The cover story in this week’s issue of Business Week magazine focuses on the spectacular commercial success of the Glock pistol, and how a relatively small European manufacturer rose from obscurity in the 1980s to, in less than a decade, dominate a very traditional market that had always “bought American.” The piece was researched primarily by staff writer Paul Barrett. Reading some of the commentary on BW’s own website and on some of the gun forums, it appears that some gun people took it as anti-gun.
I know Barrett, and I didn’t take it that way. In fact, he’s one of the few mainstream media people I know who seems to take a totally neutral approach to this highly polarized debate. In reading his article and the related sidebars carefully, I can find no hint of editorial prejudice against gun owners. The online version opens with a video of me explaining why both police and “civilian” markets took to the Glock pistol like ducks to water. Both Barrett and his editors had the opportunity to edit out the comments in which I treated the private citizen sector with the same respect as the law enforcement sector. They did not.
I took Barrett to a couple of pistol matches so he could see why ordinary folks liked these popular handguns. In an exercise in “participatory journalism,” he took some private lessons with us and competed in the second match, using a borrowed Glock 17. He proved safe and competent for a man who has never owned a firearm and had only fired them in the course of research related to his reportage on the weapons industry. New to the gun, he did not come in last in the match.
In talking with Barrett, I got a sense of an honest reporter trying to show every side of the story he had been assigned to write. Some former Glock execs, whom he plainly showed in his article to be inimical toward the company, had to be quoted; when I talked with him, he was trying desperately to get counterpoint comments from current Glock spokespeople.
More than a month before the article came out, Paul Barrett was interviewed for the ProArms podcast by producer and editor (PrEditor?) Gail Pepin, with a view toward getting an outside analyst’s view of gun issues in general and the gun industry in particular. It can be downloaded from The ProArms Podcast site. That, too, sounded pretty even-handed to me. The poet Robert Burns said, “Oh, what a gift the giftie gie us, to see oursel’s as others see us.” The ProArms interview of Barrett is a unique opportunity to see how we gun people are viewed by that rare creature, the unbiased and unprejudiced outside observer who has studied us.
I can understand how some reflexively call the reporter “anti-gun” when he quotes sources hostile to someone’s favorite gun manufacturer. Gun owners are a minority long persecuted by mainstream media, and we can be as prone to over-reactions as Harvard professors who focus on racial prejudice and suddenly have a cross-racial misunderstanding with law enforcement.
Read the Barrett article and sidebars in their entirety. If you believe a media source has been unfair to you, your beliefs, and the truth, by all means speak out and hold them accountable. But, if you see the uncommon case where a mainstream story touching on guns has been done without prejudice to the guns themselves and those who own them, it’s just as important to write a comment and let the magazine know you appreciate honest, impartial reportage.
“Reinforcing good behavior,” and all of that…
Mas, background, and Herman Gunter, foreground, coach Paul Barrett on how to shoot a Glock.
Participatory journalism: Paul Barrett shoots an IDPA match with a borrowed Glock 17 9mm.