A new report from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV) debunks the flawed media narrative that state gun laws have, on balance, loosened nationwide since the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Contrary to this narrative, a May 2 LCPGV report notes, "significant or sweeping" legislation strengthening gun laws has been enacted in eight states since Newtown, compared to four states that have put into law substantial legislation weakening gun laws.
The faulty media narrative on state gun laws emerged from a December 2013 New York Times report that analyzed 1,500 gun bills introduced into state legislatures in the year following Newtown. Of 109 bills that became law, 70 loosened restrictions while 39 strengthened restrictions on firearms.
Mistaking quantity for quality, numerous media reports oversimplified the Times report to misleadingly suggest that Newtown caused gun laws to be weakened. The Washington Post's GovBeat blog cited the Times in an entry that argued "gun control is losing, badly." An editorial by The New York Daily News used the Times data to declare 2013 "another year of the gun."
John Nolte, a columnist for conservative Breitbart.com, wrote that the Times report evidenced "[t]he failure of the mainstream media's months-long crusade to exploit the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary into restrictions against our Second Amendment civil rights." National Review Online's Greg Pollowitz used the Times figures to argue "[i]f the gun-control movement is serious about making legislative changes and not just getting headlines, it needs a new strategy."
The Times report was also featured on cable news. On the December 15, 2013, edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace cited the Times figures to tell Mark Kelly (a gun safety advocate and husband of gun violence survivor former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) that "I think I have to say you have not had much success this past year." The Times report has also been used to push the false narrative on MSNBC, with the most recent citation occurring on April 23.
Bucking the trend, Mother Jones used data on 2013 gun laws and state population figures to demonstrate that "more than 189 million" Americans live under stronger gun laws since Newtown.
Scott Bach, an NRA board member and head of the NRA's New Jersey affiliate, dismissed the family of a child who died during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as "a prop" in response to the family's support for a New Jersey bill that would limit gun magazine size.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. Supporters of the legislation have pointed to mass shootings where high-capacity magazines were used, including Sandy Hook, to argue that such magazines threaten public safety. On May 5, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing and possibly advance the bill to the full New Jersey Senate. The General Assembly version of the bill passed in March.
Bach, who is executive director of the official NRA affiliate group Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, made an April 30 appearance on the NRA News show Cam & Company in order to warn NRA members about the hearing, but while doing so he insulted Newtown families who have supported the legislation. In claiming that the real purpose of the legislation is to make Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "uncomfortable because of the emotional component," Bach claimed the bill's backers "brought out the Newtown victim's family and frankly used them as a prop or a show."
Fox host Sean Hannity dismissed the murder convictions of a Minnesota homeowner who used excessive force in killing two teenagers who broke into his home, claiming with exasperation, "They broke into the guy's house."
On April 29, Minnesota resident Byron Smith was convicted on two counts each of premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17. Brady and Kifer were killed on Thanksgiving Day 2012 after breaking into Smith's home.
While homeowners have broad latitude in defending their residences from intruders, a jury believed that Smith went too far. Prosecutors compared Smith's actions on Thanksgiving Day to the setting up of a deer stand. After spotting a neighbor he believed had previously burglarized his house, Smith moved his car to make his home seem unoccupied and then waited in his basement "with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns."
Armed supporters of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy are reportedly setting up checkpoints requiring locals to prove their residency and engaging in other intimidating behavior, weeks after being lauded by conservative media for rallying to Bundy's cause.
Bundy has been at odds with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle's use of public lands. While BLM possessed court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy's cattle to settle more than $1 million in unpaid fees, Bundy threatened violence and repeatedly said he would "do whatever it takes" to resist BLM efforts to collect on his debt.
Bundy's stand against BLM was endlessly hyped by conservative media -- especially Fox's Sean Hannity -- and set off a series of events that nearly ended in bloodshed. After Bundy was brought into the national spotlight, armed militias rallied to his cause. On April 12, tensions reached a head as supporters -- some armed -- marched towards where BLM had impounded Bundy's cattle. Citing safety concerns, BLM suspended its operations.
The behavior of Bundy's supporters -- who according to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston were "whipped into a frenzy" by Hannity and others -- was frightening during the final confrontation with BLM. According to the Las Vegas Sun, children were interspersed with the armed group that marched towards BLM. (Widespread media attention was given to a claim by extremist Bundy supporter Richard Mack that supporters strategized to use women as human shields.)
Right-wing media are heaping praise upon Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. over his remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, ignoring his association with extremists.
Clarke has drawn praise from conservative pundits for a speech at the NRA's annual meeting where he proposed that the words "keep your hands off our guns dammit" be appended to the Second Amendment. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Anna Kooiman said Clarke delivered a "very powerful speech," while co-host Tucker Carlson said he was going to send Clarke fan mail, rated his speech "awesome," and fist-pumped as Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. said Clarke "put it out there in straight language that people can understand."
On April 28, Clarke joined Fox & Friends for a laudatory interview that co-host Steve Doocy introduced by saying, "He is one law enforcement officer doing more than protecting you on the streets, he's standing up for all of our constitutional rights as well."
On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Lawless rancher Cliven Bundy praised "hero" Sean Hannity for promoting his cause during an appearance on a conspiracy radio show during which he also warned a civil war could only be avoided if federal "bureaucrats" are disarmed by county sheriffs.
