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On April 29, the Obama administration released a report on what federal agencies can do to further develop smart gun technology that prevents anyone other than authorized users from discharging a firearm. With the gun industry already attacking Obama’s technology push, it is important to note that while the NRA claims it doesn’t oppose the technology’s development, its media and lobbying arms routinely make false claims about its reliability and promote conspiracy theories about the federal government wanting to use the technology to spy on gun owners.
Newman And His Associates Have A Long History Of Spouting Violent Rhetoric And Harassing Abortion Providers
On May 10, PBS will air the documentary “The Armor of Light” and host an accompanying town hall encouraging audiences to examine “the relationship between guns and faith in America.” Notably, PBS’ town hall participants include Troy Newman, best known for harassing abortion providers and serving on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s pro-life coalition.
“The Armor of Light” is an anti-gun-violence documentary that “profiles the faith journeys of two Christians as they fight gun violence.” One of these Christians is the Rev. Rob Schenck, an anti-choice minister trying to “preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America” to communities that largely favor gun ownership.
Newman appears in a single scene of “The Armor of Light” as a contrast to Schenck’s pro-gun-safety views. In this scene, Newman parrots NRA talking points, such as leader Wayne LaPierre’s statement that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Despite this minor role in the film, PBS invited Newman to appear in a post-screening discussion.
Membership in Cruz’s pro-life coalition is only Newman’s most recent credential. He has long served as the president of Operation Rescue -- an anti-choice group with a history of spouting violent rhetoric, and harassing abortion providers.
For example, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison in 1987 for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location. A Rolling Stone profile of Operation Rescue described the organization’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.” Newman’s explanation for this harassment was that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that “they can’t live a normal life.”
To further this strategy, Newman has trained others and supported the development of spin-off groups that continue Operation Rescue’s work across the country. Newman previously served as a board member for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood so fraudulent that CMP earned the title of Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year. CMP’s deceptively edited videos purporting to show the illegal sale of fetal tissue have been repeatedly discredited, while numerous state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Newman claims that Operation Rescue has never endorsed violence yet in his book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman wrote that U.S. government had “abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” which would involve “executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes.” Similarly, when Paul Jennings Hill was executed for the murder of an abortion provider and a clinic escort, Newman argued that Hill should have been able to mount the defense that it was “necessary” to kill the providers in order to save "the lives of pre-born babies."
Beyond his work with Operation Rescue, Newman also has a personal history of harassing providers -- a reputation that caused Australia to deport him out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.
Harassment, violence, and threats against abortion providers and clinics have all been increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.
Given this alarming trend of anti-choice violence, PBS’ decision to invite Newman’s participation while also failing to disclose his long history of harassment is as puzzling as it is troubling.
A Politico article on President Obama’s reported upcoming plan to “push” for smart gun technology quoted Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) executive director Jim Pasco attacking the technology without disclosing the FOP has received funding from the gun industry. Many of Pasco’s attacks on smart guns echoed the National Rifle Association and the gun industry.
Politico’s article also credulously repeated the NRA’s misleading claim that it merely opposes laws that mandate the adoption of smart gun technology and not the development of smart gun technology in general.
In an April 28 article, Politico reported President Obama “is opening a new front in the gun control debate, readying a big push for so-called smart gun technology -- an initiative that the gun lobby and law enforcement rank and file is already mobilizing against.” According to the report, “As early as Friday, Obama is set to formally release findings from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments on ways to spur the development of guns that can be fired only by their owner.”
The article extensively quoted Pasco, who offered various attacks on smart gun technology, claiming that law enforcement officers would be used as “guinea pigs” to test the technology; that Obama’s move placed politics over officer safety; that police officers oppose the technology; and suggesting the technology could put officers in greater danger:
“Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet,” said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We have some very, very serious questions.
But at this point, the Obama administration already has frayed ties with rank-and-file cops, many of whom didn’t think the president took their side in his reactions to police violence and protests like those in Ferguson, Missouri. Pasco compared the push for smart guns to the decision to limit local departments’ access to surplus military equipment.
“They sit down among themselves and decide what is best for law enforcement, but from a political standpoint, and then tell officers they’re doing it for their benefit,” Pasco said.
Of the 330,000 officers in his union, Pasco said, “I have never heard a single member say what we need are guns that only we can fire,” noting that there might be moments in close combat when an officer would need to use a partner’s weapon or even the suspect’s.
