Conservatives in media have been quick to draw comparisons between the Obama administration's reported proposals to crack down on gun violence and the actions of Adolf Hitler to suggest that President Obama will engage in firearm confiscation. These historically inaccurate comparisons owe part of their genesis to the National Rifle Association, which has compared proposals to regulate firearms to orders during the Holocaust.
In his book, America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre likened the United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, held on July 9, 2001, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' order that books authored by Jews be publicly burned.
LaPierre then suggested that the burning of guns could "help set the stage for mass executions of gun owners" just as Goebbels' order precipitated the mass killing of Jews.
A spokesperson for NBC Sports has reportedly confirmed that the network will remain a top sponsor for the nation's largest gun trade show. Organizers have billed the event, which comes during a fierce debate over strengthening gun laws, as a show of industry strength in the face of such laws.
Bloomberg News reports that the spokesman further stated that the network participates as a sponsor "as part of our commitment to our outdoor-programming block":
NBC Sports Network will remain the 2013 SHOT Show New Product Center Sponsor, said Greg Hughes, a spokesman for the channel. One of NBC's marquee broadcasters, Bob Costas, criticized gun laws weeks before the Connecticut shooting, after the murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs football player.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc.'s SHOT Show last year billed itself as "more than about selling and buying; it's a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms." The NSSF is headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in an elementary school on Dec. 14 with a semiautomatic rifle.
NBC Sports Network, formerly called Versus, has been a sponsor of the show for "several years," according to Hughes. The cable channel airs hunting and fishing shows and participates as a sponsor "as part of our commitment to our outdoor-programming block," Hughes said in a telephone interview.
Media Matters first reported on the network's sponsorship of the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) earlier today. In addition to hunting rifles, the gun manufacturers and dealers who attend the SHOT Show will view an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines.
According to the event's organizer, the gun manufacturer and dealer trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation, "Any SHOT attendee will tell you the show is more than about selling and buying; it's a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
The event appears to promote the same dangerous "gun culture" that NBC Sports' Bob Costas referenced in his now-famous Football Night in America commentary following the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher.
Fox News host Alisyn Camerota deflated the network's bogus attack that past comments from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated hypocrisy on gun rights.
Biden met with gun rights activists at the White House Thursday to discuss possible courses of action to curb gun violence. Fox & Friends responded to discussion of a comprehensive gun violence prevention program by accusing the White House of hypocrisy, suggesting the White House would renege on past statements and attempt to take away guns.
To support his charge of hypocrisy, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy cited a 2008 rally in which Biden said: "Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey." He also played the following deceptively cropped 2008 campaign speech by Barack Obama:
OBAMA (VIDEO CLIP): So I don't want any misunderstanding. When ya'll go home and you're talking to your buddies, and they say, "He wants to take my gun away," you've heard it here, I'm on television so everybody knows it, I believe in the Second Amendment, I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away, I will not take your rifle away, I won't take your handgun away.
The charges of hypocrisy are fatally flawed, however, as co-host Alisyn Camerota quickly pointed out. After playing the segments, Camerota asked: "How is that hypocrisy? [Obama is] not talking about taking -- confiscating people's guns." Indeed, the White House has not yet made any concrete proposals and continues to meet with gun violence victims, gun rights advocates, and other stakeholders.
The hypocrisy charge is even more flawed than Camerota said because a given that part of Obama's 2008 comments were missing from the clip Fox aired. In the full clip, President Obama explicitly says: "There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away."
Right-wing rhetoric on potential gun control measures in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, continued to come unhinged as right-wing radio host Mandy Connell (Kentucky's WHAS-AM) compared a proposed firearms policy to the Nazi practice of forcing Jewish Germans to wear yellow stars.
Louisville radio station WFPL described the exchange between Connell and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) which took place on January 10:
In a tense exchange over gun control, WHAS radio host Mandy Connell told Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., some regulations could be the first step in total citizen disarmament.
Yarmuth has co-sponsored a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and is a proponent of other regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre.
In an on-air interview with Yarmuth on Thursday, Connell said responsible gun owners should also be concerned about further regulations, and compared attempts to register legal gun owners to the Nazi regime tagging Jewish Germans.
"Every country in the world that has taken and de-armed its citizenry started with incremental gun measures," she said. "This is not unprecedented in history and anybody that pays attention is right to be concerned of an overly intrusive government. Things like Diane Feinstein requiring gun owners to register if they're already a legal gun owner. Why don't we make them wear yellow stars as well? Why don't we tag everybody?"
