Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • What To Know About The NRA And Smart Guns

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    On April 29, the Obama administration released a report on what federal agencies can do to further develop smart gun technology that prevents anyone other than authorized users from discharging a firearm. With the gun industry already attacking Obama’s technology push, it is important to note that while the NRA claims it doesn’t oppose the technology’s development, its media and lobbying arms routinely make false claims about its reliability and promote conspiracy theories about the federal government wanting to use the technology to spy on gun owners.

  • Politico Report On Obama’s Smart Gun Plan Doesn’t Disclose Smart Gun Critic Received Gun Industry Money

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A Politico article on President Obama’s reported upcoming plan to “push” for smart gun technology quoted Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) executive director Jim Pasco attacking the technology without disclosing the FOP has received funding from the gun industry. Many of Pasco’s attacks on smart guns echoed the National Rifle Association and the gun industry.

    Politico’s article also credulously repeated the NRA’s misleading claim that it merely opposes laws that mandate the adoption of smart gun technology and not the development of smart gun technology in general.

    In an April 28 article, Politico reported President Obama “is opening a new front in the gun control debate, readying a big push for so-called smart gun technology -- an initiative that the gun lobby and law enforcement rank and file is already mobilizing against.” According to the report, “As early as Friday, Obama is set to formally release findings from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments on ways to spur the development of guns that can be fired only by their owner.”

    The article extensively quoted Pasco, who offered various attacks on smart gun technology, claiming that law enforcement officers would be used as “guinea pigs” to test the technology; that Obama’s move placed politics over officer safety; that police officers oppose the technology; and suggesting the technology could put officers in greater danger:

    “Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet,” said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We have some very, very serious questions.

    […]

    But at this point, the Obama administration already has frayed ties with rank-and-file cops, many of whom didn’t think the president took their side in his reactions to police violence and protests like those in Ferguson, Missouri. Pasco compared the push for smart guns to the decision to limit local departments’ access to surplus military equipment.

    “They sit down among themselves and decide what is best for law enforcement, but from a political standpoint, and then tell officers they’re doing it for their benefit,” Pasco said.

    Of the 330,000 officers in his union, Pasco said, “I have never heard a single member say what we need are guns that only we can fire,” noting that there might be moments in close combat when an officer would need to use a partner’s weapon or even the suspect’s.

    Politico did not disclose that FOP's charity has received money from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade group. According to a 2010 Washington Post investigation, NSSF gave FOP Foundation $100,000 in 2010. In 2015, NSSF announced a $25,000 contribution to FOP Foundation. NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane has attacked smart gun technology. In 2014 he published a factually inaccurate and unfounded column arguing that two Massachusetts political candidates lost their races because of support for the technology.

    The Politico article twice referenced FOP’s representation of “rank and file” police officers as explanation for FOP’s opposition to Obama’s reported proposal. But FOP has also been accused of representing corporate interests. The 2010 Washington Post profile -- which delved into Pasco’s other work as a lobbyist -- described him as “a product of the capital's revolving-door culture” with an “unusual” role as a lobbyist representing beer, cigarette, and entertainment companies that "raises questions about possible conflicts of interest," according to tax law specialists.

    According to the Post's reporting, under Pasco's leadership FOP has accepted donations from the gun industry lobby after taking positions favorable to that group, and the organization's positions have repeatedly aligned with the priorities of lobbying clients of Pasco and his wife.

    Washington Post pointed to several specific instances of apparent conflict:

    • In 2007, FOP "became pivotal to the" gun debate when it opposed the repeal of the Tiahrt amendment. The group backed other gun industry priorities in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, FOP's charity received $100,000 from NSSF.
    • In 1998, FOP opposed a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the ability to regulate tobacco and raise the federal cigarette tax. In addition to leading FOP, Pasco at the time was a lobbyist for Philip Morris, which has paid his firm $600,000.
    • In 2005, while Pasco was receiving $200,000 from Sony to lobby on "Internet theft of intellectual property," FOP joined a legal brief backing the music industry in an intellectual-property case against a music-sharing website.

