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.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs of the 1960s are "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined."
Conservatives frequently attack the federal programs initiated through President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, ignoring the major impact they have had in reducing the ranks of the poor, particularly among the elderly.
In Nugent's August 28 column for conspiracy website WND the conservative commentator also termed the Great Society "for all practical and statistical purposes, a War on Black America":
While the stains of institutional racism have faded into our nation's past, Dr. King's dream of economic equality remains unfulfilled for many black Americans who remain mired in poverty.
Just one year after Dr. King delivered his memorable speech, President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society began a systematic and engineered welfare juggernaut that would do more damage, cause more harm and become responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined.
President Johnson's Great Society's War on Poverty has turned out to be, for all practical and statistical purposes, a War on Black America.
Nugent added that the $16 trillion spent on the War on Poverty since 1964 "has largely been wasted."
In fact, the President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative -- which included Medicare, Medicaid and a variety of other anti-poverty programs -- was responsible for significant and lasting reductions in poverty. As Washington Post reporter Dylan Matthews noted, "the best evidence indicates that the War on Poverty made a real and lasting difference":
Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
An opinion piece for The Washington Times suggested that "every schoolteacher in America should be armed in the classroom," ignoring that schools -- where guns are typically not permitted -- are among the safest places for young people.
In an August 26 op-ed, Steve Siebold, a motivational book author, also suggested that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six educators dead could have been prevented if teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed in the attack, had been armed with a gun:
If we look back at Sandy Hook last year, first-grade teacher and hero Victoria Soto, who was fatally shot after hiding her kids in a closet and telling the gunman the kids were in the gym, might still be alive had she been armed and able to defend herself. So could a lot of other children and teachers who tragically died that day.
In advocating for the arming of all teachers, and insisting that "If teachers aren't comfortable with that, they may need to find a new profession," Siebold left out key facts about past mass school shootings. For example, he cites the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting to buttress his claim that, "Arming our teachers and training them how to use a firearm properly will translate to fewer heinous acts taking place." In fact, an armed guard twice exchanged fire with one of the two shooters but was unable to stop the shooting.
On August 26, Fox News hosts repeatedly demanded that the Obama administration make a statement about the shooting of Christopher Lane, an Australian student attending college in Oklahoma, ignoring the fact that days earlier Obama had offered words of comfort to the student's family.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that Obama "so far has been silent" on the alleged murder of Lane and noted that, since Obama previously "put himself into the middle of these situations" by speaking on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, "it raises the question of why he would not, you know, comfort this family, why he would not reach out and make a comment."
Later, on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity again falsely accused Obama of promoting a "double standard" for being "quick to respond" to Martin's death but failing to speak out about Lane's shooting in the 10 days since the alleged murder had occurred.
But Obama reached out to Lane's family days before either MacCallum or Hannity's criticisms. On August 24, the Australian newspaper Herald Sun reported that Obama, through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich, had released a statement offering his condolences:
As news of the random shooting death continued to make headlines in the US, the President took time out from a tour selling his college reforms to make a statement about the tragedy.
He said through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich that Lane's family and friends were going through trying times.
"As the President has expressed on too many tragic occasions, there is an extra measure of evil in an act of violence that cuts a young life short. The President and First Lady's thoughts and prayers are with Chris Lane's family and friends in these trying times," Mr Lehrich said in a statement to the Sunday Herald Sun.
A spokesman for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said that "[t]he governor thinks the president did the right thing by reaching out to the Lane family and the people of Australia." Obama's words followed an August 22 tribute to "honor the strength and bravery of Chris' family as they deal with this unspeakable tragedy" from the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, who stated:
Like everyone else, we are struggling to understand how anybody could commit such a terrible and random act of violence. I've personally pledged to Chris' family our help in bringing Chris home as soon as possible, and to provide them with all the support within our power. We thank local law enforcement authorities in Oklahoma for their quick work and their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
Fox News has previously attempted to frame Lane as a white equivalent to Trayvon Martin, using the incident in its ongoing campaign to hype "race-related crime" -- even after local District Attorney Jason Hicks told Fox that there was no evidence of racial motivations in the case.
The Daily Caller's Guns and Gears section published an opinion piece that suggested "[b]ecause Black Democrats are fine for house work, but not for doing heavy lifting," white leaders should choose replacements for the current heads of civil rights organizations.