Politico did not disclose that FOP's charity has received money from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade group. According to a 2010 Washington Post investigation, NSSF gave FOP Foundation $100,000 in 2010. In 2015, NSSF announced a $25,000 contribution to FOP Foundation. NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane has attacked smart gun technology. In 2014 he published a factually inaccurate and unfounded column arguing that two Massachusetts political candidates lost their races because of support for the technology.
The Politico article twice referenced FOP’s representation of “rank and file” police officers as explanation for FOP’s opposition to Obama’s reported proposal. But FOP has also been accused of representing corporate interests. The 2010 Washington Post profile -- which delved into Pasco’s other work as a lobbyist -- described him as “a product of the capital's revolving-door culture” with an “unusual” role as a lobbyist representing beer, cigarette, and entertainment companies that "raises questions about possible conflicts of interest," according to tax law specialists.
According to the Post's reporting, under Pasco's leadership FOP has accepted donations from the gun industry lobby after taking positions favorable to that group, and the organization's positions have repeatedly aligned with the priorities of lobbying clients of Pasco and his wife.
Washington Post pointed to several specific instances of apparent conflict:
The Politico article also repeated the NRA’s misleading claim about the gun organization’s position on smart guns, noting, “Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, are not against funding research for smart guns or putting them on shelves. But the NRA does oppose any law that would prohibit people from buying a gun that doesn’t have personalized technology.”
The NRA’s attacks on smart gun technology go far beyond the group’s opposition to laws that mandate the adoption of the technology. While purporting to not oppose research into smart guns in a statement on its website, the NRA’s media arm routinely attacks the technology, often pushing either falsehoods about the reliability smart guns or by connecting the developing technology to conspiracy theories about the federal government.
NRA News On CT Primary: “Hillary Clinton Did Not Win Newtown, Donald Trump Won Newtown”
The National Rifle Association’s media arm offered a faulty and misleading analysis of Connecticut’s presidential primary results to suggest that Hillary Clinton’s support for stronger gun safety laws is a detriment to her campaign, while arguing that she somehow lost the primary to Donald Trump.
During the April 27 broadcast of the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards attacked a Huffington Post article headlined “Hillary Clinton Wins Newtown, After Making Gun Control Central To Her Campaign.”
Newtown was the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which claimed 26 lives.
Clinton won a seven point victory over Bernie Sanders in Newtown, beating her overall state victory margin of five points during Connecticut’s April 26 primary.
Edwards attacked the notion that Clinton’s focus on gun safety and subsequent win was “significant” by fallaciously arguing that “Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” because Trump received more total votes in the primary:
EDWARDS: On the Republican side, in Newtown, Connecticut, Hillary Clinton didn’t beat Donald Trump in terms of the vote numbers. … So in terms of all of the candidates that residents and voters in Newtown could vote for, no, Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown. I don't think you’re going to see that headline at Huffington Post. ... So if Hillary Clinton's win in Newtown in the Democratic primary is significant, well then what is the significance of (a) a Republican candidate actually getting the most votes of all of the candidates on the ballot there in Newtown, (b) one who has expressed support for the right to keep and bear arms. What's the significance there ya think?
Trump received 1,654 votes in the Republican primary in Newtown while Clinton received 1,362 votes in the Democratic primary.
Edwards also said, “It's worth noting that statewide, Hillary Clinton actually did get more votes than Donald Trump, she got about 50,000 more votes than Donald Trump, but not in Newtown, Connecticut. ... I just think it's worth pondering what the significance of the fact that Hillary Clinton did not actually get the most votes in Newtown might be.”
Edwards’ comparison between vote totals for Clinton and Trump is nonsensical. By definition, primaries are not contests between candidates of different parties -- and Connecticut has a closed primary system meaning voters can only vote for candidates of their registered party.
Edwards claim that “Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” also doesn’t make sense when voter trends in Connecticut are analyzed:
Conservative media and Politico are citing new polling that purports to show voters oppose Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s call to repeal a federal immunity law which largely shields negligent gun sellers from legal liability when they sell guns to people they know or should know are dangerous. The poll question -- which was commissioned by the gun industry’s trade group and conducted by a Republican polling firm -- is dishonest because it misrepresents Clinton’s position on the law, suggesting that it was designed as a push poll rather than an accurate snapshot of public opinion.
The Washington Post credulously called the efforts by the discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland "remarkably successful." But polls show the general public is increasingly at odds with JCN's position. Indeed, just last week the Post reported that the results of a new poll was evidence that "Democrats are winning the message war over Garland." The Post promoted the notion of JCN's success in an interview with chief counsel Carrie Severino, who was given a platform to rehash debunked smears about Garland's judicial record on guns and government regulations.