Bundy has been in conflict with the federal government for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle herd's use of public lands. A recent attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to enforce court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy's cattle to settle unpaid fees and fines was suspended due to safety concerns after armed militias rallied to Bundy's cause and some militia members pointed guns at BLM law enforcement.
Despite threats of violence from Bundy and his supporters -- and the fact his legal claim against paying grazing fees is incredibly weak -- right-wing media have praised Bundy as a conservative champion standing against an outsized federal government. Amid endless sympathetic coverage on Fox News, host Sean Hannity emerged as the network's leading advocate for Bundy.
Media Matters and others have criticized Hannity's "totally irresponsible" journalism, including his support of Bundy's extreme positions, invocation of the deadly Waco standoff, and his touting of the possibility that the federal government will kill Bundy.
During an April 21 appearance on 9-11 truther Alex Jones' conspiracy radio show, Bundy offered thanks to Hannity for promoting his cause. While he said the men disagreed about whether armed militias are the first or last line of defense against government overreach, Bundy said of Hannity, "He is my hero and he supported me and this movement and I appreciate and love him for it. Support him 100 percent." For his part Jones said, "I want to commend Sean Hannity because he has been really bad on a lot of issues but he has a lot of courage doing the right thing here. So I appreciate him being supportive of this."
The National Rifle Association's top lobbyist reacted to the formation of new gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety by calling the group's founder, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a "billionaire nanny" and attacking the group's plan to spend $50 million on gun safety initiatives.
Everytown for Gun Safety was launched on April 16, and will feature the recently combined efforts of Bloomberg initiative Mayors Against Illegal Guns and grassroots gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Everytown says it "will ask Americans to join the fight to reduce the gun violence that kills 86 Americans every day and affects every town -- big cities and small towns alike." The group will work in Washington while also "moving beyond Congress to bring the fight for common-sense gun policies to state capitols, corporate boards, and state and federal elections -- fields of play formerly occupied almost solely by the gun lobby."
Bloomberg announced in The New York Times that he plans to spend $50 million this year on gun safety initiatives. Republican and Democratic officials, including President Bush's secretary of homeland security and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sit on the board of Everytown, as do several prominent survivors and family members of victims of gun violence.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, is embroiled in a decades-long fight with the federal government over grazing rights on public land. Since 1993, Bundy has refused to pay for his use of 600,000 acres of public land to feed his cattle because he does not recognize the federal government's ownership of the land. Tensions recently escalated when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began confiscating -- pursuant to court orders -- Bundy's cattle in order to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.
During the dispute, Bundy and his family have repeatedly threatened violence, invoked revolutionary rhetoric, and issued public statements making known that they own firearms and are willing to use them.
Drudge's hyping of the dispute comes as armed militia groups are reportedly entering the area to support Bundy; the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that "[s]erious bloodshed was narrowly avoided" during an April 9 confrontation between Bundy supporters and federal law enforcement agents. BLM says one of its agents used a Taser on one of Bundy's sons after BLM authorities were assaultedand intimidated during that incident.
The dispute has been given top billing on Drudge, with the headline, "Heavily-Armed Feds Surround Nevada Ranch," accompanied with an image of anti-BLM protest signs. Also featured on Drudge's homepage is the headline, "Militia Members Arrive: We're not 'afraid to shoot'...":
Right-wing media are fanning the flames of a conflict between a federal agency and their new hero -- a scofflaw Nevada rancher who's threatening a violent range war against the federal government.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has been fighting the government over grazing rights on public land for nearly a quarter century. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay government fees required to allow his cattle to exploit public lands. In 1998, the government issued a court order telling Bundy to remove his cows from the land, as part of an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise located there. And in July 2013, a federal court ordered Bundy to get his cattle off public land within 45 days or they would be confiscated. The confiscation began this month, and the cattle will be sold to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.
Conservative media have held the confiscation out as a big government invasion of private property rights and have repeatedly hyped the rancher and his family as victims being intimidated by a heavily armed force of federal agents who are escalating the situation into the realm of notorious and deadly standoffs like Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Fox News hosted the rancher on the April 9 edition of Hannity, where Sean Hannity sympathized with Bundy's claims against the government and argued that allowing Bundy's cattle to graze on public lands "keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer."
Fox & Friends highlighted the situation and complained about the protections for the desert tortoise. Co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition."
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com played up the fact that the federal agents confiscating Bundy's cattle were armed. Alex Jones' Infowars.com posited that the government was attempting to "enslave us in an [United Nations] Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights." During an April 9 edition of Jones' conspiracy theory radio show, Jones said of Bundy, "So your bottom line, like Paul Revere, you're making your stand, you're telling folks we're being overrun by an out of control tyranny."
National Review Online's Kevin Williamson called the presence of armed agents "inflammatory" and described the government's actions as a "siege." The conservative American Thinker accused Attorney Gen. Eric Holder of enforcing the law against Bundy for racial reasons.
But if anyone is waging a campaign of intimidation, it's Bundy and his family, who have repeatedly threatened violence, invoked revolutionary rhetoric, and issued public statements making known that they own firearms and appear willing to use them.