Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller deceptively attacked President Obama for briefly discussing the Washington Navy Yard shooting, downplaying the frequency of such mass shootings to allege that "[s]caring the American public is one of President Obama's favorite political tactics to get gun control."
Before a scheduled September 16 speech on the economy, Obama addressed the shooting earlier that day at the Washington Navy Yard, where at least one gunman opened fire at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command and claimed at least 13 lives. During those remarks, Obama said:
I've been briefed by my team on the situation. We still don't know all the facts, but we do know that several people have been shot, and some have been killed. So we are confronting yet another mass shooting -- and today, it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital.
After offering "gratitude to the Navy and local law enforcement, federal authorities, and the doctors who've responded with skill and bravery," and sending "our thoughts and prayers to all at the Navy Yard who've been touched by this tragedy," Obama concluded, "we're going to be investigating thoroughly what happened, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened, and do everything that we can to try to prevent them." At no point in the speech did Obama address gun laws.
Miller suggested that by referring to "yet another mass shooting" and "so many of these shootings," Obama was exaggerating the incidence of mass shootings. She contrasted Obama's words with her false claim that "[t]he last mass shooting was over nine months ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown." She added that, "While we mourn every one of those children and educators lost that day -- and today in Washington, D.C. -- these events are not a cause for increased alarm."
According to reporting from Mother Jones there have actually been four mass shootings between Newtown and the Navy Yard shooting that each claimed at least 5 lives. Recent research by criminology professor Pete Blair has found that the number of shootings where mass murder is the primary motive is on the rise:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speculated that the attack on the Washington Navy Yard may have been a false flag operation committed by disguised government agents in pursuit of some obscure goal to restrict liberty. Despite Jones' far-fetched and often offensive statements, conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have continued to promote his theories -- coverage that has even inspired legislative action in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
After a gunman attacked the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, Alex Jones immediately wondered if the attack was part of some conspiracy, tweeting, "Who will the Navy yard shooting be blamed on? Terrorist? Tea Partier? Leftist? Lone nut?" Later, on his radio show, Jones said, "when you have multiple shooters like this, it has patsy written all over it," and compared it to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which Jones described as "undoubtedly a false flag." At the time of publication, Reuters reported, "Up to three gunmen, at least two dressed in military-style clothing, killed several people and wounded at least four others in a shooting spree at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday."
Jones has long promoted false flag conspiracy theories. He once accused the government of using a weather control machine to devastate Moore, OK, with tornadoes. Jones also claimed that the United States government was behind everything from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting. Most recently, he questioned whether the New World Order may be using the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to replace the world's population with human-machine hybrids.
While Jones' theories may seem outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
Jones wasn't the only right-wing media figure to rush to politicize the tragedy. Others included Fox's Katie Pavlich and Martha MacCallum and CNN's S.E. Cupp.
Right-wing media are already beginning to politicize the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard earlier today to push for weaker gun laws. But their suggestion that the shooting could have been stopped if more people had been armed ignores that the victims include police officers and that an armed citizen has not stopped a mass shooting in 30 years.
As many as three gunmen reportedly opened fire at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command at the Washington Navy Yard this morning, killing four people and wounding eight more. Reports currently indicate that at least one shooter is dead but that the situation may not be completely resolved.
This morning, as reports of the number of gunmen and whether there were shooters still at large circulated, conservative media figures are suggesting that easier availability of guns would have prevented the rampage.
On Fox News, Martha MacCallum highlighted that "on a military base, you're not allowed to carry weapons" and that "someone working or familiar with the area probably would know that," suggesting that the Navy Yard had been targeted by the shooter or shooters due to the perceived lack of guns. MacCallum's guest, security expert Don Borelli, responded by discounting her statement, noting the high level of security at the base.
CNN host Van Jones chastised contributor Will Cain for "cherry-picking [legislative] districts" to paint stronger gun laws as wildly unpopular, pointing out that such laws have strong support nationwide.
During the September 13 edition of CNN's Crossfire, Jones hosted Cain and Colorado State Sen. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), who was defeated in a recent recall election after being targeted over his support for expanded background checks and a 15-round limit for firearm magazines, to discuss the recall and gun reform. After explaining that gun reform measures such as background checks are "massively popular ... all across the country," Jones criticized Cain for "cherry-picking [legislative] districts" like Morse's to argue that the American people don't support gun reform.
Jones is supported by the data. The three gun violence prevention measures supported by Morse and signed into law in March by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper require a background check on all gun sales except those between family members, impose a $10 fee to process background checks, and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. An August Quinnipiac University poll found that the majority of voters in Colorado approve of the specific pieces of the gun law package:
Colorado voters support 82 - 16 percent requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Support is strong among all groups.
Voters are divided 49 - 48 percent on a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
For some time now progressives have been discussing the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power, the faulty notion offered by some commentators that if a Congress opposed to President Obama's policies refuses to act, it's Obama's fault for failing to persuade them. Since the recall elections that removed two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws from office, a similar line of thought has emerged, the Green Lantern Theory of Electoral Politics, in which commentators castigate gun violence prevention advocates for the loss of those seats even as the commentators acknowledge the electoral realities that made victories unlikely.
