From the November 5 edition of Working Family Radio Network's The Union Edge:
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Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell (D) debunked claims following Virginia's November 3 statewide elections that some Democrats' advocacy for stronger gun laws cost the party a chance to control the state Senate.
Prior to Election Day, Democrats needed to pick up one seat to effectively obtain control of the chamber (the Senate would have been split 20 - 20 with a Democratic lieutenant governor casting tie-breaking votes). Democrats did not gain the seat, retaining the 19 - 21 party split.
Following the election, media pundits seized on the Senate race in District 10 to baselessly argue that the gun issue caused Democrat Dan Gecker to lose to Republican Glen Sturtevant. Gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety had spent $700,000 on advertising in support of Gecker.
The Washington Post ran an article with the headline, "Did gun control cost McAuliffe and Democrats the Virginia election?" while the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board concluded Gecker accepting help from Everytown was "a massive mistake." None of these claims had any basis in fact: the evidence actually suggested that the ads helped Gecker close the gap, although he ultimately did not prevail.
In an op-ed at the Post, Surovell explained that "the focus on gun safety actually made District 10 a tighter, tougher fight for the Republicans than it should have been," and also noted commentators on the election are ignoring that the Democratic candidate in Senate District 29 -- who was supported by gun safety ads -- prevailed in a high-profile race. From the op-ed:
There's been a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about how firearm violence prevention played in Virginia elections this year. Let's look at the two state Senate races where the issue played a central role: Senate District 10 in the Richmond area and Senate District 29 in Prince William County. In both races, gun safety was either the winning factor or helped tighten a race in a previously non-competitive GOP-held district.
First, polling in and outside of Virginia shows more than 85 percent of Americans support common-sense firearms-violence prevention rules such as universal background checks or keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. Notwithstanding that, the NRA and other groups continue to give "F" ratings to any elected official who dare to support reasonable safeguards on weapon acquisition.
In Senate District 29, only a few miles from the NRA's Fairfax headquarters, gun safety was the issue that put the victor, Democratic candidate Jeremy McPike, over the top. Hal Parrish, the NRA "A"-rated, popular mayor with high name recognition, was handpicked by the GOP to win an open seat but was soundly defeated by McPike, an NRA "F"-rated candidate who had never held elected office.
Parrish consistently led in pre-election polls until Parrish's unpopular gun positions and his inability to articulate what he would do to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals were exposed to voters. Phone calls, door knocks and television ads on firearm-violence prevention narrowed the gap, solidified undecided voters and moved a race that began within the margin of error to an 8 percent win in McPike's favor. That spread is the new price to be paid for sticking by the gun lobby and being out of step with Virginia voters.
In Senate District 10, Republicans kept an open seat they held for 17 years. Glen Sturtevant, the NRA-backed candidate won -- but by a margin of less than 3 percent, fewer than 1,500 votes. Four years ago, John Watkins won by 12 percent, 4,300 votes.
Even in Powhatan County -- the most conservative county in the district - Sturtevant underperformed his predecessor by 4 percent.
While blaming one issue for winning or losing elections is an interesting political parlor game, it is a vast oversimplification for a process that divines the intentions of more than 30,000 people. The focus on gun safety actually made District 10 a tighter, tougher fight for the Republicans than it should have been, closing the gap to a spread much closer than the prognosticators were expecting.
PolitiFact Rhode Island acknowledged that both halves of a two-part claim about the incidence of mass shootings in the United States were "true," but bizarrely concluded that the overall claim was only "half true."
In a November 1 article, PolitiFact Rhode Island purported to fact check a claim by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who said that "There have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year -- more than any other country in the world."
There is strong evidence for both the claim that more than one mass shooting happens each day in the United States and that mass gun violence occurs in the U.S. in a way that is not seen in other countries, as PolitiFact acknowledged.
PolitiFact, however, rated the overall claim "half true," arguing, "while both parts are basically correct, Cicilline was off base when he put them together. ... The first half of his sentence is true and the second half is true. But two trues, in this case, don't make the whole truth."