    The Politico article also repeated the NRA’s misleading claim about the gun organization’s position on smart guns, noting, “Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, are not against funding research for smart guns or putting them on shelves. But the NRA does oppose any law that would prohibit people from buying a gun that doesn’t have personalized technology.”

    The NRA’s attacks on smart gun technology go far beyond the group’s opposition to laws that mandate the adoption of the technology. While purporting to not oppose research into smart guns in a statement on its website, the NRA’s media arm routinely attacks the technology, often pushing either falsehoods about the reliability smart guns or by connecting the developing technology to conspiracy theories about the federal government.

  • NRA Spins Primary Results With False Claim Clinton’s Support For Gun Safety Laws Is Hurting Her Campaign

    NRA News On CT Primary: “Hillary Clinton Did Not Win Newtown, Donald Trump Won Newtown”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s media arm offered a faulty and misleading analysis of Connecticut’s presidential primary results to suggest that Hillary Clinton’s support for stronger gun safety laws is a detriment to her campaign, while arguing that she somehow lost the primary to Donald Trump.

    During the April 27 broadcast of the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards attacked a Huffington Post article headlined “Hillary Clinton Wins Newtown, After Making Gun Control Central To Her Campaign.”

    Newtown was the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which claimed 26 lives.

    Clinton won a seven point victory over Bernie Sanders in Newtown, beating her overall state victory margin of five points during Connecticut’s April 26 primary.

    Edwards attacked the notion that Clinton’s focus on gun safety and subsequent win was “significant” by fallaciously arguing that “Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” because Trump received more total votes in the primary:

    EDWARDS: On the Republican side, in Newtown, Connecticut, Hillary Clinton didn’t beat Donald Trump in terms of the vote numbers. … So in terms of all of the candidates that residents and voters in Newtown could vote for, no, Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown. I don't think you’re going to see that headline at Huffington Post. ... So if Hillary Clinton's win in Newtown in the Democratic primary is significant, well then what is the significance of (a) a Republican candidate actually getting the most votes of all of the candidates on the ballot there in Newtown, (b) one who has expressed support for the right to keep and bear arms. What's the significance there ya think?

    Trump received 1,654 votes in the Republican primary in Newtown while Clinton received 1,362 votes in the Democratic primary.

    Edwards also said, “It's worth noting that statewide, Hillary Clinton actually did get more votes than Donald Trump, she got about 50,000 more votes than Donald Trump, but not in Newtown, Connecticut. ... I just think it's worth pondering what the significance of the fact that Hillary Clinton did not actually get the most votes in Newtown might be.”

    Edwards’ comparison between vote totals for Clinton and Trump is nonsensical. By definition, primaries are not contests between candidates of different parties -- and Connecticut has a closed primary system meaning voters can only vote for candidates of their registered party.

    Edwards claim that “Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” also doesn’t make sense when voter trends in Connecticut are analyzed:

    • For a variety of factors, far more Republicans have voted in 2016 primaries compared to Democrats.
    • Newtown has more active registered Republicans (5126) than active registered Democrats (4358). Mitt Romney easily won Newtown in the 2012 presidential election.
    • Even so, Democratic turnout was higher (58%) compared to Republican turnout (56%) in Newtown.
    • Edwards argued it was significant that Trump received more votes than Clinton in Newtown, even though Clinton “got about 50,000 more votes” than Trump statewide. But in Newtown there are 768 more active registered Republicans than Democrats, while statewide there are 303,635 more registered active Democrats compared to active registered Republicans.
  • Gun Industry And Conservative Media Team Up To Falsely Attack Clinton For​ Challenging Legal Immunity For Negligent Gun Dealers

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media and Politico are citing new polling that purports to show voters oppose Democratic presidential front-runner​ Hillary Clinton’s call to repeal a federal immunity law which largely shields negligent gun sellers from legal liability when they sell guns to people they know or should know are dangerous. The poll question -- which was commissioned by the gun industry’s trade group and conducted by a Republican polling firm -- is dishonest because it misrepresents Clinton’s position on the law, suggesting that it was designed as a push poll rather than an accurate snapshot of public opinion.

  • NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Says Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Disavowed The U.S. Constitution” In 2012

    LaPierre Cites Interview In Which Ginsburg Actually Praised The “Wonderful Words” Of The “Genius” U.S. Constitution

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre distorted past comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a column warning that “our guns and our culture would be a favored target for eradication” if Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are successful in the 2016 elections.

    In order to attack the possibility of Clinton being elected president and filling multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court with nominees like Justice Ginsburg, LaPierre smeared Justice Ginsburg by distorting her past comments about what new democracies should consider when adopting a constitution.

    In 2012, Ginsburg traveled to Egypt to offer advice to the country as it began the process of adopting a constitution. In an interview, Ginsburg said she advised Egypt to look at “all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II” and that she “would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Ginsburg then singled out the South African constitution, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the European Convention on Human Rights as modern examples for drafting constitutions.

    During the interview, Ginsburg also praised the U.S. Constitution, saying, “The United States in comparison to Egypt is a very new nation, and yet we have the oldest written Constitution still enforced in the world. And it's a Constitution that starts out with three wonderful words: It's we the people.” Ginsburg praised the U.S. Constitution several other times during the interview, calling the document “an instrument that endured” and referencing “the genius of the Constitution.”

    But in his monthly “Standing Guard” column in the May 2016 edition of America’s 1st Freedom, LaPierre smeared Ginsburg as part of his rallying cry that the NRA "must defeat Hillary Clinton."

    LaPierre wrote of Ginsburg, “In an Egyptian television interview in January 2011 [sic], she disavowed the U.S. Constitution.” Distorting Ginsburg’s remarks, LaPierre added, “You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior?”

    LaPierre went on to claim that the South African Constitution encourages “civil disarmament,” writing, “It’s senseless, but here we have a U.S. Supreme Court justice who might find herself in the majority embracing the very essence of undefined and unknown ‘social justice.’”

    LaPierre’s smear of Ginsburg is recycled from claims the NRA made about the 2012 elections and the prospect of President Obama’s reelection. The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, released an article that distorted the Egypt comments to argue “most troubling of all is the possibility that if elected to a second term, President Obama could appoint even more justices who share Justice Ginsburg's views.”

    During the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre also attacked Ginsburg in a speech, calling her a “giddy school girl” for hugging Obama at the State of the Union and again distorting her Egypt comments.

  • Meet The Press Panel Fooled By Trump’s Temporary, Moderate Position On Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Bills”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and panelists on his NBC show cited Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s claim that he opposes anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” as evidence that Trump is moderating his views as he looks toward the general election. But at no point was it mentioned that Trump backpedaled later, saying that states should decide whether to enact “bathroom bills” that discriminate against their LGBT residents.

    “Bathroom bills” -- legislation that often aims to ban transgender people from public restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificate -- are increasingly in the news as 44 bills in 16 different states targeting transgender people have been introduced as of February 2016. An anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” in North Carolina, HB 2, has come under particular scrutiny.

    Trump commented on North Carolina’s law during an April 21 appearance on NBC’s Today, apparently opposing the law by stating, “there have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble. … . Leave it the way it is.” But he reversed himself during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity later that day, stating, “I think that local communities and states should make the decision.” In Trump’s new view, states would be within their rights to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation.

    Media coverage which cites Trump’s first position on “bathroom bills” while omitting his later comment comes as Trump tries to convince the media that he will be more “presidential” throughout the rest of his presidential campaign.

    NBC's Meet the Press seemed to fall for Trump’s ploy, with Todd referencing Trump’s first answer to NBC to ask, “Is Trump pivoting to a general election?”

    During a panel discussion of Trump’s comment to NBC, Republican strategist and NBC News political analyst Nicole Wallace said, “Trump’s answer made so much sense, and I think what is also on the line in this cycle is the power and the saliency of social issues, and I think if Trump wins it delivers a massive blow to the idea that you have to be up and down on social issues to be the Republican nominee.”

    Robert Costa, a reporter for The Washington Post, added, “Trump’s answer tells us a lot about how he would be in a general election, this is someone who has not climbed the ladder, forming relationships with social conservatives along the way.”