LaPierre Cites Interview In Which Ginsburg Actually Praised The “Wonderful Words” Of The “Genius” U.S. Constitution
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre distorted past comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a column warning that “our guns and our culture would be a favored target for eradication” if Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are successful in the 2016 elections.
In order to attack the possibility of Clinton being elected president and filling multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court with nominees like Justice Ginsburg, LaPierre smeared Justice Ginsburg by distorting her past comments about what new democracies should consider when adopting a constitution.
In 2012, Ginsburg traveled to Egypt to offer advice to the country as it began the process of adopting a constitution. In an interview, Ginsburg said she advised Egypt to look at “all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II” and that she “would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Ginsburg then singled out the South African constitution, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the European Convention on Human Rights as modern examples for drafting constitutions.
During the interview, Ginsburg also praised the U.S. Constitution, saying, “The United States in comparison to Egypt is a very new nation, and yet we have the oldest written Constitution still enforced in the world. And it's a Constitution that starts out with three wonderful words: It's we the people.” Ginsburg praised the U.S. Constitution several other times during the interview, calling the document “an instrument that endured” and referencing “the genius of the Constitution.”
But in his monthly “Standing Guard” column in the May 2016 edition of America’s 1st Freedom, LaPierre smeared Ginsburg as part of his rallying cry that the NRA "must defeat Hillary Clinton."
LaPierre wrote of Ginsburg, “In an Egyptian television interview in January 2011 [sic], she disavowed the U.S. Constitution.” Distorting Ginsburg’s remarks, LaPierre added, “You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior?”
LaPierre went on to claim that the South African Constitution encourages “civil disarmament,” writing, “It’s senseless, but here we have a U.S. Supreme Court justice who might find herself in the majority embracing the very essence of undefined and unknown ‘social justice.’”
LaPierre’s smear of Ginsburg is recycled from claims the NRA made about the 2012 elections and the prospect of President Obama’s reelection. The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, released an article that distorted the Egypt comments to argue “most troubling of all is the possibility that if elected to a second term, President Obama could appoint even more justices who share Justice Ginsburg's views.”
During the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre also attacked Ginsburg in a speech, calling her a “giddy school girl” for hugging Obama at the State of the Union and again distorting her Egypt comments.
The host of the National Rifle Association's radio show drew a false parallel between being LGBT and being a gun enthusiast while discussing a controversy involving a college professor.
The NRA has a lengthy history of comparing the treatment of gun owners to the treatment of people with immutable characteristics, including drawing false parallels between legal regulations on guns and Jim Crow-style laws that discriminated on the basis of race.
Cam Edwards, the host of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, compared gun owners to LGBT people while discussing an April 18 opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the piece, an anonymous college professor grappled with mixed feelings and asked for advice after being asked to write a letter of recommendation to a teacher-credent
I lay all of this out here now because I don’t know what to do about the recommendation.
It’s so complicated. On one side are all of my ideas about supporting students, honoring their individuality and their journeys, creating a safe space for them (and myself), not taking things out of context, not overinterpreting. On the other side are my memories of growing up in a situation where guns, people, and bullets had to be rigorously kept apart, lest they find each other in a tragic moment of instability.
Edwards responded to the opinion piece by attacking the anonymous professor and drawing a false comparison between gun owners and LGBT people, claiming during the April 19 broadcast of his show, "Now imagine this piece written but instead of a gun owner, they’re talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. ... Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor":
CAM EDWARDS (HOST): Now imagine this piece written, but instead of a gun owner, we're talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. Vegetarian. Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor -- I don’t want to help this person because I don’t agree with them. Well this professor is in for a world of controversy, aren’t they? Probably have students demanding to know who this professor really is. Professor would probably worried about being dismissed from her job for being so intolerant. But when it comes to a woman who wants to own a firearm for self defense, nah it's OK for this professor to try to treat that student like dirt. As long as the student is not aware of it, mind you.
Edwards and the NRA have a well-established track record of comparing conditions placed on gun ownership to the experience of racial discrimination. In June 2013, Edwards compared gun owners in Colorado to victims of “segregation” following Colorado's adoption of stronger gun laws after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and Aurora movie theater shooting. Edwards has also claimed that a requirement that Colorado students who own guns on campus must live in a designated dorm means "we are back to segregation now."
A July 2014 commentary video from the NRA compared modern gun regulations to “Jim Crow laws,” claiming current gun laws are “equally as unconstitutional” as laws that codified racial discrimination.
