From the October 25 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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From the October 23 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley:
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The National Rifle Association is promoting an article that suggested "radical" Democrats will attempt to confiscate firearms in the United States and trigger a civil war where "the survivors of the Democrat rebellion" are ultimately hanged.
In an October 17 post, conservative gun blogger Bob Owens claimed that if the "radical left" attempts to "impose their ideas on the American people" -- which Owens claims includes gun confiscation -- "it would end poorly and quickly" for them after they are confronted by "armed free citizens."
Owens has previously fantasized about civil war breaking out in the United States and has responded to Media Matters documentation of his rhetoric by writing that he hopes the "propagandists" at Media Matters "feel threatened."
Owens began his October 17 article with an image of gallows and the caption, "This is where the survivors of the Democrat rebellion will meet their end." His article was promoted by the NRA on social media.
Writing, "I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections," Owens nonetheless described a scenario where gun confiscation supported by Democrats starts a civil war. Owens warned, "We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended":
I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections.
The radical left is getting much louder, much more shrill, and much more insistent in their desire to use force to get their way and impose their ideas on the American people.
If they try such a radical path it would end poorly and quickly.
The military and local law enforcement agencies in the United States that the radical left has been trashing in public since the Vietnam War until now will not take part in any plot to disarm American citizens.
Soldiers, Marines and sheriffs may even defect to actively resist any federal officers from a pool of just over 100,000 who would take on the suicidal task of taking on the military, local police, and a hundred righteously-angry million gun owners, led by over a thousand angry Green Berets that warned President Obama in 2013 not push his luck.
Who is left to carrying out these confiscatory fantasies but the radicals themselves?
Are Cornell University Art Professor Carl Ostendarp or Coppin State writing instructor D. Watkins going to going on raiding parties? Are comedian Amy Schumer and her Senator-cousin Chuck going to kick in doors? Somehow, I don't see President Mom Jeans picking up a breaching ram and leading by example.
I'm glad that these totalitarians are finally showing their true colors to their fellow Americans, as it will assure a crushing defeat of their anti-American ideals at the ballot box. Perhaps then sane Democrats like Jim Webb can pick up the remains of the Democrat Party and either return it to something President Kennedy would have respected, or start something new.
Of course, we've got to get the elections, and these radicals are pushing hard for action, now, and they're proving with every passing day that reason and constitutionality are the least of their concerns.
We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association admitted that the odds of needing to use a gun for self-defense are exceedingly small while still promoting the ownership of firearms for self-defense.
The admission was made on the NRA's Noir web series, a show hosted by gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir. The series is part of the NRA's increasing efforts to appeal to a younger demographic.
The October 20 edition of Noir opened with Noir playing the role of a magician as he laid out a deck of 52 cards in random order. After the skit ended, Noir said, "There are 318.9 million American citizens. The odds of you and me needing a gun to protect our lives is not that much better than Colion the Incredible putting these cards back in the exact order."
This admission from an NRA media product is surprising, but also accurate. The odds of randomly laying out two decks of cards in the same order are infinitesimal.
The odds of using a gun defensively are actually so low that it is difficult to accurately measure the number of defensive gun uses that occur each year. Meanwhile, gun violence is so frequent in the United States that more than 100,000 gunshot injuries are recorded every year (a figure that does not include crimes committed with guns where no one is shot).
Despite admitting the rarity of defensive gun uses, the NRA commentary video did not admit the logical conclusion of that fact, which is that guns do not typically make people safer.
In the commentary video, Noir still promoted guns as a life-saving tool. While acknowledging the long odds of actually needing a gun for self-defense, Noir stated, "Some people like to be prepared for the unlikely but possible. Other people like to cross their fingers and play the statistics. As American citizens we have the right to do both. But we don't have the right to do is limit someone's ability to be prepared for something we don't believe will happen until it does."
And Noir giving equal weight to owning a gun and being "prepared for the unlikely but possible" as opposed to not owning a gun and "play[ing] the statistics" does not make much sense if the ultimate goal is to improve personal safety.
This is because the evidence clearly indicates that gun ownership increases the risk of injury and death. While Noir frequently challenges those skeptical of gun ownership with a hypothetical scenario where it is obvious that having a gun would be better than not having one, firearm ownership on balance makes the average gun owner and his or her family less rather than more safe throughout that person's life. Peer-reviewed research has repeatedly established that gun ownership raises the likelihood of death by suicide, homicide, and through unintentional shooting.
