National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed that an FBI investigation into the fatal police shooting of a teenager with a pellet gun was "another hollow attempt" by President Obama "to stir up racial controversy and divide America further in order to keep Americans from focusing on the gross ineptitude of Obamacare and the never-ending scourge of lies and scams spun by his administration."
On October 22, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot seven times by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa, California. The deputy, identified by media as a "gun expert", apparently believed that the pellet gun Lopez was spotted carrying was an AK-47 assault weapon. Indeed, the toy gun had a striking resemblance to a real AK-47. Controversy stemming from the shooting has spurred numerous protests and vigils in Santa Rosa.
In addition to internal investigations by two local law enforcement agencies, the FBI has begun an independent investigation. An FBI spokesperson told local newspaper The Press Democrat that "It's a civil rights-type of case." Local law enforcement have welcomed the FBI investigation, with Sheriff Steve Freitas stating, "They notified us what they were going to do and we said 'Great we'll welcome that.'"
The premise of Nugent's column -- that the investigation is meant to create racial strife -- is suspect. Civil rights investigations are not always about racial discrimination. In fact, according to the FBI, the most common civil rights complaint "involves allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel."
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed on a Detroit radio station that he works closely with a number of prominent Republican officeholders, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Michigan Gov. John Engler, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
During an October 30 Google hangout hosted by 94.7 WCSX, Nugent was asked about his new role as co-chair of Republican Sid Miller's campaign for Texas Agriculture Commissioner. While answering the question, Nugent referenced his close relationship with other conservative politicians, and suggested he played a role in the 2011 showdown between Walker and labor unions. According to Nugent, he "worked close with Scott Walker's team in Wisconsin when he took it away from the hippies."
NUGENT: I'm contacted all the time, I work close with Ted Cruz who is a great patriot, a great statesman. I worked close with Scott Walker's team in Wisconsin when he took it away from the hippies and got rid of the [unintelligible] and got some freedom back in Wisconsin. I've worked with Governor Engler in the past. I've worked with different sheriffs and different attorney generals. I work closely with Greg Abbot and Governor Perry in Texas.
Despite his history of racially inflammatory rhetoric -- for example he recently endorsed racial profiling -- Nugent has served as a surrogate and done other work for Republican political campaigns. (He is also known for making offensive remarks about women, Muslims, immigrants, and LGBT individuals.)
Despite heavy spending from the National Rifle Association, Terry McAuliffe was elected Virginia governor on a platform that included strengthening gun laws, in direct contradiction to the media myth that the NRA can determine election outcomes at will.
Conventional media wisdom outsizes the NRA's scope of influence by suggesting that the gun rights group has the ability to punish any politician who opposes its absolutist Second Amendment agenda. Following the September recall of two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws, media hyped this narrative -- ignoring low voter turnout and other factors -- to suggest that the outcome should serve as a warning to politicians who would advocate for stronger gun laws.
According to the Associated Press, these elections represented "for some, a warning to lawmakers in swing states who might contemplate gun restrictions in the future." MSNBC host Chuck Todd said the lesson of the recall elections was that "every Democrat south of the Mason-Dixon Line" should stay away from the gun issue. At The Atlantic, Molly Ball wrote that the recall meant "The Death of Gun Control."
The recall elections in Colorado did not shift the balance of power in the Colorado state senate. McAuliffe's election, however, means that for the first time since 1973, Virginians elected a governor who shares the same political affiliation as the sitting president. Here are three ways in which gun policy played an important role in the governor's race.
Fox News host Chris Wallace misleadingly suggested that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "demands" that insurance companies change all coverage options, ignoring that the healthcare reform law grandfathered in plans in place before the law was enacted in 2010 and that insurers are only required to update plans if the company made a substantial change to the coverage since the ACA's enactment.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace stated "the Obamacare law demands that the insurance companies change their plans."
One of the primary goals of healthcare reform, also known as Obamacare, was to raise the quality of health care Americans receive. To this end, the Affordable Care Act requires plans which post-date the law's enactment on March 23, 2010, to contain a set of 10 "essential health benefits" including outpatient treatment, preventative care, and ambulatory services. Furthermore, the ACA significantly mandates that insurance companies cannot decline coverage for a preexisting condition.
However, the ACA also grandfathers most plans in existence prior to March 23, 2010, even if the plan does not comply with all of these requirements of the law. Only if an insurance company elected to make a "significant" change to a plan after the ACA's enactment does the plan have to be updated to comply with the law.
As Kaiser Health News explained, "Most health insurance plans that existed on March 23, 2010 are eligible for grandfathered status and therefore do not have to meet all the requirements of the health care law. But if an insurer or employer makes significant changes to a plan's benefits or how much members pay through premiums, copays or deductibles, then the plan loses that status."
Lott, pictured left of Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked the presence of the mothers of deceased African-American teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis at a congressional hearing on Stand Your Ground, describing them as "props" used to make "the case that there was racial bias" in the controversial self-defense law.