This conclusion is as convoluted as the reasoning used to reach it.
PolitiFact first acknowledged that it is "true" that there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. PolitiFact cited the same data source as Cicilline, the Mass Shooting Tracker, which counts any shooting in the United States where four or more people are shot, regardless of whether anyone was killed, or whether the incident occurs in public or in private residences.
PolitiFact asserted, however, that "The second half of the congressman's claim" -- which dealt with mass shootings in other countries -- "is more problematic because it has little in common with the first half of the claim."
To determine the incidence of mass shootings in other countries, PolitiFact cited a study of public mass shootings in foreign countries by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford.
The difference between the definition of a "mass shooting" and a "public mass shooting" is that mass shootings encompass all incidents where large numbers of people are shot (even in private homes), while "public" mass shootings are a subset, only including shootings at shopping centers, movie theaters, churches, and schools, and other places where victims are typically shot indiscriminately in a public or semi-public space.
The other distinction is that the Lankford study only included public mass shootings where at least four people were killed, while the Mass Shooting Tracker counts incidents where four individuals were shot regardless of whether the victims were injured or killed.
Lankford's study concluded that public mass shootings are more common in the United States than other countries, and significantly, Lankford told PolitiFact "Any politician who says that is correct."
But in its summation, PolitiFact argued, "The problem with [Cicilline's claim] is that he mixes disparate facts to draw a single conclusion. The 'mass shootings' of the first part are not the same as the 'public mass shootings' of the second part":
And so while both parts are basically correct, Cicilline was off base when he put them together. The Mass Shooting Tracker does not tally foreign shootings. And the social scientist from the University of Alabama looked at different events from a different period of time.
The first half of his sentence is true and the second half is true. But two trues, in this case, don't make the whole truth.
The problem with this logic is that the disparities in the data could actually strengthen Cicilline's point. Lankford's study identified 90 individual public mass shooters -- who killed at least four victims -- in the U.S. between 1966 to 2012. That was five times more mass shooters than the next highest foreign country, according to his study. Even if the Mass Shooting Tracker captures more private shootings than Lankford would have counted, it still identified 65 shootings just this year where 4 or more people died; and the chances of another country increasing their incidents of public mass shootings enough to gallop past the U.S. just since 2012 seems deeply unlikely.
Overall, the evidence is on Cicilline's side concerning the grotesque incidence of mass shootings in the United States, and PolitiFact's criticism of his claim seems to rest more on grammar than on the data.
A Washington Post article on the 2015 Virginia elections relied on punditry rather than data to suggest that "advocacy of gun control in a pivotal Senate race in the Richmond area may have backfired," costing Democrats a chance to gain control of the state Senate.
Prior to statewide Virginia elections on November 3, Democrats needed to pick up one seat to effectively obtain control of the chamber (the Senate would have been split 20 - 20 with a Democratic lieutenant governor casting tie-breaking votes). Democrats did not gain the seat, retaining the 19 - 21 party split.
A November 4 Post articled claimed that following the election "one possible mistake stands out: [Democrats'] aggressive advocacy of gun control in a pivotal Senate race in the Richmond area may have backfired by producing a pro-Republican backlash," referring to the defeat of Democrat Dan Gecker in the 10th Senate district.
According to the Post, victorious Republican Glen Sturtevant "beat Democrat Daniel A. Gecker after GOP supporters ran ads blasting Gecker for trying to win the seat with $700,000 of outside help from pro-gun-control TV advertisements paid for by a group linked to former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg."
The article quotes several elected officials and political strategists who suggested that advocacy for gun safety or pro-gun safety TV advertisements explained Gecker's loss.
