How David Gregory's Wayne LaPierre Interview Can Avoid Lazy Conventional Wisdom
Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
David Gregory is set to host National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre on this Sunday's Meet the Press. It's LaPierre's first Sunday show interview since March and a rare opportunity to put the NRA chief under the microscope.
In his past coverage of the gun violence debate, Gregory has demonstrated the ability to push back on LaPierre's spin and force him to account for his group's intransigence. But he's also shown a willingness to adopt false media tropes about the supposed electoral weakness of lawmakers who back stronger gun laws.
In recent days, following the recalls of two Colorado state senators who supported stronger gun laws and the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard shooting, some in the media have suggested that no progress on the issue is possible, a lazy claim that could shut down any effort to renew a dialogue on public safety legislation that has gone quiet in the halls of Congress despite overwhelming public support for stronger gun laws. Here are a few things Gregory should remember to avoid falling into that conventional wisdom trap.
Stronger Gun Laws Are Popular
Legislation to expand background checks to cover private sales, which failed to receive a supermajority in the Senate earlier this year, is favored by an overwhelming majority of the American people. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that bill should have passed. A majority of Americans also support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The Colorado Recalls Are Not Bellwether Elections
The evidence does not back up the claims from some pundits that the Colorado recall elections show that Democrats should avoid the issue of stronger gun laws if they want electoral success. The gun laws passed in Colorado earlier this year, which remain on the books, are popular statewide, with more than 80 percent of Coloradans supporting the expanded background check law and a plurality supporting the limit on high-capacity magazines. The recall elections featured shockingly low turnouts of 21 and 36 percent; turnout was likely reduced by efforts from recall supporters to prevent the use of mail-in ballots that the state usually uses. While opponents of stronger gun laws did succeed in their efforts to remove two state senators, they originally had targeted two more but failed to qualify for the ballot. And President Obama and the state's governor and senator all won recent elections despite fervent opposition from the NRA.
Violent Video Games Do Not Cause Mass Shootings
In his December speech following the Sandy Hook mass shooting, LaPierre claimed that the "corrupting shadow industry" of video games, not weak gun laws, were responsible for murders with firearms. Many in the conservative media have offered similar explanations for the Navy Yard shooting. In fact, academic research has found no link between playing video games and violent behavior. Analysis of the world's top video games markets found no correlation between video game consumption and gun violence.
Bill Clinton Did Not Disarm The Navy Yard
As the Navy Yard shooting unfolded, conservatives lamented how the base was a "gun-free zone," suggesting that the employees had been unable to defend themselves during the attack. They quickly blamed Bill Clinton, who they said had mandated an alleged gun ban with a 1993 executive order. In fact, the rules on military bases don't ban all guns, which is obvious since among the shooter's first victims were armed security personnel. And those rules were actually issued during the first Bush administration and survived the second, despite their alleged perfidy. Even the NRA's news arm has issued a correction for this falsehood.
The NRA Is Not An Electoral Powerhouse
The NRA spent more than $18 million during the 2012 election cycle, 95 percent of which went to races where their candidate lost. More than $12 million went towards their failed attempt to defeat President Obama. The NRA-backed candidate lost in six of their seven top targeted Senate general election races (they also spent heavily in support of Richard Mourdock's GOP primary effort; he won his primary but was defeated in the general election). The one top NRA-supported Senate candidate who won, Arizona's Jeff Flake, saw his poll numbers crater in response to his vote against the Senate background check bill. Of 26 House incumbents defeated in the 2012 election, 18 had the NRA's support. These results are consistent with research finding that that both NRA endorsements and campaign contributions have a negligible impact on elections.
The NRA Is An Extreme Organization
Since his last appearance on Meet the Press, LaPierre has stated that "tyranny 'lurking just around the corner' " is a legitimate concern, warned of a draconian "confiscation scheme" sought by gun safety proponents, and said of media and political elites, "let them be damned." The NRA has named a new president, Jim Porter, who has called the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" and said that Attorney General Eric Holder, who he termed "rabidly un-American," was "trying to kill the Second Amendment at the United Nations" with the help of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NRA board member Ted Nugent has called gun victim Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" and an "enraged black man-child"; said that "the black problem" could be solved if black people put "heart and soul into being honest" and "law-abiding"; and attacked "that lying racist in the White House" and the "jack boot Nazi motherfuckers in the Department of Justice." At their 2013 annual meeting, the NRA's membership unanimously adopted a resolution opposing any and all additional restrictions against guns.