    Costa went on to claim of Trump, “he has relationships with all kinds of people, he’s not just someone who surrounds himself with Republicans and conservatives, and that actually strangely worries Democrats, that he would be appealing to moderates.”

    Wallace ended the segment by saying, “Trump’s answer got him a lot of credit with a lot of people,” with Todd agreeing, “It did.”

    During the segment an on-screen graphic read, “Trump Campaign: More Accepting On ‘Bathroom Laws’.”

    At no point was there mention that Trump had amended his stance to favor allowing states to pass discriminatory anti-LGBT laws or that Trump has for months said that as president he would sign into law the First Amendment Defense Act, a piece of Republican-sponsored legislation that would nullify existing federal LGBT protections and allow anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

  • NRA Commentator: People Who Hate Guns Should Own Body Armor As A “Passive Way To Protect Yourself From Being Shot”

    NRA's Colion Noir: “You Don’t Have To Watch The News Longer Than An Hour To Realize That The Structure Of Society Can Go Downhill In A Heartbeat”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A bizarre video released by an NRA News commentator touted several reasons to own body armor, including the claim that “if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor.”

    The video was published on April 20 by Colion Noir, who is an NRA News commentator and host of the NRA’s supposedly millennial-geared web series Noir.

    The video, “5 Reasons You Should Want Body Armor,” offers several arguments in favor of buying a plate carrier vest -- a piece of tactical gear that holds body armor -- and body armor plates to keep at home or carry while in public.

    While most of Noir’s suggestions were apparently geared toward gun owners, he also recommended people who make “make less than smart decisions with your life” and “want nothing to do with” guns should still own body armor because he “can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot”:

    NOIR: Look, if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor. I’m not saying you have to channel your inner 50 Cent and wear a vest general purpose. But have armor in your home or bag, you have nothing to lose. You may not like guns or me for liking guns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about your safety.

    In the video, Noir explains, “When people come to my place, it’s not the Rifle Dynamics AK-47 sitting on a coffee table that gives them pause; it’s my body armor,” before describing several other scenarios where he recommends owning body armor:

    • “Home Defense”: Noir said, “Along with my gun and flashlight, I keep a plate carrier with AR-500 armor plates in close proximity to my bed. If I’m incredibly unlucky and hear that bump in the night, it doesn’t take much effort to slip on the plate carrier or soft body armor and grab my gun. Sure that THOT [That Ho Over There] you just met and brought home from the club will likely look at the plate carrier sitting next to your bed a little funny, but you shouldn’t be dealing with THOTs without protection anyway.”
    • “Active Shooter – Conceal Carry”: Noir said, “Yes, you read that correctly, I conceal-carry body armor. … Since I’m usually carrying a bag of sorts, why not slip one of the AR-500 soft body armor plates into the bag. If I’m out and about and there happens to be an active shooter, I can just throw on the bag and use it as a shield, or give the bag to someone I love to do the aforementioned.”
    • “Civil UnRest/Apocalypse/SHTF”: Over footage that included the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the televised beating of trucker Reginald Denny, Noir said, “Please believe, if the fall of society happens at two o’clock on a Tuesday, and for whatever reason I have to go outside, I’m walking outside like this. You don’t have to watch the news longer than an hour to realize that the structure of society can go downhill in a heartbeat. It may just be a temporary breakdown in society, like a crazy protest or looting after a major storm. But very permanent things can happen in temporary situations.”
    • “Road Trip”: Noir said, “I already have a rifle in my vehicle when I’m traveling. It was kind of a no-brainer to throw my carrier in as well. God forbid I’m stuck on a highway watching a terrorist go from car to car shooting at people. That carrier could come in pretty handy.”

    Noir often intertwines his commentary on guns with his commentary on women. In recurring segments on his show Noir, he narrated videos that appeared to be praising the appearance and personality attributes of an attractive woman, but at the end it is revealed that instead he was talking about the features of a high-end military-style assault weapon.

    Noir’s pro-gun commentary is often inflammatory. In February, Noir said that a tax that he had to pay on a firearm purchase was “rape.” He later apologized for the claim.