Here are the actual facts on the ground in Virginia and how they relate to gun safety advocacy:
- While Gecker did not win, he outperformed expectations. According to unofficial election results issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gecker lost with 47 percent to Sturtevant's 49 percent. Four years ago, during the last District 10 Senate race, the Democratic candidate received 43 percent of the vote and lost by more than 13 points. Gecker was running in a district where Republican voters outnumber Democrats. According to internal polling viewed by Media Matters, the party ID of the district was 41 percent Republican versus 36 percent Democrat. The poll, taken in July before the spending highlighting Gecker's support of stronger gun laws began, showed a generic Republican defeating a generic Democrat for the seat by a 48 percent to 39 percent margin. Gecker would ultimately lose the seat by just 2 points.
- The Post article made no mention of the race in Senate District 29 where Democrat Jeremy McPike defeated Republican Hal Parrish in a "high-stakes race." According to an October 22 Post article, Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety spent $1.5 million on the race in support of McPike. Notably there is no Post article positing that but for spending on pro-gun safety ads, Democrats would have had a net loss of one Senate seat. Just last week the Post reported that the race in the 29th district was "guns vs. tolls," noting that McPike was being hammered by ads that associated him with a plan by McAuliffe that Republicans claim would cause a siginficant increase in toll fees on Route I-66, which passes through the 29th district. Significantly, McPike prevailed with the help of gun safety ad spending and in the face of spending that tied him to higher tolls.
- According to Senator Donald McEachin, Chair of the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus, gun safety ads helped both Gecker and McPike. In a statement, McEachin said in part, "In both races, polls showed our candidates trailing in the weeks before Election Day. Gun safety advocates helped us to close those gaps. As a result, we won one race and came very close in the other -- despite running in a difficult political environment."
Media often blame the issue of gun safety for losses by progressive candidates, even when there is no actual evidence to support the claim. This is due to a longstanding but fact-free conventional wisdom within the media that the gun lobby has the ability to defeat pro-gun safety candidates for office at will.
After the publication of this post, The Washington Post added language to its article that tempered the claim that the gun issue was responsible for conservative voter turnout in the 10th district. While the original article said, "Sturtevant won the District 10 seat after benefiting from huge turnout in the conservative Powhatan area that analysts attributed to the gun issue," it now reads (emphasis added), "Sturtevant won the 10th District seat after benefiting from a huge turnout in conservative Powhatan County, which analysts attributed in part to the gun issue."
The Post also added language to indicate that "leaders from both sides said the gun issue cut both ways because it helped energize the Democratic base in the district's liberal neighborhoods in Richmond."
The article now has a quote from Sen. Ryan McDougle, who chairs the Senate Republican caucus, stating, "It certainly increased the intensity for some people who were pro-Second Amendment but also for some people who were pro gun control."
Putting claims about the relationship between the gun issue and turnout in Powhatan County in clearer context, the article added language explaining that McDougle "and others also said that hotly contested local races, such as for sheriff and county supervisor, had boosted turnout in Powhatan."
The article is still largely premised on the fact-free claim that the gun issue cost Gecker his election and thus Democrats control of the Senate.
The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog failed to disclose a writer's relationship with the National Rifle Association, whose piece offered a false attack on expanded background check legislation.
The Volokh Conspiracy is a blog operated by law professor Eugene Volokh that has been published on the Post website since January 2014. The blog is editorially independent from the Post and describes its contributors as "generally libertarian, conservative, centrist, or some mixture of these."
In a November 2 post, writer David Kopel attacked a common version of expanded background check legislation with the false claim that such legislation criminalizes benign activities such as merely handing a friend a gun to look at. He was identified by the site as "Research Director, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado; Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C; and Adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law, Denver University, Sturm College of Law" and "author of 15 books and 90 scholarly journal articles."
That description ignores Kopel's longstanding ties with the NRA, which include large grants given by the NRA to the Independence Institute and Kopel's frequent contribution as a writer to NRA publications. Kopel most recently contributed to the NRA's paranoid and inflammatory America's 1st Freedom magazine in the November 2015 issue.
According to an investigation of Kopel's relationship with the NRA by journalist Frank Smyth, "Kopel has managed to establish himself as an independent authority on gun policy issues even though he and his Independence Institute have received over $1.42 million including about $175,000 a year over eight years from the NRA."