On September 10, State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15 round limitation on firearm magazine size. Some media commentators have described the election results as having major implications for the gun debate while downplaying factors on the ground that demonstrated that the election was less than a total victory for pro-gun advocates and unlikely to be a bell-weather for future elections.
In a piece for The Atlantic, Molly Ball does an excellent job of laying out those factors:
Democrats and gun-control advocates have come up with a number of rosy rationalizations to minimize the loss. Gun-rights campaigners failed to collect enough signatures to initiate two other recalls, they point out, so the victory was really mixed. The gun-control laws passed by the Colorado legislature remain in place, and Democrats retain control of both houses. Tuesday's recall was a low-turnout election with procedural irregularities that made it harder for people to vote. Both lawmakers represented tough districts, particularly Senator Angela Giron, whose district was Democratic but culturally conservative; she lost by 12 points, while state Senate President John Morse lost by fewer than 400 votes. All those things are true.
But Ball, after laying out all of these facts that made the recall elections unique, concludes that those realities "don't matter." According to Ball, gun violence prevention advocates should have found some way to win, regardless of the difficulty of achieving that result. She concludes that "risk-averse pols" who "value survival" will back away from the issue, and thus "it doesn't seem far-fetched to think that gun control might go back into the policy deep-freeze where Democrats had it stowed for most of the last 10 years."
Like the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Politics, this line of thinking encourages putting responsibility on exactly the wrong people; while the theory of Presidential Politics blames Obama for the irrational actions of congressional Republicans, the theory of Electoral Politics blames activists for potential irrational responses of national politicians to state legislative elections featuring unique circumstances.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
MSNBC host Chuck Todd misleadingly claimed that the lesson for Democrats of the recall of two state senators who supported stronger gun laws is to stay away from the issue, claiming that Colorado Democrats had only been able to win recent statewide elections because they "neutralized the gun issue." But several Democrats have won elections in the state despite attacks from the National Rifle Association over their support for stronger gun laws.
On September 10, Colorado State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15-round limitation on firearm magazine size. The elections featured an extremely low turnout, in part due to irregular voting rules.
Discussing the election results on Morning Joe, Todd concluded that Democrats will no longer want to be associated with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, its co-chair Michael Bloomberg, or the effort to strengthen gun laws. According to Todd, "the whole reason why [Colorado] is a state that was looking like it was just passing through swing state status on its way to being reliably Democratic is because Democrats starting in 2004 just neutralized the gun issue, and there was never any Democrat that ran statewide that was not seen as pro-gun."
Discussing the issue on his own program The Daily Rundown, Todd highlighted how President Obama twice won Colorado and other Democrats had repeatedly won statewide races in Colorado over the last decade because they had "neutralized the NRA," portraying the recalls as a foreboding course correction that happened because the legislature acted on guns.
But Todd's claim that Colorado Democrats had previously "neutralized the gun issue" and that "there was never any Democrat that ran statewide that was not seen as pro-gun" is false. While candidates frequently push back against false claims that they support gun confiscation and the like, and in some cases publicly associate themselves with Colorado's sportsmen and hunting culture, they nonetheless have been targeted by the NRA for their support for stronger gun laws.
A CNN segment described recall elections that removed two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws from office as pitting an anti-recall billionaire against a pro-recall plumber "with no real money," ignoring hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending in favor of the recall by the National Rifle Association and other national groups.
On September 10, State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15 round limitation on firearm magazine size.
Introducing an interview with Giron, host Brooke Baldwin described the recall effort as "a war by proxy between gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire from New York and a Pueblo plumber by the name of Victor Head ... a political novice and a gun rights supporter with no real money to speak of here. And you know the end of the story here, the plumber won."
Baldwin said that the recalls were successful "despite the fact that Bloomberg's group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Giron's behalf" and also described the recall as "mega mega cash from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mayor Bloomberg versus this grassroots effort" during a September 12 segment:
While Baldwin is correct that Head's organization, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, raised little, she ignored the fact that conservative groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the recall effort.
CNN hosted Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt -- who has suggested the government may have been behind a recent mass shooting -- to discuss the status of the national gun debate following the recall of two Colorado state senators over their support for stronger gun laws.
During his September 11 appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Pratt expressed opposition to background checks on any gun sale and suggested that fellow guest Jim Kessler, the co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way, "like[s] bodies piling up," because of Kessler's opposition to guns in schools:
To support his attack on Kessler, Pratt claimed that "all the mass murders occurred in gun-free zones, pure gun-free zones, in the last 20 years, all of them." In fact, an analysis conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 13 of 56 mass shooting incidents that occurred between January 2009 and January 2013 took place where guns were prohibited. Schools, where guns are typically not allowed, are actually among the safest places for young people.
While claiming Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper suffered from falling approval ratings, Fox News aired a graphic showing Hickenlooper's approval rating rising.
