The Washington Times is continuing its shoddy reporting about the federal form for gun background checks by misleadingly claiming gun dealers will lose their licenses if buyers inadvertently make mistakes on the form.
In a September 18 article, the Times' Kelly Riddell reported on a minor change to the form in 2012, in which a question on race and ethnicity was separated into two boxes. Riddell wrote that the change "has become a headache for firearms dealers, as many people either check off one box or the other. Failure to complete them both results in [a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] violation. When a firearm dealer gets audited by the ATF, one violation -- no matter how minor -- is enough reason to revoke a license."
In fact, the ATF can only revoke the license of gun dealers who commit "willful" violations of federal regulations, which in this case, would entail a seller knowingly processing the flawed form. A buyer's simple failure to "check off one box or the other" is insufficient for a license revocation, contrary to Riddell's description.
As pressure to act on a proposal to expand gun background checks in Pennsylvania builds in the state legislature, an error published by Harrisburg NBC affiliate WGAL is providing fodder to the bill's opponents.
Pennsylvania currently only requires buyers of handguns to undergo a criminal background check. Purchasers of long guns such as shotguns and rifles -- including military-style assault weapons -- can buy these weapons without a background check in "private sales." H.B. 1010 would extend the background check requirement to long guns.
Gun violence prevention group Ceasefire PA recently visited the legislature to lobby for the bill. In support of the bill, Ceasefire PA has argued that the proportion of murders with firearms other than handguns in Pennsylvania has more than doubled since 1998 and that long guns are disproportionality used to kill police officers.
In a September 16 article, WGAL sloppily attempted to share Ceasefire PA's argument for expanded background checks, but instead misstated the nature and year of the claim that Ceasefire PA has made:
Cease Fire says FBI figures show the number of murders committed with long guns has doubled since 1996.
In fact, Ceasefire had argued that the proportion of murders committed with guns other than handguns has increased. According to a September joint report from Ceasefire PA and Center for American Progress Action Fund, FBI data indicates that this figure has increased since 1998 from 8 percent to 21 percent:
Two congressional Republicans are introducing legislation that advances the conservative media's false claim that the Obama administration recently started making gun buyers disclose their race and ethnicity
Reps. Ted Poe (TX) and Diane Black (TN) are proposing a bill that would change the federal form used for gun background checks by prohibiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from asking about race or ethnicity on the form.
The conservative media falsehood started with a September 16 article by Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who wrote that a 2012 revision to Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling."
In 2012, the ATF split question 10 into two parts. Now, instead of asking gun buyers to indicate their race or ethnicity from a series of choices, applicants must indicate their ethnicity and race separately:
This change is consistent with similar changes made on Census forms.
Other members of the conservative media took Riddell's claim about an Obama administration "policy change" at face value, asserting that being asked to disclose race and ethnicity on the background check form was somehow a new development.
If the press release from Poe and Black is any indication, the bill is directly premised on the conservative media falsehood. The September 18 release claims, in contradiction to publicly available evidence, "In 2012, the Obama Administration quietly began requiring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to record firearms purchasers' race and ethnicity."
Right-wing outlets are claiming that the Obama administration is using the standard form for federal gun background checks to engage in "racial profiling" and to find out "who has guns" because the form asks about race and ethnicity. But the form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.
People who buy firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Form 4473, which is processed by the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity.
In a September 16 article, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote that a 2012 revision of Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling." According to Riddell, the change was made by the ATF "[w]ith little fanfare."
The change in the 2012 revision is that race and ethnicity were separated into questions 10.a. and 10.b.:
The National Rifle Association is commenting on NFL player Ray Rice's violent attack on his then-fiancée, speciously claiming that gun safety advocates are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football." This wild attack comes as the NRA is actively opposing legislation in the U.S. Senate to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
The NRA weighed in on controversy surrounding Rice in a September 17 video commentary narrated by NRA News commentator Colion Noir.
Noir sought to contrast how the New Jersey judicial system has treated Rice -- who was allowed to enter a pre-trial intervention program despite video evidence showing him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious -- and the case of Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen.
In 2013, Allen was arrested after being found in possession of a handgun during a traffic stop in New Jersey. Allen's weapon was legally registered in Pennsylvania, where she lived, but she was apparently unaware that New Jersey does not recognize Pennsylvania concealed carry permits.
Due to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that could put Allen in prison for years, critics on the right and left have brought attention to the case as an example of overzealous prosecution. In a recent development, prosecutors are reviewing the charge against Allen to determine if she can avoid jail time and enter a pre-trial intervention program; a seemingly equitable outcome for this inadvertent violation of the law.
While criticizing the manner in which Allen's case has been handled, Noir made a bizarre leap of logic to claim that "all anti-gunners around the world" are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football of course," because of the Ray Rice case. Noir also claimed that "anti-gun utopia" is a world where "a mother of two kids, is faced with three years in jail for trying to protect herself, but isn't afforded the same second chance that some knuckle-dragging hothead who 'Tiger Uppercuts' his fiancée into a momentary coma is given."
The gun industry's trade group is claiming Democratic Massachusetts attorney general candidate Warren Tolman's September 9 primary defeat occurred because of his support for smart gun technology. But the candidate who won the primary also backs smart guns and attacked Tolman during the race for not supporting the technology enough.
In a September 16 column for the "Guns and Gear" section of conservative website The Daily Caller headlined "Leaders Of Smart Gun Mandate Movement Lose Primaries," National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president Larry Keane claimed that Tolman and Massachusetts Democratic congressional candidate John Tierney both lost recent primary races after supporting smart gun technology.
Keane wrote, "Besides their recent primary losses, what other striking similarity exists between these two outliers? Both candidates were staunch supporters of a mandate for so-called 'smart gun' technology. "
One problem: during the campaign Tolman was attacked by opponent Maura Healey after backing away from mandating smart gun technology. According to a July 27 Healey campaign press release, "Democratic candidate for Attorney General Maura Healey today expressed disappointment that her primary opponent is weakening his position on mandating smart gun technology."
Amidst the National Rifle Association's ongoing outreach effort recruiting women, the gun group's radio show ran a segment that dismissed "so many" campus sexual assault cases as "two people being drunk at a party hooking up and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning."
Since the re-launch of the NRA Women's Network in 2013, the NRA has greatly increased its outreach to women, a demographic that is far less likely to own guns than men and more likely to support firearm regulations the NRA opposes. Women are also disproportionately targeted by men with gun violence, often in the domestic violence context.
The September 5 edition of the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, featured a discussion of campus sexual assault that misled on campus sexual assault statistics and suggested women bore some responsibility for being assaulted if they were drinking.
NRA News host Cam Edwards hosted the Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow to discuss a National Public Radio story about men accused of sexual assault on campus who say they did not receive adequate due process during disciplinary proceedings.
From the September 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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NRA board member Ted Nugent is telling fans that on the upcoming 9/11 anniversary they should be prepared to send "two to the head" against "allahpuke zombies," adding that they should "killemall."
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a "Special Report" sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.
Wemple highlighted an August 27 "special pullout section" in the Times that was clearly "sponsored by the NRA" and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage "pleases the mighty gun lobby."
But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in "a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench," Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all "already been written."
Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a "risk" in the Times' behavior, since reporters may "be inclined to tilt their stories" to appease pro-gun advertisers:
Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: "Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper."
The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he "recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA."
The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's "Advocacy Department" put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.
While the National Rifle Association has been conspicuously silent on a gun accident at an Arizona shooting range that left an instructor dead, the NRA's media arm -- NRA News -- criticized the "great deal of exploitative coverage" and dismissed those who believe a "larger lesson" can be drawn from the tragedy.
On August 25 a 9-year-old girl firing a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun at an Arizona gun range lost control of the weapon, leading to the fatal shooting of a range instructor. The accident quickly became national news and touched off debate over the appropriateness of letting children handle automatic weapons. The latest developments indicate that the child complained about the Uzi's recoil and indicated the weapon was "too much" for her moments after the fatal accident.
On the August 29 edition of the NRA News show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards acknowledged that "as a media person" he understands why the accident has garnered so much attention, but also claimed "anti-gun advocates in the media" were using the story to try to prevent children from learning about firearms.
The NRA does not like it when high-profile incidents of gun violence make national headlines. The group recently warned supporters of the media "trick" of using the word "shooting" to describe mass shooting incidents, following a mass killing in Isla Vista, California. After a 2013 incident where a 2-year-old girl was accidentally killed by her 5-year-old brother with a child-sized rifle made national headlines, Edwards criticized the "mass media," claiming they were covering the story as part of a "campaign of shame" and "wanted to make a point that this is what happens in Bumpkinville."
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)
Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association's media outlets are undermining the organization's political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker's Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts "as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!" The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women -- in a series titled "Good Guys" -- promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of "Mom and Dad"; one stars a woman emphasizing the "courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to "keep your hands off our guns."
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that "guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women," falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN's S.E. Cupp, The Blaze's Dana Loesch, and Fox News' Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA's annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Cam Edwards, host of the National Rifle Association's news show, claimed that after Hurricane Katrina residents of the New Orleans neighborhood Algiers "were looking out for each other by walking the streets armed with firearms." But according to a federal hate crimes indictment and numerous media reports, after Katrina white gun-toting vigilantes in Algiers targeted African-Americans with racially motivated violence.
Edwards made the comments about Algiers during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment on his news show Cam & Company that uses anecdotal accounts of self-defense with a gun to create the false impression that guns are used more often to prevent rather than commit crimes. The Katrina comparison came during a discussion of a recent self-defense shooting in Algiers. Edwards praised locals' "attitude of being able to protect yourself and the ones you love," and claimed that individuals used firearms after Katrina to make sure "there was no looting, no robbing, no burglaries."
According to an expose published in The Nation, after Katrina some residents of the largely undamaged Algiers Point -- an affluent "white enclave" in the "predominately black" Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans -- shot African-Americans who passed through the neighborhood while fleeing the historic storm's destruction:
Media outlets are uncritically reporting the false claim in a new attack ad from the National Rifle Association that gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg wants to "ban ... your guns." In fact, Bloomberg supports the right to own a gun.
The NRA is launching an ad campaign against Bloomberg due to the former New York City mayor's position as a chairman of gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety and his pledge to spend $50 million this election cycle in support of gun safety measures.
Although he is not a candidate for office in 2014, the NRA plans to run an ad in Senate battleground states attacking Bloomberg over his support for gun safety proposals.
In the ad a narrator states, "Bloomberg tries to ban your snack food, your sodas and most of all, your guns." But neither Bloomberg nor Everytown for Gun Safety are proponents of general gun bans, a fact that some media outlets covering the NRA ad are leaving out of their reports.