Emerging research has also challenged the notion that guns are the best tools during a self-defense situation.
According to an analysis of federal government data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, "having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation" because victims who used a firearm to defend themselves were injured 10.9 percent of the time during a "criminal confrontation" compared to 11 percent of unarmed victims who were injured. Furthermore, the research indicated that 4.1 percent of victims were injured "after brandishing a firearm," compared to just 2.4 percent of victims who were injured after running or hiding.
Noir's admission that people are unlikely to actually use a gun in self-defense is also counter to the NRA's typical paranoid message, which posits that guns should be permissively purchased and carried so that gun owners can confront constant threats to their lives.
For example, in a February 2013 op-ed that was widely ridiculed for its outlandish claims and racially charged overtones, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre suggested that gun ownership was necessary to ensure "survival." LaPierre argued that Americans who don't buy firearms risk death from a number of sources:
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face--not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival. It's responsible behavior, and it's time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.
LaPierre used similar language in a 2014 speech at CPAC, raising a number of frightful scenarios including "knockout gamers," "haters," "vicious waves of chemicals or disease" to support his claim that "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want":
We don't trust government, because government itself has proven unworthy of our trust. We trust ourselves and we trust what we know in our hearts to be right. We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want. We know in the world that surrounds us there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.
Fox News host and Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson acknowledged that it is not politically unwise for Democrats to embrace gun safety as a centerpiece campaign issue, breaking with the media's long-held conventional wisdom that Democrats should avoid talking about the issue because it is allegedly politically perilous to oppose the gun lobby.
Carlson's admission that it makes sense for Democrats to talk about guns ahead of the 2016 election is surprising given that the National Rifle Association -- which is deeply entwined with Carlson's conservative news website, The Daily Caller -- benefits from the media status quo, which baselessly presents the gun issue as dangerous for Democrats.
During the October 15 broadcast of America's Newsroom, Carlson appeared as a guest to discuss the prominence of gun violence prevention as a topic of discussion in CNN's October 13 Democratic primary debate. Carlson said, "Politically, it's probably not a dumb play for Democrats. America has changed dramatically in its demographic composition." He also noted that the issue "polls pretty well" with "suburban and single women."
When asked whether Democrats might "overplay their hand" advocating for gun safety laws, Carlson replied, "Again, the population has really changed in the United States and Republicans need to clearly articulate why this will not make the country safer and until they do, and unless they do, they could lose this debate."
Though he acknowledged that it makes political sense for Democrats to talk about the need for more gun safety laws, Carlson also pushed several pro-gun talking points, including claiming that Democratic gun policy proposals are "laughable" and "infantile," and falsely declaring that their goal is to "disarm the population."
The idea that Democrats who support gun safety proposals will lose elections after the National Rifle Association mobilizes voters against them is a longstanding myth in media coverage of the gun issue, although there has never been any evidence to support the theory.
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER: Where does this issue go in terms of politics in this campaign?
TUCKER CARLSON: Well, there are two ways to look at it, on the political half and then of course the policy, i.e. the reality half. Politically, it's probably not a dumb play for Democrats. America has changed dramatically in its demographic composition, and there are a couple of groups Democrats need to win. One is suburban and single women, and this issue polls pretty well with them, for sure, and the other, of course, is trial lawyers, from whom a lot of Democratic campaign funds come.
HEMMER: Republicans think Democrats are going to overplay their hand on this. Is there evidence that suggests they are right about that in an election year?
CARLSON: I don't think -- I wouldn't take that for granted. Again, the population has really changed in the United States and Republicans need to clearly articulate why this will not make the country safer and until they do, and unless they do, they could lose this debate. I say that with sorrow, but it's true. They have to make a strong rhetorical case. It's there for the taking, but they have to be bold in making it.
A professor of history and Holocaust studies debunked Ben Carson's suggestion that fewer people would have been killed in the Holocaust had there been greater access to guns in an op-ed for The New York Times, explaining that such assertions "are difficult to fathom" for anyone "who studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living."
Ben Carson has come under fire after an October 8 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer where he claimed that the number of people killed in the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed." Carson's comments were immediately called out as "historically inaccurate" by the Anti-Defamation League, but Fox News figures continuously stood by the controversial comments, which parroted an old right-wing media talking point.
