Statement of Ms. Magazine in Response to Alleged Pro-Gun Bullying

Ms. magazine has been accused of many things in its 40-year history, but shying away from controversy is something even our most vocal critics have never charged us with.

We have been accused of allowing ourselves to be bullied by pro-gun commenters in the wake of publishing part one of a three-part-series by freelance contributor Heidi Yewman on how easy it was for her to get a concealed weapon permit and purchase a handgun without even having minimal training.

We were soon deluged with responses, almost all of them attacking the piece and the reporter, some even including Yewman’s home address—presumably to encourage others to track her down and set her straight.

We moderate reader comments, and reserve the right not to publish comments we consider to be abusive or threatening. With thousands of comments flooding in, we weren’t able to do so with the staff we have in a timely fashion.

No one should suggest Ms. is unwilling to publish tough pieces on guns. The opposite is true. That’s why Yewman came to us in the first place. That’s why we published her piece. And that’s why her piece is still up on our site.

We regret that we didn’t have the means to initially handle the avalanche of reader comments following Yewman’s first piece, and, as we told a reporter at Media Matters America, we have a call into Yewman to offer to post the remaining pieces. We have yet to hear back from her, but hope to continue the series soon.

Comments

  1. I hope she contacts you, I’m curious to see how it all plays out.

  2. Dawn T. says:

    Thanks, Ms., and Ms. Yewman. Don’t let the b**stards keep you down.

  3. Andrea Wheeler says:

    This is why you MUST actively take a stand in favor of gun control. The crazies HAVE GUNS, and threaten to use them against anyone who suggests we should try to keep guns away from…the CRAZIES!

    Andrea Wheeler
    San Jose CA

    • Honora Price says:

      This is so true. I’m sure there are sane people who own guns who only use them for target practice or hunting to provide food for their families, but we in the sane gun laws movement never encounter them. Every single person who publicly identifies themselves as “pro-gun” at an event or in a column then proceeds to demonstrate that, should such a thing as a mental health check exist, they would never pass. Anyone who sees no problem with using the gun they carry to intimidate people has proven that they are not mentally fit to carry a gun. Even police officers are in trouble if they use their gun for intimidation purposes inappropriate to the situation. Why do these fools think they’re above even the puny laws that DO exist? Because Andrea is correct: they’re the crazies.

  4. Shaun Dakin says:

    Great to hear !

    I’d be happy to help you deal with comments from trolls. Essentially you don’t moderate them. You delete them.

    I’d suggest you look into a system like Disqus that allows moderating with few resources.

    Best,
    Shaun Dakin
    Social Media Director
    The March on Washington for Gun Control
    Art=Ammo

  5. pookiedook says:

    Ditto what Allie said ^.

  6. Cheryl Stumbo says:

    Glad you changed your mind about publishing her other segments!

  7. “Essentially you don’t moderate them. You delete them.”

    In other words, anyone not toeing the party line gets silenced. This is the only way the anti-rights folks seem to get any traction, as in an open dialog you are outnumbered 100 to 1. The standard play is to delete comments and claim they were abusive. No evidence is ever proffered, and so perhaps 1 rude comment is used as a pretext to delete hundreds.

    As far as posting Yewman’s address: It’s not something I would condone but it should be noted that this is precisely the sort of tactic that the anti-rights folks love to employ. Whether it’s Ladd Everritt over at CSGV printing names and workplaces of gun bloggers (he got CSGV’s twitter account suspended over that little adventure) or “jounalists” FOIA requests for lists of all gun owners in an area so they can publish an interactive map (Rockland county NY-map may have directly led to a few burglaries by criminals looking for guns), the anti-rights side of this argument has far from clean hands.

    • The pot calling the kettle black. Everyone knows that most of the ugly, demeaning and threatening comments come from the gun extremists. I have been on the other end of these comments. Thanks to Heidi for publishing her blog and her experience about how easy it is to get a gun and gun permit. Thanks to Ms magazine for responding to the common sense readers who want the magazine to stand up to the gun bullies. I applaud them for changing their mind about publishing the rest of Heidi’s posts.

    • We are not talking about rude comments, ma’am. We are talking about people’s home addresses being published and people feeling threatened. Well-moderated comments can advance the discussion and provoke thought. And as far as rudeness goes, yes, I do think comments should also be respectful and not personally insulting.

  8. Jenny Lando says:

    Thank you for this response. I suggest that while you hope for discourse on your content that your merely do not allow comments on Ms. Yewman’s pieces.

    • The problem with this is that Heidi’s piece was rather sensationalist, and anyone who has ever actually bought a gun can tell you that her entire experience reads exactly like what one would expect if they were to willingly make every single bad choice they could. For instance, the gun she bought came with a manual, trigger lock, etc. She didn’t need to approach the officer involved in a traffic stop to ask how it worked — the person at the gun store most likely would have been happy to show her basic functions (if they didn’t outright offer, which has been the case in most of the purchases I’ve made), the manual will also have all this information as well as additional info on generic safety practices and also how to strip & clean the firearm, and lastly if she was REALLY concerned she could have simply gone to the local PD and asked someone who wasn’t already involved in one of the higher-stress situations a cop sees on a regular basis. She went out of her way to put herself in a situation that was not only dangerous, but stupid. Her article doesn’t paint a fair picture of how these things really work, and in fact could be considered lying via omission in multiple places — but the only people who would know this are people who have actually bought firearms in the same area she has (and I’m one of them).