And in January 2013, former NRA president Marion Hammer compared Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) then-proposed ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, claiming on the NRA's radio show, "Well, you know, banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
The NRA is now expanding this inaccurate and offensive comparison to the LGBT community.
NRA's Colion Noir: “You Don’t Have To Watch The News Longer Than An Hour To Realize That The Structure Of Society Can Go Downhill In A Heartbeat”
A bizarre video released by an NRA News commentator touted several reasons to own body armor, including the claim that “if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor.”
The video, “5 Reasons You Should Want Body Armor,” offers several arguments in favor of buying a plate carrier vest -- a piece of tactical gear that holds body armor -- and body armor plates to keep at home or carry while in public.
While most of Noir’s suggestions were apparently geared toward gun owners, he also recommended people who make “make less than smart decisions with your life” and “want nothing to do with” guns should still own body armor because he “can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot”:
NOIR: Look, if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor. I’m not saying you have to channel your inner 50 Cent and wear a vest general purpose. But have armor in your home or bag, you have nothing to lose. You may not like guns or me for liking guns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about your safety.
In the video, Noir explains, “When people come to my place, it’s not the Rifle Dynamics AK-47 sitting on a coffee table that gives them pause; it’s my body armor,” before describing several other scenarios where he recommends owning body armor:
Noir often intertwines his commentary on guns with his commentary on women. In recurring segments on his show Noir, he narrated videos that appeared to be praising the appearance and personality attributes of an attractive woman, but at the end it is revealed that instead he was talking about the features of a high-end military-style assault weapon.
Noir’s pro-gun commentary is often inflammatory. In February, Noir said that a tax that he had to pay on a firearm purchase was “rape.” He later apologized for the claim.
Following the high-profile murder of two Virginia journalists who were shot to death during a live television broadcast in August 2015, Noir warned the victims' parents not to "become so emotional" in response to the shooting that they become advocates for stronger gun laws.
New York City has cracked down on an alleged scheme to circumvent local gun licensing requirements, and the National Rifle Association’s media arm reacted not by calling for enforcement of gun laws but by falsely calling NYC’s laws unconstitutional. The NRA also downplayed the danger the scheme posed to the public and excused the alleged crimes by saying NYC’s law invited corruption.
The scheme involved a man allegedly bribing New York Police Department officers to obtain up to 150 gun licenses, including licenses to carry a gun in public. The NRA repeatedly excused the alleged crime in segments on NRA News, in a departure from its oft-repeated talking point that instead of passing new gun laws, officials should enforce the laws on the books.
On April 18, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the arrest of Brooklyn resident Alex Lichtenstein for allegedly masterminding a scheme to bribe police officers in order to obtain gun licenses. According to a press release from the office, “As alleged, Lichtenstein offered the officer $6,000 per license, bragging that he had already used his NYPD connections to obtain 150 gun licenses.”
The New York Times reported that Lichtenstein is accused of obtaining licenses that included “full- and limited-carry permits, which are difficult to obtain in New York City.” The prosecutor in the case asked for Lichtenstein to be held without bail, calling him an “arms dealer” and a “danger to the community.”
The April 18 and 19 broadcasts of the NRA’s radio show, Cam & Company, used news of the scheme to attack gun laws in New York City -- which has strict laws and very low rates of gun violence compared to other big cities -- and to downplay the seriousness of the allegations and the threat the scheme posed to public safety.
NRA News host Cam Edwards repeatedly downplayed the alleged scheme by falsely suggesting that the gun licensing systems in NYC and elsewhere violate the Second Amendment and by claiming that the alleged bribery was a natural result of the city’s gun laws.
But in making his argument, Edwards dismissed the reality that the alleged bribery scheme let people possess guns illegally.
During the April 18 broadcast of Cam & Company, Edwards claimed gun permit laws violate the Second Amendment: “You don’t have this problem if you actually recognize the right to keep and bear arms. … Here’s a simple proposal: Get rid of the gun permits in New York City. Don’t require a permit to own a firearm in New York City. Abide by the words of the Second Amendment, and then you don’t have an opportunity for corruption.”
In segments posted on April 18 and 19, Edwards said, “If you don’t need permission to exercise a fundamental individual constitutional right, then you can’t bribe someone in order to exercise said fundamental individual constitutional right,” and, “When you see a right as a privilege to be doled out, guess what happens? Corruption, I think, inevitably follows.”