    Following the high-profile murder of two Virginia journalists who were shot to death during a live television broadcast in August 2015, Noir warned the victims' parents not to "become so emotional" in response to the shooting that they become advocates for stronger gun laws.

  • Apparently, The NRA Is Now OK With Illegal Gun Possession

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    New York City has cracked down on an alleged scheme to circumvent local gun licensing requirements, and the National Rifle Association’s media arm reacted not by calling for enforcement of gun laws but by falsely calling NYC’s laws unconstitutional. The NRA also downplayed the danger the scheme posed to the public and excused the alleged crimes by saying NYC’s law invited corruption.

    The scheme involved a man allegedly bribing New York Police Department officers to obtain up to 150 gun licenses, including licenses to carry a gun in public. The NRA repeatedly excused the alleged crime in segments on NRA News, in a departure from its oft-repeated talking point that instead of passing new gun laws, officials should enforce the laws on the books.

    On April 18, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the arrest of Brooklyn resident Alex Lichtenstein for allegedly masterminding a scheme to bribe police officers in order to obtain gun licenses. According to a press release from the office, “As alleged, Lichtenstein offered the officer $6,000 per license, bragging that he had already used his NYPD connections to obtain 150 gun licenses.”

    The New York Times reported that Lichtenstein is accused of obtaining licenses that included “full- and limited-carry permits, which are difficult to obtain in New York City.” The prosecutor in the case asked for Lichtenstein to be held without bail, calling him an “arms dealer” and a “danger to the community.”

    The April 18 and 19 broadcasts of the NRA’s radio show, Cam & Company, used news of the scheme to attack gun laws in New York City -- which has strict laws and very low rates of gun violence compared to other big cities -- and to downplay the seriousness of the allegations and the threat the scheme posed to public safety.

    NRA News host Cam Edwards repeatedly downplayed the alleged scheme by falsely suggesting that the gun licensing systems in NYC and elsewhere violate the Second Amendment and by claiming that the alleged bribery was a natural result of the city’s gun laws.

    But in making his argument, Edwards dismissed the reality that the alleged bribery scheme let people possess guns illegally.

    During the April 18 broadcast of Cam & Company, Edwards claimed gun permit laws violate the Second Amendment: “You don’t have this problem if you actually recognize the right to keep and bear arms. … Here’s a simple proposal: Get rid of the gun permits in New York City. Don’t require a permit to own a firearm in New York City. Abide by the words of the Second Amendment, and then you don’t have an opportunity for corruption.”

    In segments posted on April 18 and 19, Edwards said, “If you don’t need permission to exercise a fundamental individual constitutional right, then you can’t bribe someone in order to exercise said fundamental individual constitutional right,” and, “When you see a right as a privilege to be doled out, guess what happens? Corruption, I think, inevitably follows.”

    Edwards’ excuse for the alleged crime -- that gun licensing laws violate the Second Amendment right -- is unfounded. Courts have repeatedly found permitting and licensing systems to own guns or carry guns in public to be consistent with the Second Amendment. In 2015, a federal court upheld New York’s licensing system.

    Edwards also claimed on April 19 that leaders in NYC “would rather deal with corruption probes every year than put in place a policy that recognizes and acknowledges the Heller decision … and the very words of the Second Amendment."

    Edwards’ argument is nonsensical in light of the Heller decision he mentions, the landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, where a conservative majority struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban. In response to the ruling, D.C. changed its law to comply with the Second Amendment by implementing a system similar to New York City's that requires licensing to own a firearm.

    During his NRA News segments on April 18 and 19, Edwards also repeatedly downplayed the danger to the public the alleged scheme posed by distorting the allegations surrounding it.

    On April 18, Edwards said, “I assume, by the way, this is a pistol permit, not a permit to carry. We’ll try to get more details here.” The details were already available. The April 18 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release that kicked off news reports of the scheme indicated that the case involved licenses to carry guns in public. The New York Times reported this same fact on April 18.