On the October 30 edition of the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company, Lott said the two mothers "were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws," before falsely claiming that the self-defense law had no relevance to either of their son's shooting deaths:
LOTT: Well I thought [the hearing] was somewhat surreal. Look, we had two very sympathetic witnesses that were there. Trayvon Martin's mom and another mother who had lost her son in a shooting, both of them were black, and they were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws. As I say, it's very hard to say anything when you're having to deal with a mother who has lost her son, under any circumstances. I have five kids; I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with that situation.
The problem was, the reason why I was saying it was somewhat surreal is that neither of their cases really had anything to do with the debate over Stand Your Ground laws.
On October 29, Lott, along with Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton and Davis' mother Lucia McBath, testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Stand Your Ground that was held to examine a number of issues surrounding the law, including whether the law made it more likely for homicides of minorities to be ruled "justifiable."
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in a column for conspiracy website WND where he celebrated the right to free speech. The NRA and its representatives frequently compare their movement to the civil rights struggle, claiming that restrictions on guns are similar to the conditions of segregation or racial discrimination.
In an October 30 column, Nugent called Parks his "hero" for exercising her First Amendment rights and referenced his celebrity as a guitar player to write, "I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson":
Heavily armed with whatever media bully pulpit I can muster, I exercise my First Amendment rights like my hero Rosa Parks who refused to sit at the back of the bus when that numb-nut law existed. I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson.
Parks, who died in 2005, was a civil rights activist best known for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger. She was honored by Congress in 1999 as the "first lady of civil rights" and the "mother of the freedom movement" and was a 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nugent previously claimed in a January interview with WND that "the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus." Civil rights leaders called those comments a "very disingenuous comparison," "offensive" and a "far-fetched fantasy."
Following a tragic incident in Northern California where police fatally shot a teenager whose pellet gun was mistaken for an assault weapon, questions are being raised over the National Rifle Association's role in blocking a 2011 state legislative proposal to require BB and pellet guns to be brightly colored in order to avoid confusion.
On October 22, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot seven times by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa, California. The deputy, identified by media as a "gun expert", apparently believed that the pellet gun Lopez carried was an AK-47 assault weapon. Indeed, an image from a law enforcement press conference taken by The Press Democrat demonstrates the similarity between the pellet gun and an assault weapon. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department also released a photo of the pellet gun Lopez was carrying:
Photo Credit: Sonoma County Sheriff's Department
The tragic shooting, now under investigation by the FBI, could have been avoided if the NRA did not block a 2011 legislative proposal in California that would have required pellet and BB guns to be brightly colored to avoid confusion with real firearms. The NRA used its lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action, to fearmonger about the proposal, while NRA News repeatedly hosted an NRA lobbyist to attack the bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is facing criticism for explaining to a congressional hearing panel that featured Trayvon Martin's mother that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws benefit African-Americans, a dubious theory invented by right-wing media.
Seeking to rebut statements that Stand Your Ground laws are racially discriminatory during the October 29 hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, Cruz defended the laws by citing "press reports" that detailed how in Florida African-American defendants were successful 55 percent of the time asserting a Stand Your Ground defense compared to a 53 percent success rate for white defendants:
CRUZ: In Florida the data show that African-American defendants have availed themselves of the Stand Your Ground defense more frequently than have Anglo defendants. According to press reports, 55 percent of African-American defendants have successfully invoked the Stand Your Ground defense in prosecutions compared to a 53 percent rate in the Anglo population. This is not about politicking, this is not about inflaming racial tensions, although some might try to use it to do that, this is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their family.
The press report Cruz referred to is likely a July 16 article from conservative website The Daily Caller that used Florida Stand Your Ground data to assert that "African Americans benefit from Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law at a rate far out of proportion to their presence in the state's population, despite an assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder that repealing 'Stand Your Ground' would help African Americans," while reporting the same figures cited by Cruz.
Media coverage of the Senate hearing on the controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law should not ignore the role the law played in the acquittal of George Zimmerman, research indicating the negative consequences of the law, and that a hearing witness who favors Stand Your Ground has had his research widely discredited by academics.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that "over 99 percent" of individuals who fail background checks to obtain a gun are law-abiding citizens, despite convincing evidence that the vast majority of denied individuals are prohibited by law from owning a gun.
On his October 26 appearance on CNN's New Day Saturday, Lott made untrue charges on background checks that are characteristic of his work. He often advocates for weaker gun laws by manipulating statistics about firearms and by touting his discredited research that purports to prove looser rules concerning the carrying of guns in public reduces crime.
Lott, a contributor to FoxNews.com, will testify before an October 29 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law while representing his new organization Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Lott has previously mischaracterized "Stand Your Ground" in order to defend the law that played an important role in the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. CPRC's secretary is National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent who caused controversy by calling Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," and used the Martin case to make disparaging remarks about the African-American community and endorse racial profiling.