Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.
Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).
But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.
For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.
Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent continued his ongoing racial tirade, appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show to claim that that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life."
Nugent has faced criticism over the past two days for a pair of columns he wrote for conservative websites WND and Rare that variously termed deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."
During his appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Nugent used the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin as a platform to offer advice to black America and make a number of unfounded claims about racism.
From the July 16 edition of The Alex Jones Show:
From the July 16 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Media reporting on the verdict that George Zimmerman is not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin suggested a misleading distinction between the defense attorneys' supposed use of "conventional" self-defense principles and Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will"), ignoring the fact that the sole justifiable homicide law in Florida incorporates "Stand Your Ground."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly ignored his guest's statement that the disproportionately high incarceration among blacks rates pose a threat to young black males.
On the July 15 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributor Rev. Jacques DeGraff to comment on his views about race following George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, which has sparked protests around the country. Responding to O'Reilly's question about "what do you want to change" following the trial, DeGraff said that it has been "open season on black young men" in the criminal justice system, which has disproportionately targeted black men across the country. O'Reilly dismissed his statement, saying, "That's not true, I don't believe that for a second." Asked by DeGraff to "explain the disparity" of black men disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, O'Reilly insisted that "high-crime districts" were to blame, "where police flood in to protect the citizens and make more arrests than they would make in low-crime districts." DeGraff then tried to point out again that there is a "disparity in sentencing."
But O'Reilly ignored the fact that black men are incarcerated more often and given longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Conservative activist David Keene, who finished serving a two-year term as National Rifle Association president in May, will join The Washington Times as opinion editor. The conservative newspaper has often provided a platform for opponents of stronger gun laws and for the promotion of the NRA.
In April, after a Senate proposal to expand background checks on gun sales was blocked by a predominately Republican coalition of senators, the Times editorial board fawned over the NRA, which was credited with influencing the legislation's defeat.
According to the Times, the failure of the proposal was, "a decisive victory for the National Rifle Association (NRA), which led the fight to protect the rights of all." The April 18 editorial also employed the right-wing media canard that family members of victims of the December 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School who supported expanded background checks were used as "props" by the Obama administration "to make a political argument." The April 18 Times opinion page also featured an op-ed that began, "I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote."
Keene, an irregular contributor to the Times opinion page, has also used the Times to promote the interests of the NRA. In a March 27 op-ed, the then-NRA president complained about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Bass Pro Shops over the allegation that the hunting and fishing supply company engaged in a pattern of racially discriminatory hiring practices. Beyond misleading on the substance of the lawsuit -- Keene wrongfully described it as an attempt by the EEOC to force Bass Pro Shops to hire felons -- at no point did Keene mention the NRA's business relationship with Bass Pro Shops, which includes a collaborative effort to open a 10,000-square foot firearms museum.
Keene, in his capacity as NRA president, often used interviews with Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller to promote his organization's message. Miller authors a blog about guns for the newspaper and is a frequent guest on the National Rifle Association's news programming. The 2011 recipient of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund Harlon B. Carter - George S. Knight Freedom Fund Award, Miller also is a source of misinformation about gun violence. (She is reportedly "THRILLED about [her] new boss.")
Commenting on the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent labeled Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route."
In a July 14 column for conservative news website Rare, Nugent also claimed that the decision to prosecute Zimmerman was wrongfully influenced by "the race-baiting industry [that] saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers":
Based on all evidence available to them, the professional law enforcement officers did not hold George Zimmerman on charges later that night. They saw it for what it was: cut and dried self-defense.
And so it was for a few weeks until the race-baiting industry saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, et al, who then swept down on the Florida community refusing to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route.
Media figures are falsely claiming that Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In the wake of Zimmerman's March 2012 killing of Martin, media attention turned to the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will" statute). That law allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat as long as they are not engaged in illegality and are attacked in a place they have a right to be.The law also allows for a defendant to seek an expedited pretrial hearing on those grounds, and grants people who kill in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits.