    Edwards repeatedly described the scheme as a matter of merely expediting license requests. He claimed on April 18, “There are no allegations at this point that anybody got a permit who wasn’t legally eligible for one,” suggesting instead that the alleged mastermind of the scheme was someone who could just “help you get your permit a little bit faster.”

    In fact, the U.S. attorney’s April 18 press release stated that one person who obtained a permit through the scheme “had been arrested for forgery, received approximately 10 moving violations and three vehicle-related summonses, and had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, including one in which he was accused of threatening to kill someone,” while noting that “the NYPD License Division indicates that it may reject applications if the investigation reveals a history of arrest, driving infractions, or domestic violence incidents, among other reasons.”

    On April 19, Edwards had apparently become aware of this fact, but he continued to downplay it, stating that the man “had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, but not even arrests, but much less a conviction here.” Edwards never mentioned that one of the domestic violence incidents allegedly involved a threat to kill somebody, as the article he said he was referencing during the segment explained. He also misleadingly claimed, “And this is the one guy that was supposedly the worst of the worst” of Lichtenstein's alleged customers.

    In fact, the U.S. attorney’s press release indicates that a review of Lichtenstein’s application files “is ongoing,” meaning at this time it is unknown if licenses were given to other problematic people. As the press release explained, the scheme allowed individuals who wanted a gun "to forego the full investigation typically conducted before the NYPD License Division approves or disapproves an application."

    This is not the first time Edwards has attacked New York’s gun laws rather than the people who violate them. In March 2013, Edwards called for the dismissal of an illegal gun possession charge faced by New York linen mogul George Bardwil, who was caught with a gun while on trial for domestic violence charges. In July 2014, Bardwil was convicted on charges of slamming his ex-wife's head into the ground after she refused to have sex with him. In June 2015, Bardwil pleaded guilty to the gun charge and was sentenced to two years in prison for domestic assault and illegal gun possession.

  • Koch-Backed NFIB Smears Merrick Garland As A Radical With Dishonest “Scorecard” Attacking His Judicial Rulings

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) -- a Koch-backed front group that is opposing the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court -- released a misleading “scorecard” on Garland’s rulings as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, claiming that Garland is not “moderate” because he supposedly sides too often with federal agencies to the detriment of business interests.

    But what NFIB fails to mention in its “scorecard” is that many of the decisions involving federal agencies that NFIB has selected for criticism -- namely the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Labor (DoL), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- were unanimous rulings where Garland was often joined by fellow D.C. Circuit judges appointed by Republicans.

    While claiming to speak for small businesses, NFIB is actually a front group that has received millions of dollars from the Koch brothers network and other large corporate interests, and its opposition to Garland is part of a campaign against environmental, labor, and healthcare policies that most small businesses support.

    On April 12, NFIB released a “judicial scorecard” purporting to analyze Garland’s career as a judge on the D.C. Circuit. The group promoted its “scorecard” with a press release that asserted Garland’s judicial record indicates he “would overwhelmingly rule in favor of the government, unions, and environmental groups at the expense of small businesses.” According to an NFIB official quoted in the press release, “When you look at Judge Garland’s record on the bench, it is absolutely impossible to conclude that he is anywhere near a moderate."

    But NFIB’s attempt to scandalize Garland’s record, which is widely viewed as moderate, dishonestly omits important context.

    According to a Media Matters analysis of the 35 cases cited by NFIB concerning Garland’s judicial opinions on the EPA, DoL, and the NLRB -- issues highlighted as the most important in NFIB’s press release and classified as “wins” for the government by the NFIB -- judges appointed by Republicans were on the same side as Garland in 28 out of 35 -- or 80 percent -- of the cases.

     

    In fact, in 17 of the 35 EPA, DoL, and NLRB cases NFIB complains about in its scorecard, Garland wrote the majority opinion for three-judge panels that were composed of him and two judges appointed by Republicans. In only one of the 35 cases did Garland write a majority opinion for a panel composed entirely of judges appointed by Democrats.

    NFIB’s attempt to scandalize Garland’s judicial opinions for siding with government agencies more often than not also ignores the longstanding Chevron Deference doctrine, which “raised the issue of how courts should treat agency interpretations of statutes that mandated” agency action, where the “Supreme Court held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of such statutes unless they are unreasonable” -- meaning that there is nothing unusual about agencies often prevailing against challenges to their interpretation of law.