In an October 14 op-ed for The New York Times, Alan Steinweis, a Holocaust studies and history professor at the University of Vermont, wrote that Carson's comments are "strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important." Steinweiss went on to assert that contrary to the talking points popularized by conservative media and echoed by Carson, he "can think of no serious work of scholarship on the Nazi dictatorship or on the causes of the Holocaust in which Nazi gun control measures feature as a significant factor" and that such assertions "trivialize" the experience of Jews in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s:
To anyone who studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living, as I do, Ben Carson's statements about gun control are difficult to fathom. "I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," the Republican presidential candidate said in a recent interview.
Mr. Carson's argument, which he made in his new book "A More Perfect Union" and was asked to defend last week, is strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important. I can think of no serious work of scholarship on the Nazi dictatorship or on the causes of the Holocaust in which Nazi gun control measures feature as a significant factor. Neither does gun control figure in the collective historical memory of any group that was targeted by the Nazi regime, be they Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, gay people or Poles. It is simply a nonissue.
Mr. Carson's remarks not only trivialize the predicament in which Jews found themselves in Germany and elsewhere in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. They also trivialize the serious, prolonged and admirable efforts undertaken by many Germans to work through the causes of their country's catastrophic mistakes of that period.
The origins of the Nazi dictatorship are to be found in the authoritarian legacy of the German Empire, the inability to cope with the defeat in World War I and the failure to achieve political compromise during the Weimar Republic. When it comes to explaining the Holocaust, Germans inquire about the place of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in their society and about the psychological and cultural factors that led ordinary citizens to participate in, or to accept, horrific atrocities. They understand their own history well enough to avoid being distracted by demagogy about gun control.
If the United States is going to arrive at a workable compromise solution to its gun problem, it will not be accomplished through the use of historical analogies that are false, silly and insulting. Similarly, coming to terms with a civilizational breach of the magnitude of the Holocaust requires a serious encounter with history, rather than political sloganeering that exploits history as a prop for mobilizing one's base.
Politico's Democratic presidential debate "Wrongometer" criticized comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential debate by relying on a misleading definition to conclude that the "gun show loophole" -- a decades-old policy term referring to gun sales without a background check that occur at gun shows -- "doesn't actually exist."
Indeed, Politico itself has repeatedly used the term "gun show loophole."
During CNN's October 13 debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the United States has to "do away with this gun show loophole."
Politico purported to fact check this statement, concluding, "Sorry, Bernie: The 'gun show loophole' doesn't exist." According to Politico the "gun show loophole" does not exist because "there's nothing in particular about gun shows that allows otherwise illegal gun sales to occur":
When Bernie Sanders mentioned closing the so-called "gun show" loophole--one of the most widely supported gun-control measures on the left. But there's one problem: the "gun show" loophole doesn't actually exist.
There's nothing in particular about gun shows that allows otherwise illegal gun sales to occur. Sanders instead is referring to an exclusion in the gun laws that does not require a background check in a private sale. It doesn't matter if that sale is at the seller's home or at a gun show, a background check is not legally required.
But the occurrence of "otherwise illegal gun sales" is not the definition of the "gun show loophole." Instead the term has always referred to the sale of firearms without a background check by so-called "private sellers" at gun shows.
The term "gun show loophole" came to widespread use in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. All four guns used in that mass shooting passed through a local gun show in private sales that did not include a background check. (Today the term "private sales loophole" is often used because it encompasses sales without a background check at gun shows, in-person sales outside of gun shows, and sales through other venues such as the Internet.)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has estimated that between 25 and 50 percent of sales at gun shows are conducted by private sellers without a background check, while the rest are conducted with a background check by licensed gun dealers in possession of a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Under federal law individuals who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms are required to obtain an FFL and perform checks on customers, while individuals who make "occasional" sales are not. Because these terms are vaguely defined, unscrupulous "private sellers" can exploit the language of the law to operate unlicensed pseudo-businesses.
If the loophole did not exist, several states would not have moved to close it, but that is exactly what has happened. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois and New York all "have laws expressly addressing background checks at gun shows, although broader laws also apply." Other states have more expansive laws requiring background checks for all firearm transfers that encompass private sales at gun shows.
There is good reason to believe that the "gun show loophole" is exploited by individuals who would not be able to pass a background check. A 2011 undercover investigation of seven gun shows in three states by the City of New York found that 19 out of 30 private sellers agreed to a sale where the buyer said he probably couldn't pass a background check. The loophole is also ripe for abuse by narco-terrorists, illegal gun traffickers and other dangerous individuals.
