Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guns, ammo and Google - an op-ed in the Mercury News

I don't make a habit of blogging about everything I get published in newspapers and magazines, but I thought this one would be of special interest to hunters and hunting bloggers/website operators.

It's an uphill battle convincing folks that there are legitimate uses for guns and ammo, but it's one very much worth fighting.

If you'd like to comment, I hope you'll comment on the Merc's site. I mean, you're welcome to comment here, but I think we really need to reach a wider audience on this issue.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


Paul McJones said...

It's interesting that Google is now linked with the National Rifle association: both are sponsors of the 2012 CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) -- see here.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Thanks for writing on this topic, Holly.

Solo Hunter said...

The first sentence of your article was off-putting to me because it begins with a generalization that immediately sets up a pro-gun anti-gun polemic. Why do these issues always have to come down to the left or the right? What ever happened to the sensible middle way?

I am a bird hunter that owns four shotguns. I am a father and I am looking forward to teaching my son to hunt and to respect the land and the animals he hunts. I do not want to see or my son to see advertisements of assault rifles and handguns and military gear every time we use Google. I support their decision.

I believe that the gun industry has contributed to the increase of gun violence in this country by challenging every gun control law that comes up for legislation which has made guns far too easily accesible and by spreading fear with misinformation about guns (i.e. guns make you safer, Obama will criminalize hunting). We need to have an honest conversation about guns and gun control without getting all emotional and blocking out other people's opinions.

I believe that guns should be legal and they should be regulated. Of course now that I've mentioned the word "regulated" I will be labeled as a liberal or a commie. (In fact I am a registered independent for those who want to know). I want to offer a perspective of the middle way. I challenge others to do the same and avoid rhetoric and generalizations, to not be so black or white.

If you want Google to accept commissions and ad money from gun and weapons manufacturers so be it. I do not. I don't think its healthy for my children or for society to constantly see images of guns. But that is just my opinion. Please respect it just as I respect yours.

For me, and I suspect for most hunters, hunting is about feeling connected to the land and reliving a natural way of life that has been lost to industrialization; guns play a secondary role in that pursuit. I don't want to see guns everywhere I go becuase I believe it would be detrimental to my family and my community. We need to treat guns with more respect, to be more educated about gun usage and be more conservative when selling guns.

Holly Heyser said...

Solo: The reason I chose to start the piece with that sentence is that it's exactly how Google sees guns, which is apparent from its policy. Google clearly indicates that there legitimate uses of knives, but it fails to see that the same applies to guns.

I'm not going to quarrel with most of what you said, because I am a raging moderate myself, which is why you won't see me wading into most gun control debates. (I've also written quite a bit about why we need liberal/Democrat gun owners - I don't want all of our political clout eggs sitting in just the Republican basket.)

That said, please look at the top two items for sale in my store and tell me if that's the kind of thing you don't want your son seeing. I write for hunters. I promote products that I like and believe other hunters will like. Google's new policy denies me commission on those products, even though they are as essential to hunting as other items in my store, such as waders for waterfowling and kitchen shears for processing the birds I kill.

You can't pretend bullets and shot aren't an essential part of hunting with guns. Google's policy does just that.

Solo Hunter said...

I don't have a problem with the products you sell out of your store. You have images of two boxes of non-tox ammunition.

I guess I would want to know what Google's perspective is and why they have made the policy regarding advertisements selling guns, ammo and other weapons such as butterfly knives. I don't think Google has any problem with hunters. I get ads from hunting outfitters all the time on my gmail account (Free hog hunts in California and Texas!)

I suspect Google's decision is based on what I would call an "image problem" that the gun industry has and the unfortunate events that have occurred as a result of the ease of purchasing assault guns. This is a problem that hunters should be concerned about as we own firearms and as such will be associated with gun rights advocates such as the NRA and the gun lobby that spread misinformation and fear. I am in an awkward position as I do not support the NRA, I believe in having stronger gun control laws, but I am a hunter that owns firearms. I don't fit in the left box or the right one!

Holly Heyser said...

Sadly, those products are EXACTLY what I won't get commission on anymore.

I don't know that I believe Google thought this through, to be honest. Seems like someone who's fairly ignorant about guns made a pretty broad decision about them - that's what it feels like. Of course, we'll never know, because Google doesn't answer questions. I actually felt lucky that Google even returned my calls, even if it was just to point me to policies posted online.

But even if it is what you suggest - an image problem rooted in the NRA's tactics - I'm not going to accept that as an excuse, because I'm talking about GOOGLE's decision-making here, not the NRA's.

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