Guns and Gears is the firearms-themed section of the Daily Caller that publishes press releases and opinion pieces from the National Rifle Association and other gun organizations, along with commentary on firearms issues.
In his August 26 op-ed, retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry stereotyped African-Americans as violent, suggested that black teenagers must "follow the work rules laid down by white Americans" to achieve greater success, and accused the Obama administration of encouraging "racial violence."
Discussing the tragic killing of World War II veteran Shorty Belton by two African-American teens, Curry criticized African-American civil rights leaders for not "leading huge civil rights demonstrations protesting the murder of Mr. Belton and demanding that black parents, families, communities and churches get and keep their black teenagers under control." Notably, there is no evidence that Belton's killing was race-related.
Still, Curry wrote, "If America's black leadership isn't going to take charge of and clean up their own mess, white leaders will have to do it for them," and added, "You can't expect white Americans to keep looking the other way while black teenagers beat their fellow white Americans to death. Evidently black leaders seem to think it is alright for black teenagers to profile Shorty Belton and kill him and they need not comment on how wrong it is, but it's not right for a white policeman to profile someone black and kill them."
Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain failed to note Colorado voters' overwhelming support for the state's new gun background check law and instead provided a misleading generalization that "Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun-control laws."
In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law on March 20. The new laws expand background checks on gun sales, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and impose a $10 fee on background checks. State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) are facing a September 10 recall election over their support for the new measures.
The Chieftain's claim about the popularity of Colorado's new gun laws in the lead story for August 23 was based on a new Quinnipiac University poll that paradoxically found that the majority of voters oppose "the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado" by a 54 to 40 percent margin, but approve -- to varying degrees -- of the specific pieces of gun violence prevention legislation. The August 22 poll found that voters support requiring a background check on every gun sale by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about their opinion on the background check fee.
Unlike other major Colorado newspapers, the Chieftain reported on the general opposition to "the stricter new gun control laws" but failed to acknowledge support for the specific measures.
NRA News promoted an ad targeting Colorado Senate President John Morse, who is facing a recall election over his support for stronger gun laws, that baselessly suggested Morse used taxpayer money for haircuts and golf outings. The allegations in the ad stem from a 2011 ethics complaint filed against Morse that was unanimously dismissed by a bipartisan ethics panel, a fact the ad does not disclose.
The ad features Laura Carno, the founder of pro-recall group I Am Created Equal, claiming that Morse "charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing" while a graphic stated, "Tell John Morse Don't Golf And Get Haircuts On Our Dime." From the August 21 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, the media arm of the National Rifle Association:
CARNO: Senator Morse, the ethics investigation against you wasn't trivial. When you reimburse yourself with our money, it should be for work you do on our behalf. But Senator Morse, you charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing. We didn't elect you to be king, Senator Morse. Every dollar you spend comes out of our pockets. And Senator Morse we don't want to pay for your haircuts and golf games.
Tellingly the ad featured a quote from an April 12, 2011, Associated Press article, ignoring that the article was about the complaint being dismissed:
In response to a new ad that cites the death of Trayvon Martin to encourage states to end Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, Fox's Hannity claimed the laws actually benefit black Americans more than any other race. The falsehood, first pushed by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, ignores the fact that homicides with black victims are disproportionately found to be justified in SYG states, as well as SYG's impact on states' homicide rates.
Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre baselessly warned that proponents of stronger gun laws could implement a firearm "confiscation scheme" in his latest unhinged column for The Daily Caller.
Despite LaPierre's warnings of a draconian gun registration and confiscation scheme that he wrote "could happen to us if we fail to stand and fight," the plot LaPierre described is illegal under current federal law, has not been proposed by the supporters of stronger gun laws LaPierre singled out in his column, and would likely violate the United States Constitution.
LaPierre's column was published on August 19, the day before BuzzFeed reported that the NRA itself uses a variety of data collection methods to gather information on gun owners. In an article that described myriad ways the NRA collects data on gun owners, BuzzFeed contributor Steve Friess noted the tension between the NRA's warnings about government gun owner databases and the gun rights organization's own actions:
The National Rifle Association has rallied gun owners -- and raised tens of millions of dollars -- campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners.
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country's largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby's secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.
LaPierre's Daily Caller column is demonstrative of the outlandish gun registration and confiscation plots the NRA warns of while apparently simultaneously collecting information on gun owners for its own purposes.