Politico's purported fact check of Sanders' statement is also nonsensical because the outlet itself has used the term "gun show loophole" to refer to private sales at gun shows. A 2013 Politico article used the term the same way Sanders did in the debate:
"The 'private sale' loophole is the gaping hole in our federal gun laws which allows anyone who is not a federally licensed gun dealer to sell a gun without a background check -- no questions asked," said Jonathan E. Lowy, legal action director of The Brady Campaign.
It's also referred to as the gun-show loophole, because it can allow collectors to sell each other guns during gun shows, said John Lott, the former chief economist of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Some states have already passed laws to include running background checks on privatized gun sales, but there's no federal law.
In December 2012, Politico used the term "gun show loophole" in a section header to describe sales without background checks in an article that was billed as "POLITICO's look at the top policy proposals circulating in the wake of the" Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting (emphasis original):
Closing the gun show loophole
Requiring every person-to-person gun sale to be subject to a background check -- long a favorite talking point of the gun control crowd -- is perhaps the easiest for lawmakers to support but the most logistically difficult measure to achieve. The 1993 Brady law requires background checks for guns purchased by licensed dealers, but it does not address private sales.
After the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, Politico again used the term "gun show loophole" to describe private sales at gun shows:
Pennsylvania's experience closely mirrors what happened in Colorado after the 1999 Columbine shootings, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed. Lawmakers failed to close the "gun show loophole" by passing a law requiring background checks at gun shows. Instead, voters petitioned it onto the ballot in 2000, and it passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Oregon voters also had to take matters into their own hands after lawmakers failed to close a gun show loophole after a school shooting in 1998. The ballot measure closing the loophole passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.
During the October 12 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Houston based radio host Michael Berry continued his recurring segment mocking gun violence in Chicago.
Referring to Chicago as "Thuglandia," Berry said one of the victims, who was 15, was found shot behind his home "bleeding his life away into the dirt." Berry described another victim who was shot in a car as having "bled out all over the upholstery...like that scene in Pulp Fiction."
Berry said the "one thing you should learn from all of this is that black lives matter, just not to black people."
Berry's reoccurring segment on Chicago violence, which he refers to as the "butcher bill," often mocks innocent victims of gun violence as well as gang related shooting victims. The Chicago segment and other race based segments represent a small portion of the inflammatory rhetoric appearing on the Michael Berry Show, which also includes appearances from a black face comedian, as well as homophobic and islamaphobic commentary.
Larry Pratt, the leader of the firearm lobbyist group Gun Owners of America (GOA), suggested in a recent interview with FoxNews.com that Jews in Europe lacked "determination" to stop the Holocaust.
Although Pratt and GOA routinely promote such extreme views, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said at the September 16 GOP primary debate that he was "honored" to be endorsed by GOA. Pratt was once a contributing editor at an anti-Semitic publication.
In an October 12 video posted on FoxNews.com, Pratt was asked by Fox News Radio's Alan Colmes to respond to a recent ahistorical and controversial claim by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson that the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished" if not for Nazi Germany's regulation of firearms.
Pratt replied: "Had the Jews had really good amounts of armament, they could have given the Nazis a real headache for a prolonged period of time, and in fact, had they had that determination to fight long before the [Warsaw] Ghetto, it might have been an entirely different story."
Colmes called Pratt's claim "an extremely offensive position to a lot of Jews and also historically inaccurate."
Claims that the Holocaust could have been averted were it not for Adolf Hitler's gun policies have been repeatedly called historically inaccurate by The Anti-Defamation League, a national civil rights group. In fact, Hitler loosened gun laws for his political allies while banning firearms for the people he wanted to oppress, which is an indictment of fascistic policies -- not laws regulating firearms.
Pratt is widely seen as one of the founders of the 1990s militia movement in the United States. In 1996, he was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after it was revealed he had spoken at militia gatherings with representatives from white supremacist groups, including the leader of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement. He also previously served as a contributing editor to a publication of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America.
Sitting for a rare one-on-one network television interview with President Obama that aired on 60 Minutes this week, CBS' Steve Kroft repeatedly pressed Obama about Hillary Clinton's use of private email when she was secretary of state. But CBS was apparently far less interested in the pressing public policy issue of gun violence, which has dominated the news in recent weeks. It's also a topic Obama has been speaking out on publicly.