Connell's statements aren't isolated. Right-wing media figures ranging from Matt Drudge to personalities on Fox News have dipped into the Nazi analogy pool in recent days. Drudge linked to a report about a potential executive order regarding guns by placing photos of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin adjacent to the headline. A variety of Fox News' guests and contributors, as well as other right-wing pundits, have made similar comparisons.
Right-wing bloggers are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify new federal laws to prevent gun violence, but the Supreme Court has ruled that state nullification is unconstitutional and even conservative legal experts have agreed with this assessment.
Conservative media have reacted to pledges by Democrats to strengthen gun violence prevention laws after the massacre of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School by invoking Hitler and warning of revolution. Now several conservative media outlets are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify several possible federal gun violence protection measures.
State lawmakers in Wyoming have proposed a bill that aims to nullify any federal laws banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, or requiring firearms to be registered. The bill states that federal employees who attempt to enforce such laws can be imprisoned for up to five years. Major conservative blogs and news websites are promoting the law, cheering it as a move against "gun grabbers."
Fox Nation hyped the story with the headline: "Wyoming Tells Washington Gun Grabbers To Back The Hell Off."
The Drudge Report also highlighted the Wyoming legislation with the headline: "WY Lawmakers Propose 'Gun Protection' Legislation To Thwart Feds."
And Breitbart.com stated that "Wyoming threatens arrest for federal gun grabbers."
But the Supreme Court has rejected attempts by states to nullify federal law.
Two days after linking potential gun violence prevention measures to Adolf Hitler, the Drudge Report is highlighting a story reporting that Google searches for "Hitler gun control" have spiked.
On Wednesday, the Drudge Report used images of Hitler and Joseph Stalin to highlight a report that President Obama is considering executive action to strengthen gun laws. On Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported that "web users interest in the history of Hitler and gun control has spiked since Democrats began demanding more restrictions on high capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons":
On Friday, Drudge linked to the Examiner story with the headline "GOOGLE searches for 'Hitler gun control' spike...":
NBC Sports is a leading sponsor of the nation's largest gun industry trade show, an event that also bills itself as a show of industry strength in the face of stronger guns laws. The network's sponsorship of the trade show, hosted next week in Las Vegas, comes six weeks after NBC Sports' Bob Costas drew controversy for criticizing what he termed the nation's dangerous "gun culture."
The event, the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), will occur during a fierce debate over strengthening gun laws in light of last month's tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT.
SHOT Show is billed as the "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and "the world's premier exposition of combined firearms." But it is more than just a trade show; according to its organizer, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the trade association for firearms manufacturers and dealers), "Any SHOT attendee will tell you the show is more than about selling and buying; it's a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
NBC Sports apparently supports that "display of industry unity" against stronger gun laws. SHOT Show's website lists NBC Sports as its "New Product Center Sponsor":
According to an October NSSF press release touting NBC Sports' return as a sponsor, the New Product Center" is "the showcase for innovative, new equipment being introduced to the hunting, shooting, outdoors and law enforcement markets."
From the January 10 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox figures used part of a 1995 speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to press the conservative narrative that the administration plans to launch an assault on gun owners and the Second Amendment. In fact, in that 1995 speech, Holder addressed efforts to teach young residents of the District of Columbia that it was "not hip to carry a gun anymore." At that time, Holder was serving as the District's U.S. Attorney and it was then illegal to own a handgun in the city.
On Thursday's edition of The Five, the co-hosts discussed a series of meetings Vice President Joe Biden is holding with gun owners' groups, including the National Rifle Association, as part of the White House's review of gun laws. During the discussion, co-host Andrea Tantaros introduced Holder's 1995 comments as "the reason why, I think, people are slightly nervous."
After playing video of Holder's speech, Tantaros said to co-host Eric Bolling, "He's saying that smoking used to be cool. But when was it ever cool to commit a crime or to shoot somebody?" Bolling responded by saying that Holder's speech was an example of the Obama administration "mentality" of "brainwash[ing] the people who don't agree with what our administration stands for."
Likewise on his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity cited Holder's speech as proof of the administration's "anti-gun" values, claiming that "they're now advocating brainwashing to get their way." He went on to accuse the administration of "forcible indoctrination" and "persuasion by propaganda," adding: "We have to deal with a liberated, more radical, the real Obama, ambitious Obama, and he meant it when he said he wanted to transform America. That's why we have got to save America."
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow repeated the false accusation that President Obama will issue illegal executive orders that violate Second Amendment rights, before admitting he doesn't actually know what the administration will propose.
