Privileging The Lie, Gun Violence Prevention Edition

The Orlando Sentinel writes today on the gun lobby's efforts to make hay over gun rights prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns' program to fund public officials who work to reduce the spread of illegal guns (emphasis added):

Gun-rights advocates are squaring off against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for hiring a new city employee to spearhead the city's fight against illegal guns.

Dyer said the city is simply targeting so-called “crime guns” that end up in the hands of felons. But a gun-rights group argues that public employees shouldn't be trying to erode the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Are those employees truly working to “erode the Second Amendment” ? According to statements from Mayor Dyer ( “We have no interest in eroding citizens' Second Amendment rights. I'm a gun-toting hunter myself” ) and the employee, Linda Vaughn, as well as MAIG's mission statement and the policies MAIG supports (closing the “gun-show loophole” and preventing the passage of concealed carry reciprocity), no. All of that information is included elsewhere in the Sentinel's article.

Nonetheless, the Sentinel reports that the gun lobby views MAIG as “a group of gun haters whose agenda is more far-reaching,” without stating outright that there is no evidence to support that contention.

In doing so, the Sentinel acts to privilege the lie. The story is based in its entirety on criticisms from gun activists and their contention that MAIG, Dyer, and the staffer are engaged in an effort to undermine the Second Amendment. But rather than state clearly that a group with a conservative political agenda is making baseless claims, the paper merely reports, “Group A says X, while Group B says Y.” Who's to know which side is right?

Without that central premise that this program is supposedly intended to further a “gun hating” cause, the story becomes far less interesting. After all, mayors hire staffers to carry out their public agenda. Gun crime prevention is an issue of concern for many mayors, including Dyer, so they seek to hire staffers to focus on that problem full-time, just as they might hire staffers to oversee city efforts on disaster recovery or business development.

In this particular case, a non-profit foundation is willing to help out with the costs, saving the city money. This is far from the first time private money has been used to support public work - for example, the tax forms of the National Rifle Association Foundation reveal dozens of grants to local municipalities to fund gun range improvements and gun safety courses.