Edwards’ excuse for the alleged crime -- that gun licensing laws violate the Second Amendment right -- is unfounded. Courts have repeatedly found permitting and licensing systems to own guns or carry guns in public to be consistent with the Second Amendment. In 2015, a federal court upheld New York’s licensing system.
Edwards also claimed on April 19 that leaders in NYC “would rather deal with corruption probes every year than put in place a policy that recognizes and acknowledges the Heller decision … and the very words of the Second Amendment."
Edwards’ argument is nonsensical in light of the Heller decision he mentions, the landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, where a conservative majority struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban. In response to the ruling, D.C. changed its law to comply with the Second Amendment by implementing a system similar to New York City's that requires licensing to own a firearm.
During his NRA News segments on April 18 and 19, Edwards also repeatedly downplayed the danger to the public the alleged scheme posed by distorting the allegations surrounding it.
On April 18, Edwards said, “I assume, by the way, this is a pistol permit, not a permit to carry. We’ll try to get more details here.” The details were already available. The April 18 U.S. Attorney’s Office press release that kicked off news reports of the scheme indicated that the case involved licenses to carry guns in public. The New York Times reported this same fact on April 18.
Edwards repeatedly described the scheme as a matter of merely expediting license requests. He claimed on April 18, “There are no allegations at this point that anybody got a permit who wasn’t legally eligible for one,” suggesting instead that the alleged mastermind of the scheme was someone who could just “help you get your permit a little bit faster.”
In fact, the U.S. attorney’s April 18 press release stated that one person who obtained a permit through the scheme “had been arrested for forgery, received approximately 10 moving violations and three vehicle-related summonses, and had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, including one in which he was accused of threatening to kill someone,” while noting that “the NYPD License Division indicates that it may reject applications if the investigation reveals a history of arrest, driving infractions, or domestic violence incidents, among other reasons.”
On April 19, Edwards had apparently become aware of this fact, but he continued to downplay it, stating that the man “had been the subject of at least four domestic violence complaints, but not even arrests, but much less a conviction here.” Edwards never mentioned that one of the domestic violence incidents allegedly involved a threat to kill somebody, as the article he said he was referencing during the segment explained. He also misleadingly claimed, “And this is the one guy that was supposedly the worst of the worst” of Lichtenstein's alleged customers.
In fact, the U.S. attorney’s press release indicates that a review of Lichtenstein’s application files “is ongoing,” meaning at this time it is unknown if licenses were given to other problematic people. As the press release explained, the scheme allowed individuals who wanted a gun "to forego the full investigation typically conducted before the NYPD License Division approves or disapproves an application."
This is not the first time Edwards has attacked New York’s gun laws rather than the people who violate them. In March 2013, Edwards called for the dismissal of an illegal gun possession charge faced by New York linen mogul George Bardwil, who was caught with a gun while on trial for domestic violence charges. In July 2014, Bardwil was convicted on charges of slamming his ex-wife's head into the ground after she refused to have sex with him. In June 2015, Bardwil pleaded guilty to the gun charge and was sentenced to two years in prison for domestic assault and illegal gun possession.
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UPDATE: IBT has changed its headline to remove the reference to 2012 and updated its article to mention the State Department's statutory authority to review arms deals under the Arms Export Control Act.
In an effort to challenge Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's progressive position on gun violence prevention, the International Business Times baselessly linked her to the 2012 murder of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the publication misread the documents it used to claim the connection.
IBT’s tenuous and bizarre argument is that the State Department’s role in approving military arms sales to foreign governments somehow undermines Clinton’s support for allowing families of victims to sue companies that sell military-style firearms to civilians who subsequently use them in mass shootings. Specifically, the outlet reported that when Clinton was secretary of state, the State Department “helped approve” a $4.2 million arms contract between Remington Arms Company, whose subsidiary Bushmaster manufactured the gun used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and the government of Afghanistan.
IBT did not explain precisely how the State Department “helped approve” the contract, citing only a Defense Department report. Moreover, in order to draw the connection between Clinton and the massacre, IBT claims in its headline, “Hillary Clinton State Department Approved Weapons Sales In 2012 For Company That Made Sandy Hook Rifle.” But the sale in question did not occur in 2012.
The April 18 article criticized Clinton for “present[ing] herself as a tough advocate for gun control” and supporting “laws that could hold gun manufacturers liable for mass shootings.” It suggested that those positions are undercut because during Clinton’s tenure, the State Department “helped approve more than $100 million in weapons sales for a handful of companies — including the manufacturer of the AR-15 semi-automatic that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.” The article continued:
The sales to foreign nations, noted in Defense Department documents, include $4.2 million in receipts from the Remington Arms Co., which was sued by families of the Sandy Hook victims. They argued that the company was culpable because it marketed military-grade weapons to civilians.
