The Washington Post

“Is the WashPo going gun nut?”

A commenter on the post mentioning our new @VolokhGuns Twitter feed writes:

? I open up the “Saturday Morning Headlines” email and this is at the top. Is the WashPo going gun nut? They hired what looks like a teenage law professor? “Negroes and the Gun”?? What? And what the hell is a Volokh Conspiracy?

You go to read NEWS, and you get BIZARRE. That’s the internet for ya. Too bad it’s happening at the Washington Post. Yet another sign of decadence.

Exactly the reaction I wanted! Well, not quite, but it points to a reaction that we very much do want, and that is the main reason for our experiment with the Post.

This particular reader probably won’t be much receptive to our ideas, at least about guns. But people fall on a spectrum on this issue, as on others. There are those who already firmly agree with us. There are those that so disagree with us that they won’t be swayed.

And there’s a wide middle zone of people, on this subject and on others, who are open to hearing arguments — and facts — and who might be swayed by them. (I was one myself, before I started researching gun issues seriously in the mid-1990s.) But to reach those people, you have to be in the publications they read, with the credentials they respect, both our preexisting academic credentials and the credential of affiliation with the Washington Post.

What’s more, on many issues many people in the middle haven’t heard much of one side’s arguments (or often of either side’s arguments). The comment I quoted reflects that: Having a few contributors who are pro-gun-rights and skeptical of the effectiveness of gun control equals, in the commenter’s mind, “going gun nut.” That seems like a sign of a cocoon in which certain arguments are seen as just out of bounds for normal, reasonable people — which in turn is a sign that those arguments are very rarely heard by people of his circle. We aim to change that!

Of course, just reaching the audience is not sufficient; one also has to have good arguments and evidence. And of course some readers may come to accept the other side’s arguments and evidence more than ours, even after they’ve heard what we have to say. But we can’t persuade people if we aren’t seen by them. And, hey, if on top of that some people who are firmly on the other side still see that we’re here; we don’t think guns are evil; we’re not just the poor white rednecks of some people’s imagination but also professors, big city folk, Jews, blacks, and others; get used to it — that’s a nice little extra.

Naturally, we also want to keep our existing readers, and even after the rather permeable Post paywall kicks in (in six months), our blog will still be available to readers for free via RSS, Twitter, and Facebook (coming soon). But we hope that our move to the Post will help us break through to other readers as well, including ones that don’t (yet) agree with us.

(Of course, maybe the comment to which I’m responding was actually just a very subtle parody — if so, good one!)

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.



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