The latest blow to the media myth that the National Rifle Association has the ability to determine election results is a Politico article reporting the result of a bipartisan poll that showed voters trusted Obama more than Romney on the issue of guns in North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.
The NRA spent nearly $12 million dollars on an "All In" campaign to remove Obama from office, but was unable to deliver. Voters in Virginia trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney on guns by a 9 point margin, and in Colorado and North Carolina by four and one point margins. Despite massive ad buys, less than 27 percent of voters in the three states polled recalled seeing the NRA's campaign material.
Politico quoted Mayors Against Illegal Guns director Mark Glaze reacting to the poll, which his organization paid for, as evidence that "the NRA has built a mythology around their ability to swing elections that has little basis in fact."
An Arizona gun store owner, who Fox News celebrated for refusing to let Obama voters shop at his store, has made a number of inflammatory comments on his radio show, including calling police officers who "ratted on" a man who made threats against President Obama "low-life sissy cry-babies."
Cope Reynolds made headlines earlier this month after running a full-page ad in the Arizona newspaper White Mountain Independent that stated, "If you voted for Barack Obama your business is not welcome at Southwest Shooting Authority. You have proven you are not responsible enough to own a Firearm." Reynolds told the Phoenix New Times that his ad is "a political statement" that "goes way beyond gun control."
The Fox News early morning program Red Eye has featured Reynolds' ad, and Reynolds himself made an appearance on Fox Business to discuss the widespread attention he has received in recent weeks.
Reynolds is also the host of talk radio program The Shooting Bench. On the latest edition of his show on November 23, Reynolds defended Sam Koivisto, a Jacksonville, Florida police officer who resigned after being reported to the Secret Service for allegedly telling his co-workers, "If an order was given to kill Obama or something, then I wouldn't mind being the guy." According to Reynolds, the incident proves that Koivisto "works with a bunch of lowlife sissy cry-babies here that somebody ratted on him" and that the officer "was just venting some steam, some frustration off."
Daily Beast correspondent Megan McArdle attacked the concept of an assault weapons ban by falsely suggesting that there are no functional differences between such weapons and other firearms.
In her November 21 article, McArdle wrote that the differences between assault weapons and other firearms are "largely cosmetic rather than functional," a claim also pushed by the National Rifle Association. In fact, assault weapons, like the military weapons on which they are based, have functional differences from other guns that increase their lethality.
McArdle's assessment was based on an image that purports to show two nearly identical weapons with only one being regulated under an assault weapons ban.
The image was created by a blogger who used it to argue in favor of the ban, writing that "If you can buy the gun on the top, but can't buy the bottom gun, who cares? You still have a gun." McArdle responded that "if it makes no difference, than why have the law?" and argued that "'assault weapon' is a largely cosmetic rather than functional description."
In fact, the lower pictured weapon, a Mossberg 500 Tactical Persuader, has a number of features that increase its lethality compared to the top pictured shotgun. Contrary to what the graphic suggests, the only difference between the two weapons is not just the pistol grip featured on the Tactical Persuader. The Tactical Persuader also has an adjustable stock that can be removed from the firearm completely, which allows the gun length to be shortened for increased concealability. Furthermore, when combined with a pistol grip, the firearm can be more easily maneuvered, allowing the shooter to fire from the hip and more easily use the weapon from vehicles and in other close quarters situations.
A November 19 article in The Hill repeated the false claim that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty -- a proposal to crack down on the supply of weapons to human rights abusers -- poses a threat to private gun ownership in the United States.
In a piece that relied entirely on a House Resolution filed in opposition to the ATT, Hill reporter Pete Kasperowicz also credulously repeated suggestions that the treaty could impact assistance to Israel and Taiwan. In fact, both of these claims are contradicted by the text of the proposed treaty itself and by basic United Nations procedure.
Throughout the entire article, Kasperowicz does not cite any authorities to provide deeper context for the ATT, relying instead on the text of the House Resolution filed by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), which is quoted at length. From The Hill:
The resolution, whose main sponsor is Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), argues that the ATT does not recognize the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms, and thus threatens to undermine the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
The ATT's draft preamble clearly "reaffirm[s] the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems." Furthermore, the Department of State has also declared that the United States will oppose any final treaty that contains "restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution."