On the September 11 edition of America Live, Fox host Martha MacCallum claimed that Hickenlooper has been facing "falling approval ratings" due to his support for gun violence prevention measures and asked, "Could he be the next one to pay a political price?" At the same time, Fox aired a graphic showing Hickenlooper's approval rating rising by a percentage point since June 13 and an approval rating currently four points higher than his disapproval rating:
Colorado State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were recalled yesterday in an election that the media is describing as having major implications for the future of the gun debate. Both senators were targeted for recall over their support for Colorado's new gun laws, which include expanded background checks and a 15-round limit for firearm magazines.
National groups on both sides of the political divide poured money into the recall elections over the past months. Supporters of stronger gun laws would surely have preferred that Giron and Morse had won.
But before the media returns to promoting the myth of National Rifle Association electoral dominance and suggests that the recall of the two Colorado state senators proves that all elected officials who push for stronger gun laws risk their jobs, here are a few things they should consider.
The Gun Laws Supported By Giron And Morse Are Popular Statewide. On March 20, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law: requiring a background check on all gun sales except those between family members, imposing a $10 fee to process background checks, and limiting firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Giron and Morse's support for these measures was the catalyst for the recall efforts. An August 22 poll by Quinnipiac University found that the majority of voters in Colorado approve of the specific pieces of the gun law package -- they expressed support for expanded background checks by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support for the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. While Giron and Morse were defeated, the legislation they support is popular with state voters at large.
The Recall Turnout Was Extremely Low. A very small number of voters determined the recall election. In fact, voter turnout in Morse and Giron's districts were both substantially lower in the recall election compared to the 2010 state senate elections. Only 21 percent of 84,029 registered voters in Morse's district voted in the recall election. A mere 9,094 people voted in favor of recall; he lost his seat by a margin of 343 votes. Turnout was about 11,000 voters higher in Morse's 2010 senate election. Turnout in Giron's district was only 36 percent; 10,000 more people voted in her 2010 Senate election. Deriving national trends from low-turnout recall elections seems unwise.
Efforts To Recall Other Members Who Supported Stronger Gun Laws Failed. Opponents of stronger gun laws didn't intend to recall just Giron and Morse; they originally targeted two other lawmakers as well. But an effort to recall Sen. Evie Hudak was suspended by organizers three weeks before the deadline. And an effort to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan also failed when the Colorado Secretary of State reported that no signatures were turned in before a deadline.
Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow distorted research findings to warn of a "terrifying link" between video games and mass shootings while dismissing the role of high powered firearms in those incidents.
During the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson claimed, "brand new research suggests there is a terrifying link between video games and violent behavior," before showing images of recent mass shooters who purportedly "were big gamers." Ablow -- claiming that all of the shooters were "addicted to violent video games" -- said that a recent study that found "watching violent video games increases aggression and decreases empathy" to support his claim that video games are linked to mass shootings.
Carlson concluded the segment by saying, "This whole is issue is so much more complicated than just gun control, there are so many other factors, mental illness [and] video games are just two of them":
In fact, the author of the research cited by Carlson and Ablow -- which was actually published in 2010 -- has stated that video games cannot be the sole cause of mass shooting incidents, despite being a proponent of the claim that a relationship exists between video games and real world violence. Ohio State University professor Brad Bushman published the survey of other studies that found a link between playing video games and aggressive thoughts cited by Ablow during his Fox & Friends appearance.
However, in explaining his research on video games in a March 20 New York Daily News op-ed, Bushman wrote, "It is crucial to understand there is no single cause of a crime like [Sandy Hook shooter Adam] Lanza's, and no responsible scholar could claim that violent video games cause murder."
Furthermore, other research disputes the link between violent video games and real world violence.
A Colorado newspaper has repeatedly run an anti-Semitic ad depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, as a puppet-master who controls a state senator the ad's sponsor is seeking to recall from office for supporting stronger gun laws.
The September 8 and 9 editions of the Pueblo Chieftain featured the half-page advertisement. The group responsible for the ad, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, is credited with starting the campaign to recall the ad's target, State Sen. Angela Giron, over her support for legislation that expanded background checks on gun purchases and imposed a 15-round limit on firearm magazine size. Early voting is underway with the election concluding on September 10.
The depiction of a Jewish leader as a puppet-master is widely acknowledged as anti-Semitic imagery because of its relation to conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the political process or global economy.
The ad apparently is a play on the fact that a group backed by Bloomberg has contributed a substantial amount of money in opposition to the recall effort. The recall elections targeting Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) have drawn significant outside spending both for and against the recall, including more than $361,000 spent by the National Rifle Association in favor of the recall.
The Chieftain's decision to allow the publication of Pueblo Freedom and Rights' ad follows a call by progressive groups for a local media outlet to disaffiliate from the Chieftain over its coverage of the recall election.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller's new book, Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, is filled with falsehoods about the gun debate and promotes the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that President Obama is planning to confiscate privately held firearms.
Reacting to news that the Obama administration will use executive action to curb gun violence, The Drudge Report titled its top story, "HEAD FAKE: OBAMA GOES AFTER GUNS."
Obama reportedly seeks to restrict the importation of military grade firearms for civilian sale and close a loophole that allows felons to obtain highly dangerous guns without a background check. In contrast to fearmongering by Drudge Report, neither policy will interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.