It is not explained in the article what the connection is between the contract and the State Department, as IBT links only to documents related to a reporting requirement of the Department of Defense. The State Department does in fact have certain authority to control the export of U.S. munitions and other defense articles and services under the Arms Export Control Act, but IBT cites an annual report of Defense, not State.
Additionally, a review of the Defense Department document reveals that IBT’s claim that the Remington sale occurred in 2012 -- the same year as the Sandy Hook shooting -- is inaccurate. The report was issued May 17, 2012 -- seven months before the shooting -- but it details sales that occurred in fiscal year 2011, which runs from October 2010 through September 2011.
A National Rifle Association video falsely claims that President Obama gave Mexican drug trafficker “El Chapo” a .50-caliber sniper rifle in order to claim that the president may be on the “side” of drug cartels.
But the NRA video never mentioned that the gun in question was manufactured by an NRA board member or that the NRA has strongly opposed efforts to ban the sale of .50-caliber sniper rifles. The class of firearm is “among the most destructive weapons legally available to civilians” and has been linked by law enforcement to “terrorism, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international and domestic drug trafficking, and violent crime.”
In an April 15 video, NRA News commentator Dana Loesch criticized President Obama over news reports that a .50-caliber sniper rifle associated with Operation Fast and Furious was recovered at the hideout of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who is widely known as “El Chapo,” following the narcotrafficker’s January arrest.
Fast and Furious was a failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation to track firearms sold to traffickers at retail stores in the United States to high-level drug cartel figures in Mexico. The ATF lost track of many of the guns after they crossed the border, and the operation, which was terminated in 2011, became public knowledge after one of the guns was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Fast and Furious was spun off of the botched Bush administration Operation Wide Receiver, which also failed to track trafficked guns to high-level targets.
While an independent investigation found that the failure of Fast and Furious was due to “flawed” tactical decisions on the ground, the NRA has long conspiratorially claimed that Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder hatched the operation as a secret plot to cause violence in Mexico and thus justify more restrictive gun laws in the United States.
In NRA video, Loesch claimed, “El Chapo did not get that .50-cal from a [concealed handgun license] holder in Texas; he got it from Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” before asking, “Who's side are they on?”
It is well-established that Obama and Holder were not aware of Fast and Furious while the operation was underway. While the NRA continues to push conspiracies about the operation, even Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the primary congressional investigator into the failed sting, has said it is “important” to acknowledge that an independent investigation found that Holder was unaware of the program during its existence.
The independent investigation, undertaken by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, found that “ATF's Phoenix Field Division, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, bore primary responsibility for the conduct of Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious.” The investigation also debunked the NRA’s conspiracies about the purpose of Fast and Furious, finding “no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization.”
The NRA video also failed to mention the organization’s own role in making the .50-caliber sniper rifle -- a gun whose round “can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes” -- easily available to the public.
There is no federal law that specifically regulates .50-caliber rifles, meaning they can be purchased by anyone aged 18 or older who passes a background check at a licensed gun dealer (and in many states the rifle can be bought without a background check through the private sale loophole).
The NRA has long opposed proposals in Congress to ban the sale of the .50-caliber rifle, falsely arguing that .50-caliber weapons pose no danger to the public. In 2013, the gun organization successfully urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to veto a .50-caliber rifle ban. The NRA also lobbied against a 2005 U.S. House of Representatives bill to restrict .50-caliber rifle ownership -- which it misleadingly labeled as a "hunting rifle ban" -- and has opposed state efforts to regulate the .50-caliber rifle in California and Hawaii. Other material from the NRA-ILA has falsely claimed, ".50 caliber rifles are not used in crimes -- .50 caliber rifles are too large and heavy to be employed in normal criminal behavior," and attacked critics of the .50-caliber sniper rifle as engaging in "phony terrorism hype."
The NRA has a financial interest in promoting access to the .50-caliber rifle. The inventor of the .50-caliber rifle, Ronnie Barrett, sits on the NRA board of directors. Barrett has maintained a close relationship with the NRA, and his company has donated between $50,000 and $99,000 to the gun group. In 2010, the NRA gave Barrett an award that recognized "exemplary achievement by individuals who were responsible for the development, introduction, and promotion of equipment that has made a profound and enduring impact on the way Americans shoot and hunt."
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