During the November 18 edition of ABC's This Week, conservative Washington Post columnist George Will suggested that the tax policy of House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has a weightier mandate than President Obama's proposals because Republicans retained a majority in the House in the 2012 elections. In fact, Democratic House candidates received more votes than Republicans, who retained a majority largely because of widespread gerrymandering.
According to Will, House Republicans possess a greater mandate because "almost every member of John Boehner's caucus won his or her seat by a much bigger margin than Mr. Obama won his renewed term."
GEORGE WILL: The President denounced the House Republicans across this country as obstructionists. The country said, "We hear you," and they sent them back to continue being a brake on the President. And almost every member of John Boehner's caucus won his or her seat by a much bigger margin than Mr. Obama won his renewed term.
In making this comment, Will joined a chorus of right-wing media figures who have denied an Obama mandate in the wake of his electoral victory. During the November 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dick Morris claimed that Obama does not have a mandate because "he is the first President of the United States ever to be re-elected by less than he got elected by." The same day, The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that "Speaker John Boehner can negotiate knowing he has as much of a mandate as the President."
These claims ignore that the continued Republican majority in the House is the result of favorable redistricting rather than the will of the people.
Continuing his post-election meltdown, Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent, who is also a National Rifle Association board member, claimed in a November 15 column that America may not be able to survive "four more years of Mr. Obama and his Big Wrecking Crew government liberal jihad."
Nugent also amplified his attack on downtrodden areas of America, claiming that urban cities are "rusting wrecks full of unemployed scavengers." He singled out East St. Louis, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan, which he described as "hell-scapes of dependent hopelessness." In an October 30 interview with the Times, Nugent called the majority of Detroit residents "pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle."
Nugent continued to deride Americans who voted for President Obama in his November 15 column, describing them as only interested in "more free candy from Uncle Sugar Daddy." Following the re-election of Obama, Nugent sent out a series of tweets on November 7 calling Obama voters "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats." In a Times column on November 8, he unleashed more invective, describing Obama voters as "thunderously dumb and incredibly naïve."
In the lead up to Election Day, Nugent repeatedly made inflammatory remarks about Obama. While promoting his Discovery Channel special about gun culture, Nugent called Obama "anti-American" and accused him of only feigning respect for veterans. While promoting his special on Twitter, Nugent referred to the Obama administration as "enemies of America" and leveled accusations of treason and "criminal complicity to murder."
Nugent, who drew the scrutiny of the Secret Service in April after promising to be "dead or in jail" if Obama was re-elected, also made waves in July when he wrote in a Times column, "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War."
The right-leaning Heritage Foundation has thrown cold water on the revival a conspiracy theory pushed on Fox News by contributor Dick Morris and the National Rifle Association that the United Nation's Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is actually a sinister Obama administration plot to eliminate the right of private individuals to own a firearm.
During a Heritage Blogger Briefing, senior research fellow Ted Bromund stated, "I don't think that the ATT is a gun confiscation measure for a variety of reasons. First, because I don't regard that as within the bounds of possibility in the United States and secondly, because that is not what the text says."
Bromund's assessment is correct. The stated goal of the treaty is to regulate the international trade of firearms in order to prevent the diversion of arms to human rights abusers, and the most recent version of the treaty's text expressly prohibits the regulation of firearm ownership within sovereign nations.
The preamble of the July 26 treaty draft clearly "reaffirm[s] the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." Furthermore, the Department of State has stated that it will oppose any treaty that contains "restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution."
Despite convincing evidence that the treaty seeks only to regulate international trade -- and that any treaty limiting rights granted by the United States Constitution would be considered invalid -- the conspiracy theory persists. Morris, who has pushed theory on Fox News, and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, both dedicated space in their latest books to advance the claim.
