Bloomberg SPH vs. Breitbart: Battle of “Alternative Facts”?

Some thoughts on credible and incredible critiques of research on gun violence from my Gun Culture 2.0 blog of possible interest to the “gun curious.”

Gun Culture 2.0

Imagine my surprise this morning when I saw an incredible claim circulating that researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health had conducted a study of fatal mass shootings in the United States but had “omitted one of the most often cited mass shootings in U.S. history.”

As it turns out, this claim actually was in-credible, as in, not credible.

Screen cap of https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/02/18/johns-hopkins-study-no-evidence-assault-weapon-bans-reduce-mass-shootings/ on 2/19/2020.

I don’t read Breitbart so I don’t know if this error represents a legitimate mistake or a pattern of Kellyanne Conway-esque “alternative facts.” But I learned of the Breitbart article through another blog I follow, so I do know the error is already reverberating through the pro-gun echo chamber online.

Screen cap of https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/02/18/johns-hopkins-study-no-evidence-assault-weapon-bans-reduce-mass-shootings/ on 2/19/2020.

Insofar as the author of the Breitbart piece cited the Johns Hopkins press release rather than the (open access, publicly accessible) original…

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Those Who Control the Present Control the Past by Jason Fertig

I see and hear a lot of ideas about guns and gun culture shared in private settings, either on social media or face-to-face, that I wish would garner a wider audience. It occurred to me that I could re-post or recount some of those ideas on this blog, for the benefit of those who are interested in but unsure about guns.

In that spirit of sharing, below is a reflection on the portrayal of the Second Amendment in a children’s book on the Constitution written by Jason Fertig, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management at the University of Southern Indiana’s Romain College of Business in Evansville.

As on Twitter, “Retweet =/= Endorsement.” That is, I don’t necessarily agree with everything written by others on this blog. But I do believe they offer a point of view that people who are “gun curious” will be interested in.

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The Black Church Tradition of Arms, W.E.B. DuBois, and Bethel Church of Philadelphia

Thus one can see in the Negro church to-day, reproduced in microcosm, all the great world from which the Negro is cut off by color-prejudice and social condition. In the great city churches the same tendency is noticeable and in many respects emphasized. A great church like the Bethel of Philadelphia has over eleven hundred members, an edifice seating fifteen hundred persons and valued at one hundred thousand dollars, an annual budget of five thousand dollars, and a government consisting of a pastor with several assisting local preachers, an executive and legislative board, financial boards and tax collectors; general church meetings for making laws; sub-divided groups led by class leaders, a company of militia, and twenty-four auxiliary societies. The activity of a church like this is immense and far-reaching, and the bishops who preside over these organizations throughout the land are among the most powerful Negro rulers in the world.

A “company of militia”? Well, that got my attention.

Reading an excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk by the great African-American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois for my sociological theory class last week, I came across the interesting description of Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church copied above, including the reference to “a company of militia.”

For reasons I discuss below, I was not altogether surprised that Mother Bethel had a “militia” — because racism and the need to defend the church and its community — only that DuBois mentioned it in passing, without remarking on it further.

Statue of founder Richard Allen outside Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

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The National Rifle Association’s Sacralization of the Second Amendment

In a recent appearance on Ballistic Radio with John Johnston, I spoke some about ways in which gun culture can be like a religion. Although I ultimately concluded that there are important differences between the two, I have noted the confluence of guns and religion previously — both in my academic work and on my Gun Culture 2.0 blog.

For example, reflecting on my first experience attending the National Rifle Association annual meeting, I came away with the conclusion that the NRA is a Christian organization. Of course, this was a somewhat impressionistic observation.

Recently, Dr. Jessica Dawson — a sociologist the United States Military Academy at West Point and a U.S. Army Major — has addressed this issue more systematically in an article entitled, “Shall not be infringed: How the NRA used religious language to transform the meaning of the Second Amendment” (the journal, Palgrave Communications, is open-access, there is no paywall to read or download it).

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