HomeOpinionWe want YOUR opinions, not talking points from activist groups
We want YOUR opinions, not talking points from activist groups
December 28, 2022
OPINION BY JENNIFER CABRERA
Now that the Gainesville Sun has discontinued its Issues section, Alachua Chronicle is one of the few remaining outlets that publish opinion pieces, so we have let it be known that we will accept pieces about issues in our community, and Kim Tanzer’s recent piece was the first of these.
We are happy to publish opinion pieces from those who disagree with us, but we will reject pieces that rely on inaccurate talking points to elicit an emotional response or that fail to articulate specific policy changes. As an example, we recently received an article on solutions to gun violence, in response to Len Cabrera’s piece about the Gainesville Police Department’s recent events to promote awareness of gun violence.
I rejected that piece because it did not address the specific recommendations in Len’s column and it repeated false talking points in an effort to convince well-meaning people that we need “common-sense gun safety laws.”
To make an argument for expanded background checks, the author wrote that people who buy guns online or at gun shows should have to undergo background checks. However, there is no “gun show loophole” for background checks in federal law; licensed dealers must perform background checks regardless of where the sale is made, and private sellers do not need to perform background checks in most places, including Florida – again, regardless of whether the sale is made at a private home or at a gun show.
After I asked that the article be revised with accurate information, the author responded with a link to a Politifact ruling that President Biden’s statement that “you can buy whatever you want, no background check” at gun shows was “Mostly False.” The author told me that since it is possible to purchase a gun from a private seller at a gun show without a background check, the statement is, in fact, “mostly true.” The fact that you can purchase a gun from a private seller ANYWHERE without a background check was ignored.
We would be happy to publish an argument in favor of background checks on private sales, in spite of disagreeing with that policy, but the reader should be presented with the actual state of the current laws, not a false talking point.
The author also argued for red flag laws and for mandatory training for gun owners to store their weapons securely at home, away from kids. Florida already has a red flag law (Statute 790.401) and a safe storage law (Statute 790.174), and the author failed to mention either one or describe the weaknesses in those laws that should be addressed.
I told the author that if he wants to make an argument for more restrictive gun laws, he should state the current laws accurately and argue for specific changes; instead, he withdrew the article.
Talking points like the ones used by that author are common in activism because they work. They either make emotional arguments that lead the reader to agree that “something must be done” or substitute vague statements (“common sense reform”) for specific reforms that are not supported by a majority of Americans. For example, most people think there shouldn’t be different rules for purchasing guns at a gun show, so they support “expanded background checks” when they’re told that those are only to close that (nonexistent) “loophole.”
This is not something we just made up. A New York Times article from June 2022 discussed the gap between polling on expanded background checks (often garnering over 80% approval) and actual referendum results in four states (48%-63% approval) and the phenomenon of “‘acquiescence bias’ [in surveys that] can lead respondents to agree with what’s being asked of them.”
All of that is to say that if you want to argue your policy preferences in Alachua Chronicle, we will require you to base your argument on specific changes you would like to make from specific current policies. We will not publish pieces that simply echo an activist group’s talking points that are focus-group-tested to produce the desired response in people who are unaware of the current state of the law or the specific changes being proposed. We want opinion pieces that argue for and against specific policies that can make our community better – and although we do not automatically reject articles about national issues, we strongly prefer articles about local issues.
We believe that the only way to get good local government is through a knowledgeable populace and robust debate, and we will continue to be a trusted source for both information and opinions.
Opinion pieces and letters may be submitted to email@example.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.
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