      If comments are turned off entirely, it basically gives a free pass to spread what is dangerously close to outright lies, with no chance for readers to know what the realities of the situation are. Yes, there are going to be terrible comments from both sides, but at least this way the real BS can be called out.

  9. Stephanie Beckman says:

    I am holding Ms. Yewman in my thoughts and heart. I hope nothing happens to her as a result of her brave articles. I have had limited experience with the rabidly pro gun people and it can be intimidating to say the least.

  10. From Ms. Magazine: “We were soon deluged with responses, almost all of them attacking the piece and the reporter, some even including Yewman’s home address—presumably to encourage others to track her down and set her straight.”

    I hope that the rest of us – the majority of Americans who support reasonable restrictions on access to guns – have learned how important it is to make OUR voices heard. If we do not, we concede the this issue to the (very LOUD) minority! We have done that for years in the political arena, hence the lack of even universal background checks. It’s (past) time to take this issue back into the hands of the millions who want safer communities.

    • Completely agree with this. These people know they are in the minority and are yelling and screaming to get themselves heard, not unlike children. Polite, mature people who find it distasteful and rude to resort to such tactics don’t get heard. I say we just do what our parents said and ignore the bullies and troublemakers and forge ahead with the task at hand.

  11. POST those comments! Obscure her address and personal information, but POST THEM! Let everyone see how completely unhinged and DANGEROUS these gun nuts are!

  12. Karen Woods says:

    I stand in front of gun shows and protest the sale of assault weapons to these low education, high paranoia types who have serious hero fetishes. They want to save you from your democratically elected government, but see no hypocrisy in threatening women and children when they don’t like what you say or get their way. Stay resolute Ms.

    • Steve Watson says:

      So, you have stereotyped all the people who attend gun shows as low education, highly paranoid types with a hero fetish. I am sorry to burst your bubble, but I go to gun shows quite regularly as do many of my friends. The last gun show I went to was about a month ago with three friends. Two of us have doctorate degrees, one has a MS, and the other has his MBA. We ran into several of our other friends there, all of whom have college degrees. While there are some poster children out there who are preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, 99% of gun owners are just average people who live next door. And for the record, I would sooner stand in a room with the low education type you described than I would with the author of the story because the person you described will know how his gun operates safely. The author purposely carried a gun into public areas without any idea of how to safely handle it, putting not only herself, but innocent bystanders in danger. I carry a gun with me every day because I take responsibility for my own safety. I am not paranoid, nor do I have a hero fetish. I would like to be considered a hero by my kids someday, not because I carry a gun, but because I am a great dad. Please remember the next time you are protesting in front of a gun show that not all the people you see wearing camouflage and something with an American flag on it are uneducated, paranoid, or have a fetish. Some of us just like to collect guns, enjoy the smell of gunpowder, and find shooting to be a relaxing hobby. And also remember that lots of men who picked up guns won you the right to stand outside those gun shows and voice your opinion.

  13. Simple fix: All comments remain in a queue until they are reviewed. No excuse whatsoever to have unmoderated comments being published.

  14. Ms. Magazine took far too long to reverse its unwise course, and its statement doesn’t fully take responsibility for the magazine’s poor judgement, but the change of heart is worthy of support and approval of those of us who take very seriously our commitment to highlighting the juvenile and irresponsible playground tactics of the gun lobby and its thoughtless supporters. They don’t belong at the table during serious discussions about gun policy, and there is no better way to demonstrate that than to expose their delusional rantings to the light of day.

  15. Yankee Flyer says:

    Thank you for your courage to publish Ms. Yewman’s first piece. And thank you for striving to maintain a safe, civil comments section.

  16. I find it odd, the notion that Ms. is somehow brave, courageous, or otherwise virtuous because they published this bit. Ms. is selling copy, generating hits on their site, to make money. That’s what it’s all about. The idea that courage has anything to do with it as laughable. People should not try to read more into this than there really is. The original article offers no new insight, no revelations, no novel achievement. It’s not news, and it’s pretty thin as commentary goes. But it is very successful at attracting eyeballs, which is precisely what Ms. is in business for.

  17. johnsxj says:

    When will Ms. Magazine (or any other outlet for that matter) be posting the rest of this series by Heidi Yewman?
    The Huffington Post was supposed to publish it but like Ms. Magazine has only posted the first segment.
    A few days ago it was reported that The Blaze would be posting the series but has yet to do so.
    There are ten of thousands of people waiting to read the rest of this series!

  18. Mike Stark says:

    I am a gun enthusiast. I enjoy researching and using old and historic firearms for their craftsmanship and history. I enjoy the sport of target shooting. I find it challenging and rewarding to practice and fine tune my skills. I am a father to my two sons and do everything I can to ensure that are safe.

    Does this make me crazy? Does this make me dangerous?