    Below, Media Matters provides the context to the cases NFIB attempts to scandalize with its scorecard, demonstrating how a strong majority of the EPA, DoL, and NLRB cases NFIB cites to claim Garland is not “moderate” involved Garland’s agreement with Republican appointee judges:

    Environmental Protection Agency

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the EPA by claiming that the agency “wins 94% of cases” before Garland, citing eight EPA “wins” versus one “split decision.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in six of the EPA’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican-appointed judge. NFIB’s scorecard also doesn’t tell the full story or misleads on the other two cases it cites.

     

    The NFIB scorecard includes the 1999 decision American Trucking Ass'n v. EPA. Garland did not actually participate in the ruling in this decision, so it does not merit inclusion in NFIB’s scorecard. Instead, Garland later joined several judges in voting in favor of rehearing the case en banc before the entire D.C. Circuit. Legal scholars have said a vote to rehear a case en banc is not a ruling on the merits of the case, and as a matter of law, does not signify a “win” for the EPA, although the NFIB scorecard baselessly claims that “Garland would have ruled for EPA.”

    The scorecard also includes the 2002 decision American Corn Growers Ass'n v. EPA. Garland issued an opinion concurring and dissenting in part with the majority opinion, which was issued per curium on behalf of a panel with two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee. In his opinion, Garland noted that his concurrence applied to “most of” the majority opinion, which included the Republican-appointed judge.

    Of the six cases cited by NFIB that could actually be reasonably characterized as EPA “wins," Garland was joined in his opinion by at least one Republican appointee every time:

    • In Allied Local and Regional Manufacturers Caucus v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA, a per curium opinion authored by Garland and Judge Wald (Carter appointee) was joined by Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Brown (W.Bush appointee).
    • In National Association of Home Builders v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Rogers (Clinton appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Rogers (Clinton appointee) and Kavanaugh (W. Bush appointee). Kavanaugh also filed a separate concurring opinion.

    Department of Labor

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the DoL by claiming that the agency “wins 87% of cases” before Garland, citing eight DoL “wins” versus two “losses.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in six of the DoL’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican appointee judge.

     

    Here are the Republican appointees who joined Garland’s opinions in favor of DoL in six of cases cited by NFIB:

    National Labor Relations Board

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the NLRB by claiming that the independent agency “wins 78% of cases” before Garland, citing 19 NLRB “wins” versus five “losses” and one “split decision.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in 16 of the NLRB’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican appointee judge. In the other three cases, FedEx Home Delivery v. NLRB, Northeast Bev. Corp v. NLRB, and Ross Stores, Inc. v. NLRB, the NFIB scorecard doesn’t tell the full story -- in all three cases Garland only partially dissented, agreeing in part with his Republican-appointed colleague's majority ruling.

     

    Here are the other 16 cases cited by NFIB where at least one Republican appointee agreed with Garland’s decision in favor of the NLRB:

    • In Assoc. of Civ. Tech., Puerto Rico Army v. FLRA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Tatel (Clinton appointee) and Griffith (W.Bush appointee).
    • In Antelope Valley Bus Co., Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Tatel (Clinton appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Bally’s Park Place, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Ginsburg (Reagan appointee).
    • In Ceridian Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Griffith (W. Bush appointee).
    • In Dean Transportation, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Flying Food Group, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Kavanaugh (W.Bush appointee).
    • In Halle Enterprises, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In ITT Industries, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judge Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee) and Judge Roberts -- a Bush appointee who is now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
    • In Lee Lumber and Bldg. Material Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Rogers (Clinton appointee). Sentelle also filed a separate concurring opinion.
    • In Mohave Elec. Co-op, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Pacific Bell v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Pacific Coast Supply, LLC v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Griffith (Bush appointee) and Kavanaugh (Bush appointee).
    • In Shamrock Foods Co. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In Spectrum Health -- Kent Community Campus v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Griffith (Bush appointee).
    • In Spurlino Materials, LLC v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Williams (Reagan appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).