Following the publication of Smyth's exposé, The New York Times added language to an opinion piece submitted by Kopel to indicate that the Independence Institute "has received grant money from the National Rifle Association's Civil Rights Defense Fund."
But the Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog made no such disclosure, even though his post helps advance the NRA's agenda in several ways. Kopel uses the Volokh Conspiracy to give credence to the NRA's go-to argument against expanded background check legislation, attacks by name NRA opponent Everytown for Gun Safety for favoring such legislation, and specifically attacks legislative language in an upcoming ballot initiative in Nevada that the NRA opposes.
Moreover, Kopel's claim about expanded background check legislation is baseless.
The NRA previously attacked the legislative language discussed in Kopel's post as it was enacted in Washington state in 2014 via a ballot initiative and in legislation in Oregon in 2015 by claiming that the language was drafted in way that -- either through nefarious design or drafting incompetence -- turned many routine activities involving a gun into crimes.
Law enforcement officials charged with enforcing background check laws have rejected these hysterical claims, calling them "semantics" arguments. And the NRA and other opponents of expanded background checks have been unable to provide reporters examples of gun owners being prosecuted over technicalities of the law.
Following the publication of this post, the Volokh Conspiracy blog added the following language to Kopel's biography: "Kopel is an NRA-certified safety instructor. The Independence Institute has received NRA contributions."
From the November 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Las Vegas Review-Journal downplayed gun violence in the United States to attack legislative attempts to address the issue while also claiming guns safety advocates "manipulate" data by including gun suicides in gun death totals.
An October 31 editorial argued against stronger gun laws, specifically mentioning expanded background checks, by noting that while public mass shootings have captured national headlines, the overall number of gun homicides has remained relatively flat over the past 15 years:
Mass shootings leave Americans anguished and angry. Every time one happens, more and more voters want to know how many more mass shootings will happen before our leaders "do something" about it. The unrelenting media coverage of and emotional debate surrounding mass shootings create the impression that the country is awash in worsening gun violence.
The trouble is, as horrific as mass shootings are, the numbers tell a different story.
According to a Pew Research Center study of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of U.S. gun homicides and nonfatal gun victimizations have both held steady for roughly 15 years, and are both down over the past 20.
That mass shootings capture headlines is no surprise. According to an analysis highlighted by The Washington Post, the nation is averaging more than one mass shooting each day this year, and by several metrics, the incidence of mass shootings is increasing.
More so, that the firearm homicide rate has been steady for the past 15 years is not a compelling argument against gun safety proposals because the rate remains staggeringly high compared to other high-income nations. And it's unclear that fewer people are actually being shot: according to the Wall Street Journal the number of serious gunshot wounds that required hospitalization increased by nearly half between 2001 and 2011. Doctors speculate that this may not impact the gun homicide rate because medical advances have increased the survivability of gunshot wounds, the Journal reported.
The Review-Journal also took issue with the inclusion of gun suicides when counting the total number of "gun deaths" that occur in the United States each year, claiming that gun safety advocates "manipulate" the data on "gun deaths" to include suicides so as to "push their agenda":
While gun crimes have dropped over the past two decades, the number of suicides by gun is up (and growing) over the same time period. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to push their agenda, gun control advocates like to manipulate this data by citing growing "gun deaths" as a reason for stricter gun controls.
Gun suicides are widely included by experts on public health and gun violence when counting "gun deaths," which typically include suicides, homicides, accidents, and cases of undetermined intention. There is good reason that gun safety proposals and attempts to reduce suicide are interconnected. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "Twelve or more U.S. case control studies have compared individuals who died by suicide with those who did not and found those dying by suicide were more likely to live in homes with guns." Studies show that between 89 and 95 percent of individuals who survive a suicide attempt do not become future victims of suicide, but when firearms are involved many victims never have this chance because gun suicide attempts are fatal 85 percent of the time.
The Review-Journal's editorial downplaying gun violence and dismissing gun suicides is the latest piece of commentary from the Nevada paper that attacked proposals for stronger gun laws. On September 14 the Review-Journal published an attack on expanded background checks that was so inaccurate that the authors of a study cited by the Review-Journal wrote a letter explaining how the editorial board had misread the study so as to invert its conclusion.