The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative (NRA-ILA) issued an election postmortem claiming that the public has been misled by the media "about the effectiveness of NRA campaign spending." The release is the latest attempt by the NRA to sustain what has been a false media narrative about the NRA's ability to influence elections.
Despite the NRA's protestations, the outcome on Election Day could hardly have been worse for the gun organization. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of seven races where the NRA spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation concluded that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by NRA Political Victory Fund went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.*
These results do not comport with the widely-accepted media narrative that the NRA is an electoral powerhouse. Despite research by American Prospect contributing editor (and former Media Matters staffer) Paul Waldman proving that the impact of both NRA campaign contributions and endorsements is overblown, the fable of NRA influence has persevered. Slate's Brian Palmer encapsulated this narrative in July when he wrote that the NRA "can reliably deliver votes" and "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
Although mythology surrounding the NRA's power has persisted for years in the media, that façade appears to be crumbling in the wake of the 2012 elections. An article by The Hill titled "Report: NRA shoots blanks this election," highlighted the NRA's ineffective spending and noted that the Sunlight Foundation's report "challenge[s] the popular political wisdom that the NRA is among Washington's most influential lobbying forces and that candidates who buck their agenda do so at their own peril." The Washington Post offered similar analysis in an article titled "National Rifle Association shut out on Election Day" that cited the Sunlight Foundation's conclusions.
As an attempt to continue projecting itself as an organization that can determine the outcomes of elections, the NRA is now touting the success of three state ballot initiatives preventing states from banning hunting as evidence that money given to the NRA was well spent.
But the hunting ballot initiatives -- which were not even opposed by NRA nemesis the Humane Society -- are not what the 2012 elections were about for the NRA. In 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced an "All In" campaign to remove President Obama from the White House that compared a potential Obama second term to a 2004 tsunami that killed over 250,000 people in South Asia.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, where the National Rifle Association spent $18 million dollars to little effect, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promised to defeat Democrats who do not support his organization's agenda in the 2014 elections. According to LaPierre, a columnist for the organization's publications, Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will "go out on that plank" with President Obama and "the American public and the NRA will saw it right off."
From the November 9 edition of The Daily News on NRA News:
LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom.
But the NRA had an abysmal track record for the 2012 elections. Besides failing to achieve its primary goal to defeat President Obama, the NRA backed the losing candidate in six out of seven Senate races where it spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of incumbent House members who lost re-election bids were endorsed by the NRA.
For years, the media has advanced a false narrative that the National Rifle Association is an electoral powerhouse with a real ability to impact the outcomes of elections. The 2012 elections clearly demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is at odds with reality. While most incumbents in the House of Representatives kept their seats on November 6, over two-thirds of incumbents who lost were backed by the NRA.
Slate's Brian Palmer summed up the media's conventional wisdom on the NRA over the summer, when he wrote that the group "can reliably deliver votes," and this "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
This false media narrative of NRA's supposed influence on elections has persisted, even as an analysis by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) concluded that both NRA endorsements and campaign contributions have a negligible impact on elections. In a study of House races over four election cycles, Waldman determined that Republican incumbents did not receive a statistically significant advantage if endorsed by the NRA. The average campaign contribution of $2,500 to NRA-endorsed House candidates was also found to have insignificant impact on elections.
Of the 26 incumbent House members who lost on Election Day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA. Defeated incumbents included four Democrats and 14 Republicans. Four of the eight defeated incumbents not endorsed by the NRA were Democrats who lost to other Democrats in California's top-two primary system.
Overall, the NRA fared poorly in the 2012 election. According to open government group the Sunlight Foundation, the NRA Political Victory Fund, the NRA's political action committee, received a less than one percent return on $10,536,106 spent on independent expenditures during the election cycle. The NRA spent 0.44 percent of its money supporting winning candidates and 0.39 percent opposing losing candidates.* The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization's lobbying arm, garnered a 10.25 percent return on $7,448,017 spent on the election. In seven Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, six of the NRA-backed candidates lost.
The following NRA endorsed incumbents were defeated on Election Day. Two incumbents included in this analysis are currently trailing vote tallies, but those races have not been officially called: