Minnesota paper Star Tribune cited a misleading statistic about carrying concealed guns from pro-gun group Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) without disclosing the group's pro-gun slant or that it is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott.
CPRC research was cited in a March 2 article on a recent increase in the number of permits to carry a concealed gun issued to Minnesotans. Arguments in favor of carrying concealed weapons were bolstered by the article's citation that "[t]he Crime Prevention Research Center found that states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates."
The article identified CPRC as "a nonprofit organization that studies the connection between firearms and crime," a description that fails to adequately inform readers about the nature of the group.
CPRC is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott, who often manipulates statistics about gun violence in order to advance a misleading pro-gun agenda. Armed With Reason, "a blog dedicated to academically refuting pro-gun myths," describes Lott -- the inventor of the now-debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis -- as "the most prolific and influential writer on the topic of gun violence and gun control."
According to Armed With Reason, Lott touts false claims about gun violence "repeatedly in articles and TV appearances" and has committed "ethical transgressions" in his pursuit of pro-gun research:
While [Lott's] initial research was groundbreaking, further examination revealed numerous flaws. Today the "more guns, less crime" hypothesis has been thoroughly repudiated. On closer inspection his impressive credentials reveal an academic nomad, never able to secure a place in academia. His ethical transgressions range from accusations of fabricating an entire survey, to presenting faulty regressions, to creating elaborate online personas to defend his work and bash critics, to trying to revise his online history to deflect arguments. And this doesn't even begin to cover the whole host of false claims and statistics he has peddled repeatedly in articles and TV appearances.
The CPRC statistic cited by the Tribune -- that "states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates" -- is misleading because it gives the erroneous impression that the concealed carry of firearms is associated with lower crime rates. In fact, credible academic research has proven the opposite to be true.
Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist, falsely claimed that a recent move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition is motivated by animus towards women. In fact, the proposal aims to protect law enforcement officers.
On February 13 the ATF published a letter describing its intent to ban the importation and manufacture of a type of armor-piercing ammunition commonly called "green tip" that is used in AR-15 and other "AR-type" assault weapons. Because the "green tip" round contains a steel penetrator, it is more powerful than some other types of ammunition used in such firearms, and its use is already banned at some shooting ranges, including the NRA's.
The ATF is moving to ban "green tip" because it can penetrate a law enforcement officer's body armor when fired from a pistol. While in the past "green tip" ammunition was subject to an ATF exemption, the agency has become concerned in recent years over the growing popularity of AR-15-style pistols that accept "green tip" ammunition.
During a February 27 appearance on the NRA's radio show, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox argued against ATF's action, stating, "now is the time for gun owners, whether you like that AR platform or not, to recognize that they're banning it for a reason."
He then claimed that the move was motivated because the Obama administration allegedly doesn't like that women use AR-15 rifles, saying, "They're banning that ammo because they don't like the fact that women like the adjustable stock and the low recoil" found on the AR-15 platform. In urging supporters to oppose the ATF's move, Cox added, "if we stick together and stick to the right message we can turn this thing back around."
Radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested that reports of the recent arrests of three suspected American supporters of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) are actually a ploy by the Obama administration to push net neutrality regulations and a ruse to "ban the sale of bullets."
On February 25, two men were arrested in New York City, along with an accomplice in Florida, charged with "providing support for the Islamic State" according to The New York Times.
During the February 25 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh suggested that the news of the arrests was politically timed to coincide with the FCC's ruling on net neutrality regulations. Limbaugh also described the arrests as a media conspiracy meant to give cover for the government to "ban the sale of bullets," an apparent reference to a proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit the availability of ammunition that when fired from a handgun is capable of penetrating body armor worn by law enforcement officers. Listen:
LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama is taking over the Internet today. He's gonna be sued. It's going to have a long shake out period. I mean, it's not gonna cease to operate today the way you're used to it. But the objective is to put it all under the control of government -- and here comes the story how ISIS has sympathizers in New York City. They're in Brooklyn and in all 57 states, and ISIS is using the Internet to recruit terrorists, and the government must have control of the Internet if we are to be safe.
The narrative just happens to magically fit the Democrat Party agenda every day. The narrative in the news media just happens to be exactly what the issues that Barack Obama cares about happen to be. And banning bullets -- what do you bet, when the story breaks, it becomes mainstream that this action, that this stuff we've learned about ISIS operating in New York City -- well, we have to, we have to take extraordinary actions to maintain homeland security. We can't have bullets readily available over-the-counter with ISIS in the country -- 57 states with outposts buying up weapons themselves and ammo. It all happens under the aegis of your safety. It all happens under the claim of making you safe and secure. Because the Democrat Party really cares about you -- and they know they can't ban everybody's guns, but to keep you safe they will ban the sale of bullets.
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG (Fox 5), has given different accounts of a 2010 "home invasion" in order to "squeeze the story for additional terror" in support of her pro-gun advocacy, The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reported.
Miller has recently faced scrutiny because she works for Fox 5 as a reporter who frequently covers local gun laws while also appearing at local pro-gun rallies as an activist for gun rights. WTTG, for the first time, identified Miller as "a proponent of Second Amendment rights" before her latest report on D.C. gun laws.
In her book Emily Gets Her Gun ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours and while serving as the gun blogger for the conservative Washington Times, Miller described becoming involved as a gun advocate after a home she was watching for a friend was burglarized on January 1, 2010. The incident led Miller to write a series of articles on navigating the requirements to own a gun in D.C. which turned into a book that also alleged President Obama is plotting to disarm Americans. In conservative media circles Miller has become a go-to voice for pro-gun commentary and she often shares her burglary account to set up her often misleading arguments in favor of looser gun laws.
In a February 26 article, Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, described how Miller has changed her account of the burglary in order to "please" a pro-gun audience.
In her first post for Washington Times' gun blog and in her book Miller described encountering "a man coming from the house" and hours later realized he had been inside and taken her wallet after receiving a phone call from her credit card company.
But in subsequent tellings, including a dramatization of the story by the National Rifle Association for it's All Access series, Miller claimed to have encountered the man inside of the home and needing to "talk him out of the house without" being harmed.
National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses "are OK with" sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol.
During the February 24 edition of the NRA News radio program Cam & Company, Edwards asserted that opponents of guns on campus believe that in "almost every sexual assault, there is alcohol involved," so a "gun wouldn't help." Because of this, Edwards said, opponents of guns on campus are "OK with some sexual assaults occurring when they could be prevented."
Edwards went on to describe the position of those who say that guns on campus are not a solution to sexual assault: "So what they're saying is, they are OK with real sexual assaults happening -- whether they acknowledge that they are saying this or not, ultimately their position is that they are OK with real sexual assaults happening because they are afraid of accidents that might take place if campus carry were allowed."
In fact, Edwards is mischaracterizing recent arguments against guns as a solution to campus sexual assault, which have pointed out that guns will not actually make women on campus safer.
Conservative media are reacting to a terrorist threat against Mall of America by calling for people to be allowed to carry concealed guns in more places even though no evidence exists that civilians with concealed carry permits stop mass attacks.
During a February 22 appearance on CNN, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told visitors to Minnesota's Mall of America to be "particularly careful," citing a video released by Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab that called for an attack on the shopping center. Local law enforcement say there is "no credible threat" to the mall, but that Mall of America has "implemented extra security precautions."
Shoppers visiting Mall of America are not allowed to carry firearms, although one local lawmaker is attempting to change that policy in light of Al-Shabaab's threat. As a reaction to the September 11 terror attacks, Mall of America created its own 150-member counterterrorism security force that is "modeled after similar units in Israel." Local police also have a unit dedicated to the mall.
Conservatives have used the threat to question the mall's no guns policy for shoppers and to push the myth that places where guns are not allowed are particularly dangerous.
On February 24, Outnumbered co-hosts Andrea Tantaros, Stacey Dash, and Kennedy along with guest and Fox News contributor Bo Dietl all endorsed carrying concealed guns in Mall of America. Kennedy suggested that Mall of America is a "gun-free zone" and argued that such an area "really is an invitation" for terrorists. Tantaros falsely suggested that the gunman in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting was "taken down" with a firearm to advance the carrying of guns. In fact, the shooter in that incident committed suicide.
Joe Scarborough endorsed allowing students to carry guns on college campuses based on the evidence-free argument that making campuses "gun-free zones" invites mass shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre that could have been prevented by armed students.
In fact, an analysis of mass shootings in the United States over the past 30 years found no examples where an armed civilian ended an attack or any evidence that places that do not allow guns invite mass shootings. Furthermore, research has indicated that students who possess guns at college are more likely than their peers to engage in risky conduct, suggesting that arming students could have substantial risks.
Scarborough endorsed students carrying guns on campus as a preventative measure against mass shootings on the February 19 edition of Morning Joe. He said, "I can tell you that you have campuses as gun-free zones and you put up signs all over the place, you invite people to come in and do things like they did at Virginia Tech. I can guarantee you where I went to school at the University of Alabama somebody would not be able go room by room by room picking off students and teachers. They would get to about the second or third room, and boom, it would be over."
After three North Carolina students were shot to death in a possible parking dispute, Inside Edition's Deborah Norville used the news to segue into a segment providing viewers tips on how to avoid aggressive drivers and find parking spaces while shopping.
Three Muslim students were killed in their apartment complex by neighbor Craig Hicks over "long-simmering anger over parking and noise inside their condominium complex," the Associated Press reported on February 10. Police are also investigating the possibility the shooting was motivated by religious animosity toward the students.
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, criticized Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG chief investigative reporter Emily Miller for speaking at a gun rights rally in Annapolis, Maryland, noting that "Miller's appearance puts WTTG in a bind vis-a-vis Maryland politics."
Miller addressed gun advocates at a rally organized by Maryland Shall Issue, the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, and other Maryland gun groups on February 10 outside of the Maryland State House. After the rally, which also featured speeches by representatives from Maryland gun rights groups and Maryland legislators, attendees were urged to lobby lawmakers to loosen Maryland's gun laws.
As a reporter for WTTG, Miller often covers gun-related issues. Prior to joining WTTG in 2014, Miller was the senior opinion editor for the conservative Washington Times and ran the paper's guns blog. Miller has been a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott misled about a controversial NRA-backed law that is being used to challenge Pennsylvania gun ordinances, the same day he hoped to testify as an expert witness in a related lawsuit.
In 2014, Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation that expanded the scope of a longstanding Pennsylvania state preemption law that limits the ability of local governments to pass gun ordinances that go beyond state gun laws. The new law, Act 192, expands how the preemption law can be enforced with an unusual provision that gives gun rights groups a special status to sue the local municipalities who allegedly violate the state preemption law.
The NRA has called the law "a much-needed protection for gun owners in the Keystone State" and has already moved to sue several Pennsylvania cities over local gun laws. Philadelphia Magazine called the law "astonishing" and "appalling" because the special "standing" to sue, carved out for gun rights groups under the law, means "[t]he NRA can sue -- and it can win without having to show that anybody actually had their rights violated." The magazine also noted that the law would allow the NRA to capture Pennsylvanians' tax dollars in the form of attorney's fees granted to the victor of a lawsuit under the law. Prior to the enactment of Act 192, the NRA had attempted to sue a Pennsylvania municipality, but had its lawsuit dismissed for lack of standing.
In a February 6 opinion piece for The Patriot-News, a Harrisburg newspaper, Lott misled in two ways about the scope of Act 192 in order to normalize the law's unusually broad standing to sue. Lott's piece was appended with the note that he is "serving as an expert witness in Friday's case against Harrisburg."
A profile of the gun industry's trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), published by The Hill credulously adopted false claims from the NSSF to discount the work of gun safety groups in improving the national background check system for firearms sales.
In a February 3, 2015, lobbyist profile of NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane, The Hill reported that, "Perhaps the NSSF's most surprising safety effort -- at least, to gun control advocates -- is its campaign to improve background checks," before describing an effort by NSSF to encourage states to submit more disqualifying records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an FBI-administered database used by federally licensed firearm dealers to process background checks on customers.
NICS has stopped more than 2 million prohibited purchasers from buying firearms over the past two decades, but the records contained within the system are incomplete, often due to failures by states to submit disqualifying records to NICS.
While the NSSF's efforts in improving NICS are laudable, The Hill credulously quoted false claims from Keane that suggested gun safety groups have played no role in improving NICS. According to Keane, gun safety groups funded by prominent gun safety supporter and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "don't actually do anything" to improve NICS while NSSF "put our money where our mouth is":
All gun dealers are required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to search for records that would make potential buyers ineligible to own a gun, such as those convicted of a crime. The system is notoriously unreliable, plagued by a lack of data and governed by a patchwork of state laws -- problems that all sides of the gun debate have long tried to fix.
Still, Keane argues that his organization is the only one with "boots on the ground."
"People will talk about it, most notably the Bloomberg-funded groups, but they don't actually do anything," he said. "We put our money where our mouth is."
A basic examination of the history of legislative efforts to improve NICS shows that Keane's claim is entirely untrue. Missing records in NICS came under major scrutiny following the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. The gunman in that incident passed a background check to purchase two firearms, even though he should have been flagged because of a disqualifying mental health record.
In a bi-partisan manner, Congress passed legislation called the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 that offered incentives for states to submit disqualifying records into NICS. In a 2008 letter, Bloomberg, writing on behalf of his gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which later became part of Everytown for Gun Safety), called on Congress to fully fund the legislation, which President George W. Bush signed into law.
Bloomberg's gun safety efforts have repeatedly made an issue of missing NICS records and have issued regular reports on progress to add missing records to NICS.
UPDATE: Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson expanded on Nugent's role during a January 28 appearance on WMAL's Mornings on the Mall. Carlson said Nugent will likely write a weekly column, adding: "I think he'll participate a lot. I really -- I like him. I mean, he's, you know, he's like a rock star with political views. So, you know, he doesn't hold back. And he says intemperate, sometimes borderline, demented things, but I think he's interesting, and I think he's a good guy, and I think he has actually some really informed, interesting opinions on the 2nd Amendment, and hunting, so I love the fact that he's working for us."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent says he has joined the opinion page of conservative website The Daily Caller. Nugent wrote in a January 27 Facebook post, "Proud to join Tucker Carlson & his DAILY CALLER team of truth, logic, commonsense, reality writers at this fine website," and linked to a column he wrote for that website that responded to recent criticism of the NRA.
It is unclear whether Nugent's piece was a one-time column or whether, as his Facebook comment suggests, he is now a paid regular contributor or staff columnist. Asked to clarify Nugent's role, Daily Caller executive editor Vince Coglianese responded sarcastically to Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp, saying only: "It was a common sense decision for us. We've long been associated with the political right, and we felt it was time to broaden our appeal with the sensible middle. We're paying him in venison." He did not respond to follow-up questions. A Daily Caller spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Daily Caller senior contributor Matt K. Lewis previously warned conservatives from associating with Nugent and other inflammatory conservative figures after Nugent was widely criticized for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
In a February 21, 2014, column -- headlined "The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Why conservatives are always defending the indefensible" -- Lewis wrote, "Like the girl who always falls for the guy who's bad for her, conservatives keep trusting the wrong people and making the same mistakes" before naming Nugent as an example.
A year after calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" at the gun industry's trade show, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent revisited the comment, claiming it was "probably much too delicate" before describing his rationale for using the term in an interview with Guns.com.
Nugent faced widespread criticism in 2014 after telling Guns.com at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, "I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America."
Fallout from the "subhuman mongrel" comment proved damaging for the high-profile member of NRA leadership. In February 2014, Nugent's mere appearance at a campaign event with then Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott caused a national media controversy. His appearance drew condemnation even from top Republicans. The following summer, several of Nugent's concerts were canceled by organizers who cited past comments made by Nugent. Music industry experts have suggested that Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric may hurt his ability to book concerts.
Nugent returned to the SHOT show this year, once again appearing as a representative of Outdoor Channel, where he is a spokesman and host. Outdoor Channel is one of the top sponsors of SHOT Show, which is hosted annually by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Speaking to Guns.com, Nugent described his "subhuman mongrel" comment as "precious" and "probably much too delicate." In remarks that echoed the NRA's anti-federal law enforcement commentary of the 1990s, Nugent also said his "subhuman mongrel" phrase was inspired by "jackbooted thuggery" committed by "out of control government agents."
PBS' Frontline is responding to criticism of its recent documentary about the National Rifle Association by misrepresenting the arguments made by progressives in order to dismiss them.
On January 6, Frontline aired Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA, a documentary that covered the history of the NRA from when the group began to become politicized in the 1960s through legislative efforts in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In a January 8 blog post, Media Matters leveled several critiques against the documentary, namely that it overstated the ability of the NRA to influence election outcomes, that it credited the NRA with Al Gore's defeat in the 2000 presidential elections, and that it created the perception of NRA invincibility by only including recent NRA victories, but not defeats.
In its response, Frontline wrote, "As for the assertion by Media Matters writer Timothy Johnson that the film overstated the influence of the NRA, we stand by our reporting." According to the documentary's producers, "The many interviews we conducted support the notion that since 1999 Washington has failed to enact tougher national gun legislation and the NRA has been the key reason why."
This is a straw man argument. Media Matters never argued that Frontline had overstated the influence of the NRA on federal legislation since 1999. That the NRA is a powerful lobbying force on Capitol Hill is obvious and has been discussed by Media Matters previously.
Instead, Media Matters criticized Frontline -- as it has criticized quite a few media outlets -- for overstating the ability of the NRA to determine the outcomes of elections. In part, politicians' misguided fears about the NRA punishing them on Election Day plays into the NRA's ability to effectively lobby.
Frontline's response doesn't take into account the distinction between the ability to influence election results and the ability to influence legislation. In addition to crediting the NRA with Gore's defeat in the 2000, Gunned Down credulously promoted the NRA's supposed electoral prowess by quoting a former NRA spokesperson saying, "You are a politician, you want to get elected, you want votes, NRA has votes" while offering no countervailing perspective.
Although that type of conjecture is often pushed by the NRA and its allies, a regression analysis of actual House and Senate races that involved NRA spending and endorsements has disproven the notion that the NRA is effective in determining the outcomes of elections.
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, told the crowd at a January 19 gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia that the District "is not part of America" and told gun advocates in attendance that she is part of "this fight that we're all in."
Miller was one of several speakers at a rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), an extremist gun rights organization. VCDL participates in an annual Lobby Day event held each year at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many of VCDL's supporters attend the event with openly carried handguns and assault weapons, which is legal in Virginia. Advocates for gun safety also hold a separate rally each year.
While flanked by a man armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon and an openly carried handgun, Miller told the crowd, "It's great to be in Virginia, which is part of America where you recognize the Second Amendment. I came from D.C. this morning, which is not part of America, because they don't recognize the Second Amendment."