From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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The Washington Post's Wonkblog debunked Donald Trump's debate assertion that places that do not allow guns attract mass shooters, concluding that "little data supports this claim."
During the October 28 CNBC GOP debate, Trump said, "I feel that the gun-free zones and, you know, when you say that, that's target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill. That's target [practice]. They look around for gun-free zones."
Wonkblog's Christopher Ingraham concluded in an October 29 article that "little data supports this claim," before offering three reasons why Trump was wrong.
As Ingraham explained, an analysis of public mass shootings shows that gunman do not choose their targets because of gun policies but rather "you typically find that gunmen have a grievance attached to a particular location" that forms the motive of the shooting.
Ingraham also cited an analysis of 110 mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2014 that "found that only 14 percent of those shootings took place in a so-called 'gun-free' zone."
Lastly, Ingraham explained that the claim gunmen target "gun-free zones" relies on the assumption that the individuals who perpetrate these crimes are rational actors:
But little data supports this claim. For starters, if you probe the reasons why shooters target particular places, you typically find that gunmen have a grievance attached to a particular location. A Mother Jones analysis of mass shootings between 1982 and 2015 found not one single instance where the gunman appeared to be motivated by the knowledge that a place was gun-free.
Rather, gunmen usually had specific grievances that they chose to take out at certain locations: a workplace, or a federal facility, or a school, for instance. The FBI's 2014 study of 160 active shooter incidents found that in many cases, shooters had a specific connection either to the place where the shooting occurred, or with somebody who worked there.
And a 2014 analysis by a gun control group of 110 mass shooting incidents between January 2009 and July 2014 found that only 14 percent of those shootings took place in a so-called "gun-free" zone.
As Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes point out at The Trace, the claim that shooters target gun-free zones runs contrary to another claim frequently made by gun rights advocates: that mass shootings are primarily a function of mental health and not of gun laws. But the claim that mass shooters rationally seek out gun-free areas in order to encounter the least resistance runs a tension with the notion that shooters are mentally ill individuals with an irrational axe to grind.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent weighed in on controversy over a viral video showing a South Carolina deputy ripping a high school student from her desk and throwing her to the ground, claiming that the teenager "had it coming" before comparing the young student to "an animal."
Videos began circulating on social media on October 26 showing South Carolina Deputy Ben Fields dragging a 16-year-old student away from her desk and slamming her onto the ground before arresting her. The student was accused of disrupting the classroom. Following widespread outrage over the officer's conduct, Fields was fired.
In his regular column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent offered "a huge Nuge thank you and SALUTE to Columbia, South Carolina, Senior Deputy Ben Fields," calling him a "master of 'improvise, adapt and overcome' good citizen cop all good Americans have come to admire and respect."
Nugent also lobbed insults at the student, calling her a "disobedient punk," and a "brat." He suggested the student disobeyed her parents, writing, "By all these consistent indicators, how much do you want to bet she disobeyed her parents and every other authority figure her entire life, and got away with it?"
According to news reports, the student is recently orphaned, following the death of her mother.
Nugent also connected the South Carolina incident to several incidents that resulted in the death of African-Americans. Referencing the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, Nugent wrote, "None of my family members would attack a neighborhood watch volunteer and end up getting shot and killed."
He then connected the incident to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner:
None of my children would steal anything from a store and then assault the shopkeeper.
None of my children would defy orders from a cop, assault him and attempt to steal his gun, then attack him and get shot in self-defense.
None of the Nugent family would sell illegal cigarettes then violently resist arrest.
Nugent also compared the South Carolina student to an animal, writing, "Obey and you won't get ripped from your desk and put under control. Act like an animal and you will end up being treated like an animal."
A new video from the National Rifle Association's (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre claims that President Obama "has all the laws he needs to stop the bloodshed" of gun violence in big cities but chooses not to because he supposedly refuses to enforce federal gun laws.