The statute was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association. After Florida passed the law in 2005, it was adopted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council and nearly two dozen states passed similar legislation. Such laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims.
After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of Martin, gun violence prevention advocates again highlighted the role of Florida's self-defense law. But some in the media, due to a misunderstanding of the statute's breadth, have falsely claimed that the law played no role in the trial.
On the July 15 edition of CNN's New Day, co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan agreed that the law played no role in the case.
In fact, Florida's self-defense laws set the framework by which Zimmerman was tried, setting the standard by which the jury would have to determine if Martin's death resulted from the justifiable use of force. Indeed, the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force.
Zombie Industries, a firearms target company that produces "life-sized; three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them," has released a new target -- "Al" -- that is presumably inspired by MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton.
[Zombie Industries, accessed 7/9/13]
In May, Sharpton called a Zombie Industries' exhibition of a target that resembled President Obama at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting a "stunning, offensive display." The NRA asked Zombie Industries to remove the target from its display, although it is still available for purchase on the Zombie Industries website.
A description of the target on Zombie Industries' website describes how "Poor Al he was a Sharp guy" was attacked by zombies while he "complained about complete nonsense" to a truck driver who offered him a ride:
... as Al complained about complete nonsense, when all of a sudden a rotten, maggot infested face appeared from above the cab of the truck. The trucker slammed the brakes and jolted the wheel, causing the truck to tip over and its contents sprawled over the countryside. Both the driver and poor Al were still stuck in the cab when they saw them coming... nowhere to run, no one to call, they shook in fear and poor Al even cried... but sadly within minutes it was over. Once their screams for help were silenced, they were now one of them... the brainless ones.
Zombie Industries has engendered controversy for other zombie target designs. As noted by Think Progress, the company sold an "ex-girlfriend" mannequin that bled when shot and currently offers a zombie target in the likeness of a "gun control lobbyist." Zombie Industries is reportedly advertising the lobbyist target with an image that includes a photograph of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Dan Gross and gun violence prevention advocate Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in the Virginia Tech massacre.
Internet radio host Adam Kokesh, who obtained notoriety this year for organizing armed marches with the goal of overthrowing the federal government, appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show to revive his call for protestors who wish to "end the federal government" to march on Washington, D.C., on Independence Day 2014.
From the July 8 edition of The Alex Jones Show:
In May, Kokesh cancelled plans for a similar July 4 armed march on Washington, and instead called on his supporters to organize marches at state capitols nationwide in order to effectuate an "orderly dissolution of the federal government."
Kokesh has since reinstated his original plans, hoping that a "critical mass" of protesters will allow him to organize a march from nearby Northern Virginia into Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2014.
Kokesh laid out plans for the 2014 march, stating, "It's time to plant the flag for next year and Alex, I know a lot of people in your audience will join us in this, and I hope you will endorse it too, because it's going to happen with or without me now. We invite anybody to join us who for whatever reason wants to end the fed entirely, to join us on Independence Day of next year." According to Kokesh, the route would be the same as the tabled 2013 march, with plans to pass by the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court and the White House.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller compared proposals to tax firearms for the benefit of victims of gun violence to poll taxes, which were used to deny African-Americans the right to vote.
Miller, who writes a gun blog for the Times, is the latest conservative commentator to compare the processes involved in gun ownership to racial discrimination.
Poll taxes are prohibited by the Twenty-fourth Amendment and have been found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court.
Most commercial firearms and ammunition sales are already subject to an excise tax which funds conservation programs. Recently, a number of states have proposed levying additional taxes on firearm and ammunition sales in order to set aside money for victims of gun violence, fund mental health initiatives and pay for the implementation of firearm licensing programs.
From the June 27 edition of the National Rifle Association News' Cam & Company:
MILLER: Chicago passed a law this year that adds a 25 dollar tax to firearm sales in Chicago, and obviously that's meant to discourage people to buy guns. Puts them out of range or reach for some people, cost wise.