On the January 10 edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly thwarted Sekulow's attempt to recycle the right-wing claim that forthcoming gun violence prevention proposals resulting from Vice President Biden's recent efforts will infringe on Second Amendment rights. When Kelly asked him how he reconciled his allegation with the fact that the first President Bush installed a ban on imports of certain types of assault weapons by executive order, Sekulow tried to explain that although there are many constitutional strategies Obama could pursue, Obama will push the illegal one. Still, Sekulow admitted he has no proof to back up this claim. From the interview:
KELLY: Jay, let me start with you on this. The research that we've looked at suggests that he's got some leeway to curtail some gun rights by executive order if he so chooses. What say you on it?
SEKULOW: I don't think so.
SEKULOW: The Second Amendment rights have been pretty clear and I think the idea that you can utilize an executive order to implement restrictions on that right not through a legislative process, by just executive fiat, I don't think that's going to work constitutionally. So I think that would be a very difficult challenge. It's different if you have legislation passed by Congress that could somehow regulate this and then the White House would simply, you know, issue regulations off them. Here there's no regulation...
KELLY: Wait, wait, let me jump in, let me jump in. That may be the difference that we're talking about because I looked back. The research suggested that when George H. W. Bush was president back in 1989, he used executive order to ban the import of assault weapons using his powers under the Gun Control Act of 1968 that stipulated that legal rifles had to be suitable for sporting purposes. So he did it that way using this 1968 gun control act law. But, you know, it begs the question, could Barack Obama do the same thing?
SEKULOW: I don't think -- that law -- we don't know what the president wants to do yet, but assuming it's going to be significant restrictions and restraints, I don't think you can use that law from 1968 to implement an executive order that would do anything other than comply with existing law. I mean, when you talk about what President George H.W. Bush did, he did use the '68 law, but we don't know what the president is proposing yet. But you listened to Vice President Biden yesterday and a kind of foreboding experience. We're talking about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution here. Look, if it's the First Amendment the president can't simply say I don't like that provision anymore, I'm going to get an executive order, saying, you know, freedom of press, not so helpful, I'm not going to use it.
Sekulow was right when he said the President can't "implement an executive order that would do anything other than comply with existing law." It is true: laws issued pursuant to other laws can't violate the law. However, the administration is not proposing any such action.
If an executive order to address gun violence is forthcoming, it will have ample precedent, as Kelly herself noted, and Sekulow later admitted. There are existing laws on the books that Obama could enforce -- the preferred form of "gun control" for the NRA and its allies -- that would satisfy Sekulow's rule of thumb that a President shouldn't "do anything" that violates existing law. From The New York Times' description of President Bush's executive action:
In the Presidential campaign last year Mr. Bush, a hunter and longtime member of the N.R.A., opposed to any bans on assault weapons. But a public outcry after a drifter armed with an AK-47 killed five schoolchildren in Stockton, Calif., in January helped convince others in the Administration that some limits were needed.
At the urging of William J. Bennett, the director of national drug control policy, the Administration suspended imports of certain types of semiautomatic assault rifles in March. The President expanded that temporary ban as part of a broader anticrime program that he announced in April, and said he would make it permanent for imported weapons that did not have a legitimate sporting use.
Sekulow's claim that executive orders in this area don't "work constitutionally" has no basis in law. District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, explicitly held that reasonable gun violence prevention strategies are constitutional.
Prior to Sekulow's confession that right-wing media is speculating, it was possible that Biden told right-wing media Obama was planning on issuing an executive order, completely untethered to current legislation, which would reinstate the ban on individual possession of handguns in Chicago homes that Heller struck down.
But as Sekulow confirmed in his America Live appearance, this hasn't happened.
Paul M. Barrett, a senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, cherry-picked polls on gun violence to suggest that the National Rifle Association will be able to block proposed gun violence prevention measures. According to Barrett, who authored a book about the rise of Glock as a popular firearm manufacturer, gun violence prevention proposals are unpopular with the public and the "NRA wins because it's popular with a broad swath of Americans."
Barrett's article is typical of a narrative in the media overemphasizing the NRA's clout. In the wake of the December 14 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, traditional media have suggested that the NRA will remove from office politicians who favor gun reforms; even though the NRA's massive spending during the 2012 elections was almost entirely ineffectual.
Contrary to Barrett's assertion about NRA popularity, a poll released yesterday found that a plurality of the public holds a negative view of the NRA. Furthermore, specific gun violence prevention proposals, such as making background checks on gun purchases mandatory, are supported by the vast majority of NRA members and the public at large.
From the January 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Following reports that President Obama was considering proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, right-wing media figures likened the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and compared Obama to dictators like Hitler and Stalin.