In fact, the NRA has engaged in a decades-long campaign to hinder the efforts of the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
In an October 27 video released by NRA News, LaPierre claimed, "Under the existing federal gun laws, [Obama] could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more. But he won't do it, his Justice Department won't do it, and the media never asks why."
The video also featured LaPierre's continued apparent use of racially coded language by contrasting "thugs like De'Eris Brown," "criminal gangbangers with illegal guns in Chicago," and "violent thugs" with "the good, honest Americans living out in farm towns in Nebraska or Oklahoma or working two jobs in inner-city Chicago or Baltimore." The video was introduced by LaPierre claiming "[n]othing illustrates America's breakdown like the way the president's hometown celebrates its holidays," before describing Chicago shootings as a "kind of third-world carnage."
LaPierre concluded with a false claim: "No organization has been louder, clearer or more consistent on the urgent need to enforce the federal gun laws than the NRA."
The NRA's lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, "lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them."
According to The Washington Post, "the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF's budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings."
The NRA's opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents "jack-booted government thugs" who wear "Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms."
Here are four things the NRA does that are detrimental to the enforcement of federal gun laws:
The NRA routinely cajoles its allies in Congress to limit the ATF's budget (even as other federal law enforcement agency budgets grow) and pass riders to appropriations legislation that further limit the agency's ability to enforce federal gun laws. As a 2013 report from Center for American Progress explained, one set of riders, often called the Tiahrt Amendments, "have limited how ATF can collect and share information to detect illegal gun trafficking, how it can regulate firearms sellers, and how it partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies." The NRA has also backed legislation to hamper the ability of the ATF to go after criminal gun dealers, in one instance backing a bill that the Washington Post editorial board explained, "would make it all but impossible for the ATF to press forward with any case."
In 2006, an NRA-backed amendment to the re-authorization of The Patriot Act created the requirement that the Senate confirm permanent ATF directors who are nominated by the president. The NRA subsequently opposed nominees for a permanent director, in one case comparing Obama's 2010 nominee Andrew Traver to an arsonist. After seven years of not having a permanent director, B. Todd Jones was confirmed by the Senate in 2013, but resigned after just two years. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement officials have told The New York Times that having a permanent director vacancy "has inevitably depleted morale and kept the agency from developing a coherent agenda."
While LaPierre repeatedly referenced felons with guns in his video, his organization attempts to make the ATF use its budget to rearm felons. For more than two decades, standard appropriations language prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. Without having to operate the program, the ATF has had more funding to enforce federal gun laws. In June, an NRA ally in Congress offered a successful amendment to reverse the longstanding language. While the amendment was under consideration the NRA repeatedly promoted it with the blatant falsehood that the program would only be available to nonviolent felons.
Under current federal law, gun dealers are allowed to proceed with a gun sale if the federal background check is not returned as a "proceed" or "denied" after three business days. Known as a "default proceed" sale, this feature of federal law is also called the "Charleston loophole" after the gunman who perpetrated the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME church, who received his gun without a completed background check (he would have been disqualified because of a drug charge). The "Charleston loophole" allows a significant number of prohibited persons to obtain firearms and diverts the resources of the ATF and other law enforcement agencies who must attempt to recover guns that would not have been sold without a completed background check. The loophole was created by an NRA-backed amendment to the 1993 Brady background check bill and following the Charleston massacre, the NRA vigorously defended the loophole as "a critical safety valve" to shield prospective gun purchasers from undergoing delays in the completion of background checks -- even though more than 90 percent of background checks are completed instantly.
From the October 27 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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The Washington Post relied on a flawed polling question to conclude that there is a "bitter and stark division" on the issue of gun violence as it relates to the 2016 election.
The Washington Post and ABC News asked respondents, "Which do you think should be a higher priority right now - (enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence), or (protecting the right to own guns)?" in a survey conducted earlier this month.