    Charts by Oliver Willis. 

  • NRA Falsely Claims That Obama Gave “El Chapo” A Sniper Rifle

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A National Rifle Association video falsely claims that President Obama gave Mexican drug trafficker “El Chapo” a .50-caliber sniper rifle in order to claim that the president may be on the “side” of drug cartels.

    But the NRA video never mentioned that the gun in question was manufactured by an NRA board member or that the NRA has strongly opposed efforts to ban the sale of .50-caliber sniper rifles. The class of firearm is “among the most destructive weapons legally available to civilians” and has been linked by law enforcement to “terrorism, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international and domestic drug trafficking, and violent crime.”

    In an April 15 video, NRA News commentator Dana Loesch criticized President Obama over news reports that a .50-caliber sniper rifle associated with Operation Fast and Furious was recovered at the hideout of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who is widely known as “El Chapo,” following the narcotrafficker’s January arrest.

    Fast and Furious was a failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation to track firearms sold to traffickers at retail stores in the United States to high-level drug cartel figures in Mexico. The ATF lost track of many of the guns after they crossed the border, and the operation, which was terminated in 2011, became public knowledge after one of the guns was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Fast and Furious was spun off of the botched Bush administration Operation Wide Receiver, which also failed to track trafficked guns to high-level targets.

    While an independent investigation found that the failure of Fast and Furious was due to “flawed” tactical decisions on the ground, the NRA has long conspiratorially claimed that Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder hatched the operation as a secret plot to cause violence in Mexico and thus justify more restrictive gun laws in the United States.

    In NRA video, Loesch claimed, “El Chapo did not get that .50-cal from a [concealed handgun license] holder in Texas; he got it from Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” before asking, “Who's side are they on?”

    It is well-established that Obama and Holder were not aware of Fast and Furious while the operation was underway. While the NRA continues to push conspiracies about the operation, even Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the primary congressional investigator into the failed sting, has said it is “important” to acknowledge that an independent investigation found that Holder was unaware of the program during its existence.

    The independent investigation, undertaken by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, found that “ATF's Phoenix Field Division, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, bore primary responsibility for the conduct of Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious.” The investigation also debunked the NRA’s conspiracies about the purpose of Fast and Furious, finding “no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization.”

    The NRA video also failed to mention the organization’s own role in making the .50-caliber sniper rifle -- a gun whose round “can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes” -- easily available to the public.

    According to pro-gun blogs and groups, the rifle recovered at El Chapo’s hideout was a Barrett .50-caliber M82 sniper rifle. The Barrett rifle can be seen in a still from the NRA’s video:

    There is no federal law that specifically regulates .50-caliber rifles, meaning they can be purchased by anyone aged 18 or older who passes a background check at a licensed gun dealer (and in many states the rifle can be bought without a background check through the private sale loophole).

    The NRA has long opposed proposals in Congress to ban the sale of the .50-caliber rifle, falsely arguing that .50-caliber weapons pose no danger to the public. In 2013, the gun organization successfully urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to veto a .50-caliber rifle ban. The NRA also lobbied against a 2005 U.S. House of Representatives bill to restrict .50-caliber rifle ownership -- which it misleadingly labeled as a "hunting rifle ban" -- and has opposed state efforts to regulate the .50-caliber rifle in California and Hawaii. Other material from the NRA-ILA has falsely claimed, ".50 caliber rifles are not used in crimes -- .50 caliber rifles are too large and heavy to be employed in normal criminal behavior," and attacked critics of the .50-caliber sniper rifle as engaging in "phony terrorism hype."

    The NRA has a financial interest in promoting access to the .50-caliber rifle. The inventor of the .50-caliber rifle, Ronnie Barrett, sits on the NRA board of directors. Barrett has maintained a close relationship with the NRA, and his company has donated between $50,000 and $99,000 to the gun group. In 2010, the NRA gave Barrett an award that recognized "exemplary achievement by individuals who were responsible for the development, introduction, and promotion of equipment that has made a profound and enduring impact on the way Americans shoot and hunt."