The interview seemed to be the latest example of the press giving the seven-month-old email story a disproportionate amount of time and attention.
The bulk of the 60 Minutes interview centered on the unfolding foreign policy challenges in Syria. In the second part of the lengthy 24-minute interview that aired, Kroft repeatedly pressed Obama about Clinton using a private email account years ago. In response, Obama said he agreed with Clinton's assessment that using a private email account was a mistake, and emphasized that it posed no national security risk and that the allegations against her were being "ginned up" by her political foes.
Still, Kroft again and again raised the topic with the president:
STEVE KROFT: Did you know about Hillary Clinton's use of private email server?
STEVE KROFT: Do you think it posed a national security problem?
STEVE KROFT: What was your reaction when you found out about it?
During the interview that aired Sunday night, Kroft pressed Obama six times about Clinton's emails.
No questions about gun violence made it into the portions of the interview CBS aired. But it turns out Kroft actually did actually raise the topic of gun violence with Obama during the Q&A, but 60 Minutes editors cut that portion out of the final TV interview. (Viewers can only see Obama and Kroft's exchange about gun violence online.)
In other words, the portion of the Q&A that focused on the well-worn process story of Clinton's emails was deemed by CBS to be far more newsworthy than Obama's discussion of gun violence, even though the interview came in the wake of several campus shootings this month.
And at no time when addressing the email issue did Kroft mention that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently made headlines when he seemed to acknowledge that the Benghazi select committee, which is now focused almost exclusively on the email issue, was created in order to sabotage Clinton's White House run.
From the October 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow is defending Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's controversial remarks that fewer people would have been killed in the Holocaust had they been armed by criticizing German Jews for not having "more actively resisted" the Nazis.
Carson sparked an outcry after he claimed the outcome of the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed." Carson has stood by his comments. The Anti-Defamation League called Carson's remarks "historically inaccurate."
In an October 9 FoxNews.com piece, Ablow defended Carson's comments by asserting, "If Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime and had diagnosed it as a malignant and deadly cancer from the start, there would, indeed, have been a chance for the people of that country and the world to be moved to action by their bold refusal to be enslaved."
Ablow, who is Jewish, also lamented that German Jews did not learn "the lesson of the Old Testament" of "sacrifice":
The mindset that Jews surrendered with their guns is far more important than the hardware they turned over: They surrendered the demonstrated intention, at all costs, to resist being deprived of liberty. If Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime and had diagnosed it as a malignant and deadly cancer from the start, there would, indeed, have been a chance for the people of that country and the world to be moved to action by their bold refusal to be enslaved.
Yes, that would have required immeasurable courage. Yes, that would have required unspeakable losses. But is that not the lesson of the Old Testament? Does not Abraham bind his son Issac to an altar, willing to sacrifice his son's life to God's Word--to the truth? Must not we all be ready to sacrifice ourselves to stand in the way of evil?
Granted, I was not there. Granted, hindsight is 20/20. But it turns out it was a bad idea for any Jew to have turned over a gun. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have boarded a train. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have passed through a gate into a camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to do any work at any such camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to not attempt to crush the skull or scratch out the eyes of any Nazi who turned his back for one moment. And every bullet that would have been fired into a Nazi coming to a doorway to confiscate a gun from a Jew would have been a sacred bullet.
Both Ablow and a disclosure attached to the FoxNews.com piece noted that the Fox News contributor "hosted a fundraiser for Dr. Ben Carson." Ablow reportedly hosted a Newbury, Massachusetts fundraiser for Carson on September 24. Tickets for the event ranged from $500 to $2,700.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's controversial comment -- that the number of people killed in the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed" -- echoes an old conservative media talking point that has long been condemned as "historically inaccurate."
Last week's depressingly predictable news from Oregon about another American gun massacre triggered what's now become a morose tradition of news coverage, not only about the mindless murders themselves, but also about the permanent stain of domestic gun violence. (This morning brought news of yet another campus shooting.) With a presidential campaign underway, the Oregon coverage inevitably crossed over into political and campaign analysis. That meant high-profile Republican candidates weighed in on the issue and often tried to wave off as unfixable the epidemic of gun violence in America, where approximately 290 people are shot every day.
Thanks to a string of truly bizarre ("stuff happens") and thoughtless comments from several GOP candidates, including one that seemed to place some blame on the Umpqua Community College victims for being shot, the so-called gun debate has managed to become even more baseless.
In other words, the Republican field is once again highlighting just how radical the party has become on key issues. And that poses a growing challenge for journalists.
"Rather than engaging in an honest effort to address gun violence and prevent more senseless carnage, practically every G.O.P. candidate has been reduced to repeating a mantra that many of them, surely, cannot fully believe," wrote The New Yorker's John Cassidy this week.
The question becomes how does the press cover the unfolding Republican gun spectacle? And when do reporters and pundits step forward and point out that one side of the gun 'debate' has not only lost touch with reality, but at times has lost touch with common decency? That query goes to the heart of informative political reporting.
Earlier this year, I posed a similar question about the campaign press: How do journalists deal with a lineup of Republican candidates who, ignoring an avalanche of scientific findings, cling to the outdated idea that humans don't contribute to climate change? Do journalists simply tell the truth and acknowledge the obvious holes in their arguments, or do they help carve out a new political space for climate deniers that allows their views to be seen as mainstream?
One example of the shameful Republican gun massacre commentary came from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. After the deadly campus rampage, the GOP candidate disparaged the father of the dead gunman. "He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He's the problem here," wrote Jindal.
Meanwhile Donald Trump invented facts and claimed these sorts of public shooting sprees have "taken place forever." Trump insisted there's nothing we can do in America to stop them: "But no matter what you do you will have problems and that's the way the world goes."
But it was Ben Carson who unleashed a stunning barrage of ignorant and insensitive comments while Oregon families still grieved.
Carson on gun rights: "There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking -- but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."
On the victims: "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say: 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"
On arming teachers: "If the [kindergarten] teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't."
On traveling to Oregon as president to console the victims' families: "I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one."
It's true that Carson's string of baffling comments drew lots of press attention and condemnation. (Especially when he later told a story about how he had once been held at gunpoint at a Popeyes restaurant and directed the gunman to the employee behind the counter.) But I'd suggest too much of it from the political press corps was restrained in a way that would be inconceivable if, for instance, a leading Democratic candidate had callously placed blame on victims in the wake of a terror attack on American soil.
From The New York Times [emphasis added]:
Like many Republican presidential candidates who have sought to express sympathy for victims while maintaining support for gun rights, Mr. Carson has struggled to address the issue with sensitivity.
NBC News added that Carson had "made a number of eyebrow raising comments since the shooting last Thursday."
Raised eyebrows? Struggled with sensitivity? I don't think that comes close to capturing the imprudence of Carson's remarks. Fact is, I'm not sure journalists know how to deal with a presidential candidate who seemingly places some of the blame on the victims of a mass murder.
Another example of the press not yet able to come to terms with Republican dismissiveness came when scores of journalists rushed to Jeb Bush's defense last week after he suggested "stuff happens," and that the government shouldn't always respond aggressively to crises, including mass murders.
As reported by the Washington Post, Bush said:
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think that more government is necessarily the answer to this," he said. "I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's just, it's very sad to see. But I resist the notion -- and I did, I had this, this challenge as governor, because we have, look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
Certain Bush had simply been "inartful" and that he'd never cavalierly dismiss a mass murder as "stuff happens," many in the press played defense and suggested the quote was taken out of context. But it wasn't. After his "stuff happens" comments, Bush was asked if he had misspoken and he emphatically denied he had: "No, it wasn't a mistake. I said exactly what I said. Why would you explain to me what I said was wrong? Things happen all the time -- things -- is that better?"
According to the Washington Post, Bush then elaborated, likening mass shooting to kids drowning in pools: "Things happen all the time. A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around a pool," he said. "The cumulative effect of this is that in some cases, you don't solve the problem by passing the law and you're imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty." (Gawker noted that Bush did actually sign a Florida law requiring pool fences after a child in the state nearly drowned.)
"Stuff happens" meant exactly what Bush wanted it to mean: There's nothing the government can do about mass shootings because there's nothing the government can, or should do, about gun ownership. (As governor of Florida, Bush received an "A+" rating from the NRA.)
The kneejerk desire to protect Bush from his own words suggests many journalists haven't come to grips with the idea that Republicans, as a matter of policy, are unwilling to reduce the number of guns in America. And that the shoulder shrug response to the Oregon tragedy indicates they're not going to try.
Journalists should stop shying away from relaying that troubling truth.