46 percent of participants chose "enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence," compared to 47 percent who chose "protecting the right to own guns." In its October 26 article on the poll, the Post describes the result as an indication of "bitter and stark division on whether new gun laws should trump the constitutional right to gun ownership." But the question presents a false choice: it is entirely possible to both protect gun rights and enact laws to reduce gun violence. For example, as the Post article itself acknowledges, proposals to expand background checks are overwhelmingly popular with the public. Background checks do not interfere with "the right to own guns" for lawful gun owners.
The Post/ABC News question is similar to a question used by Pew Research Center that Pew has acknowledged is flawed. For years Pew has asked the public to choose whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." Like the Post question, this presents respondents with a false choice.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research has criticized the Pew question, explaining, "Pew's question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns. The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
In response to the criticism, Pew acknowledged to Mother Jones that the question is flawed and said that Webster "is right to put it in context."
A new CBS Evening News' series that examines gun violence in America has featured prominent conservative misinformers on the issue, including a guest who once suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government. While "Voices Against Violence" has also featured advocates for stronger gun laws, CBS has given airtime to Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt -- whose group has donated money to a white supremacist group -- and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has raised the idea of justifiable armed revolution against the government and is well-known for his inflammatory commentary, such as that Hillary Clinton "is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote."
The New York Times editorial board debunked the prevalent conservative media myth that a "vigilant citizen packing a legally permitted concealed weapon" might "stop the next mass shooter." To the contrary, the October 26 editorial cites a recent finding that individuals with concealed carry permits committed 579 shootings since 2007, claiming at least 763 lives, noting "the vast majority of these concealed-carry, licensed shooters killed themselves or others rather than taking down a perpetrator."
Misinformation on the subject is rampant. Right-wing media have repeatedly used high profile mass shootings to hype the myth that increased carrying of concealed guns offers a solution to such attacks.
As the Times editorial also noted, the gun lobby impedes research on gun deaths by "persuading gullible state and national legislators that concealed carry is essential to public safety, thus blocking the extensive data collection that should be mandatory for an obvious and severe public health problem."
In its editorial, The Times concluded that permissive concealed carry laws lead to "dangerous vigilantism that endangers communities ... not the mythic self-defense being peddled as concealed carry":
The more that sensational gun violence afflicts the nation, the more that the myth of the vigilant citizen packing a legally permitted concealed weapon, fully prepared to stop the next mass shooter in his tracks, is promoted.
This foolhardy notion of quick-draw resistance, however, is dramatically contradicted by a research project showing that, since 2007, at least 763 people have been killed in 579 shootings that did not involve self-defense. Tellingly, the vast majority of these concealed-carry, licensed shooters killed themselves or others rather than taking down a perpetrator.
The death toll includes 29 mass killings of three or more people by concealed carry shooters who took 139 lives; 17 police officers shot to death, and -- in the ultimate contradiction of concealed carry as a personal safety factor -- 223 suicides. Compared with the 579 non-self-defense, concealed-carry shootings, there were only 21 cases in which self-defense was determined to be a factor.
The tally by the Violence Policy Center, a gun safety group, is necessarily incomplete because the gun lobby has been so successful in persuading gullible state and national legislators that concealed carry is essential to public safety, thus blocking the extensive data collection that should be mandatory for an obvious and severe public health problem. For that reason, the center has been forced to rely largely on news accounts and limited data in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
More complete research, unimpeded by the gun lobby, would undoubtedly uncover a higher death toll. But this truly vital information is kept largely from the public. A Gallup poll this month found 56 percent of Americans said the nation would be safer if more people carried concealed weapons.
Clearly, concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes. Rather, it compounds the risks to innocent lives, particularly as state legislatures, bowing to the gun lobby, invite more citizens to venture out naïvely with firearms in more and more public places, including restaurants, churches and schools.
Recent concealed-carry excesses include legal shooters charged by the police with recklessly pegging a few wild shots at shoplifters and other nonviolent suspects they see fleeing on public streets. This is dangerous vigilantism that endangers communities, the police warn, not the mythic self-defense being peddled as concealed carry.