    The problem I have with most of the anti-gun comments is the people behind them have little to no idea what they are talking about. I know this because I was just like them a few years ago. I vowed never to have a firearm in the home, or garage. I never shot a real gun, I was uncomfortable being in a room with a firearm, even if it was in the holster of my brother in law, a cop. I also so no need for Asault weapons, or large capacity magazines.

    This all changed when I finally allowed myself to stop and listen to the ‘other side’ of the argument. A co-worker took me to a gun range. He showed me how to handle a firearm safely and correctly. After a few more times at a range and taking a few classes my fear of firearms was gone. My heightened since of caution still remains, but my fear diminished. I have lurched a few handguns and rifles since then.

    I have also taken about half a dozen women to the range with me. Most have never handled a firearm before. Many were petrified. Using fake rounds I taught them how to hold, use a safety, load, unload, and check the chamber. Then we went to a range and took things one slow step at a time. All the women I have taken enjoyed themselves. The fear of guns was diminished as they understood how they work, and how they are safely operated. None have regretted the experience. Although not everyone’s “cup of tea”, many have asked to go again, some even trying larger calibers too.

    The point I am making is, before you criticize something, you need to learn what you are talking about. I, in my lack of experience, could criticize how golf courses are nothing more than a waste a land, how horse riding is cruel for the animal, or how stupid it is to tend a flower garden when they just die in winter and you have to do it all over again in spring. But I don’t, because I admit I don’t know what I am talking about.

    For the anti-gun people out there, expand your horizons and learn something new. Take a gun safety class, go to the range with an experienced person and shoot a 22LR rifle and pistol (these are very weak weapons and great to start with) and gain some experience in the subject. Then more people will respect your opinion because they will seance you know what you are talking about.

    • Honora Price says:

      That was a very reasonable comment, but unfortunately it doesn’t address what we’re talking about. Those of us who labor in the vineyards of the sane gun laws movement have been threatened, verbally and physically; had our houses egged, our tires flattened, and been physically attacked on occasion; have been called every filthy name in the book and subjected – in print! – to descriptions of sexual violence we “deserve” to have happen to us; have been subjected to racist rants about the President and his plans to confiscate guns house to house; and numerous other incidents that us simply knowing how to handle a gun and what it feels like would do nothing to address. Unless we agree with their beliefs and their agenda – which is that 1) there should be no restrictions on anyone purchasing any type of gun, 2) it is rational for individuals to amass home arsenals and 3) that these will be needed to fight against the oppressive government that seeks to disarm the populace, which will necessitate another American Revolution and which is coming soon, real soon. Are there people like the above commenter with his advanced degrees and his friends with likewise? I’m sure. I have a Master’s degree, and have personally always seen the appeal of guns. But it’s our obligation as civilized and evolved individuals to resist that primal appeal, and therefore form a more civilized and evolved society. The culture and society proposed by the vast majority of gun owners that we encounter in our activities are deranged, racist, shoot first ask questions later pry them from my cold dead hands people. I wouldn’t trust these people with a sharp tool, let alone a gun. The sane people are not out front on this issue, because they agree with us. What are we asking for? Only this: universal background checks. Close the gun show and private sales loophole. Treat a gun like a car: register it, learn how to use it, get a license. Stiffer penalties for those who leave guns unattended and allow children to access them. No open carry. No bringing them into places where people gather such as schools and churches. People claiming good guys with guns are needed never address the fact that if sane gun laws were in place, the bad guys wouldn’t have access to guns in the first place. Those are not accidents anymore than drinking and driving is. It’s a choice that faces America today; we need to change our attitude towards guns. We changed our attitude towards drinking and driving and smoking, and now it needs to happen with guns. The gun industry is manipulating their consumers and fanning their fears to produce profits. That isn’t decent, that isn’t right, and that isn’t American. We can either go with the no restrictions crowd’s vision – the New Wild West, with guns on hips, ready to blaze away at the slightest provocation; never mind that the intruder is actually a neighbor, or the man in black is just a goth kid, or the perceived threat was an injured man or an unarmed mentally ill person – or we can step into a safer, saner, more responsible future, where guns are treated like the potentially lethal objects they are and they require that you prove you’re capable of handling them and being responsible for them. If you have no criminal history, if you have no history of mental illness, if you have no history of being a domestic abuser – if you can pass a background check – then you can purchase your gun, get trained and licensed, and own your gun. But we have to stop talking as though all gun owners are the same and that it’s perfectly reasonable to own dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammo. If there are sane gun owners, we always welcome their participation. They’re on our side, because they know there’s no reason for sane good people to fear the safety measures and legislation we propose. They do exist, I’ve met them; but they’re not the ones who flood columns such as this with outraged and outrageous comments. Including the advanced degree commenter above – his anger was only barely contained. He needs to take a step back and re-examine his relationship with this inanimate object about which he feels so defensive.

  19. Honora Price says:

    We want to end the casual gun culture. We want people to think differently about guns. They’re not an accessory, they’re not a statement, they’re not proof of your manliness. They’re a deadly weapon. There needs to be a change. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/us/children-and-guns-the-hidden-toll.html?_r=0

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