don’t qualify is statistically insignificant, does not take into account the deterrant effect. Presumably there are many more who don’t attempt it because they know they’ll fail the check. Some of them, I’d presume, may not have the connections or the time or the inclination to buy a gun illegally on the black market.

    The numbers may still be insignificant, I don’t think they are, but in order to make a fair representation of the situation, you must include them.

    • Presumably there are many more who don’t attempt it because they know they’ll fail the check.

      I think that’s a good point. The LGS in my area all make it abundantly clear what the penalties are for failing an instant check. I’m sure it’s a deterrent. How much of one? Let’s discuss.

  4. Dunno, I’m in a fourth, hidden circle, stashing my ammo and listening to Iggy Pop.

  5. Let’s start by questioning this:
    “Strong evidence that a government background check on a person who wants to purchase a firearm does not have any significant effect on gun violence.”
    Just because I’d love to know more about it.

  6. Insightful post. Thanks guys. My favorite bunch of editorializers. If you guys want to raise some funds for the site you should sell seats to the next dinner you all go out to at $100.00 a chair.

    In my LGS I commented about the potential ineffectiveness of instant checks for gun buyers. And then I bashed the ATF for a few minutes for good measure. I thought those guys were going to run me out of the store. So if they don’t want to hear it then I’m sure most mommies and daddies don’t either. It’s hard to go against what is considered to be accepted truths. Whether they’re true or not.

  7. Brad Kozak makes the point that people are not given the facts to make an intelligent, informed judgement by the majority of the media. That’s true, as far as I can tell. Which means the media is leading people to think what they want them to think using emotional articles and editorials. Also true, as far as I can tell.

    Unfortunately, then Mr. Kozak goes on to throw around claims and conclusions without ANY factual references or sources. He makes statements hinting at statistical analysis, but does not provide the statistical ammo. While I do agree, ultimately, with his point of view, it is because I have done the homework, researched the issues, found the sources, and then made an informed decision. By failing to provide cover for his arguments, Mr. Kozak had been reduced to the pot who called the kettle black.

    Too bad. this will be an easy argument for the anti-gunners to knock down.

  8. “people are not given the facts to make an intelligent, informed judgement by the majority of the media.”

    True, Big Dave, but I’m not sure that it’s ever been the media’s intention to educate anyone. The fact is that it’s the job of every one of us to educate ourselves, and unlike you who actually has done the research, most Americans are too busy or lazy or preoccupied to bother.

  9. I prefer the left-right ‘government power’ diagram where left is total government power and right is zero. The Constitution is right of center and both the Republican and Democratic Parties are far left. Constitutionalists and Libertarians are closer to the Constitution and the majority parties are strongly anti-liberty.
    Nice Venn diagram you have there, BTW.

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