Well now it's about eight states that are following suit with ideas of taxing ammo and guns as high as 50 percent in Maryland on ammo and in Connecticut on ammo. Massachusetts has a tax on guns and ammo in its main bill that is going through the legislature at pretty rapid speed on gun control. So Congressman Graves in the House, Sam Graves, has a bill that would eliminate the ability of these states and jurisdictions to basically tax your Second Amendment, which is pretty much a poll tax.
So his bill would say that Congress has authority under its ability to regulate interstate commerce, because guns and ammo are manufactured and sent interstate, that Congress can intervene and say you can't add taxes onto them, these states and cities. So that has been introduced and will go through the Judiciary Committee and I think that is a really positive move for Congress to do because it is -- I can't believe it will be held up in court that you can tax guns and ammo, you can tax the Second Amendment. I mean I'm sure these things will be eventually taken to court and I would bet they get overturned.
Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist who is the source of a debunked claim that critics say dramatically exaggerated the frequency of defensive gun use, recently served on a committee tasked by the federal government with creating a potential research agenda focusing on ways to minimize gun violence.
The committee, formed by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to an executive order President Obama signed in January following the Newtown school shooting, recently issued its report, titled "Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence."
The committee of 14, led by Alan I. Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was tasked with developing "a potential research agenda focusing on the public health aspects of firearm-related violence-- its causes, approaches to interventions that could prevent it, and strategies to minimize its health burden." The report calls for a research program to be implemented by the CDC and other agencies and private foundations and "designed to produce impacts in 3-5 years" that focuses on the characteristics of firearm violence and risk and protective factors, among other issues.
Kleck is best known for his 1995 study with Marc Gertz that claims that up to 2.5 million incidents of defensive gun use occur every year. Media figures and the National Rifle Association frequently cite this study to bolster their claims that owning firearms makes people safer.
But critics point to the study's "serious methodological difficulties" -- it extrapolates a very rare event, the slightly more than one percent of respondents to a survey that said they had used a gun in self-defense over the past year, to the entire population of 200 million adults. This means that even slight deficiencies in the accuracy of the survey, whether due to false positives or a sample that is not perfectly indicative of the overall population, can lead to large differences in the result. Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director David Hemenway has labeled Kleck's result "an enormous overestimate" and pointed out that the results require one to believe, for instance, that "burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100% of the time."
Contra Kleck, data from the National Crime Victimization survey produced by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that there are roughly 100,000 instances of defensive gun use per year.
Right-wing media have pointed to the report's citation of Kleck's research to claim that it proves that "guns actually save lives." In fact, the report's treatment of the criminologist's work is more complex, typically contrasting his results with other studies that show dramatically different results. For example, the report states (emphasis added):
Estimates of gun use for self-defense vary widely, in part due to definitional differences for self-defensive gun use, different data sources, and questions about accuracy of data, particularly when self-reported. The NCVS has estimated 60,000 to 120,000 defensive uses of guns per year. Based on data from l992 and l994, the NCVS found 116,000 incidents (McDowall et al., 1998). Another body of research estimated annual gun use for self-defense to be much higher, up to 2.5 million incidents, suggesting that self-defense can be an important crime deterrent (Kleck and Gertz, 1995). Some studies on the association between self-defensive gun use and injury or loss to the victim have found less loss and injury when a firearm is used (Kleck, 2001b).
Similarly (emphasis added):
Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996; Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the other hand, some scholars point to radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field. The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys. The former estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.
A spokesperson for the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council would not comment on Kleck's controversial presence on the committee, but explained that the committee was selected by staff based on "folks that are nominated" with an eye toward providing "enough expertise to address all of the questions" at issue as well as "these different perspectives and points of view with the expertise." She stressed that the slate was approved by the president of the National Academy of Science and that all members must sign off on the report before its release.
Kleck and Leshner did not respond to requests for comment.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Some of the country's top news editors are criticizing a new Louisiana law that punishes journalists who publicly identify gun owners with concealed weapons permits.
At the American Society of News Editors annual conference being held this week in Washington, D.C., several major newspaper editors spoke out against the law during interviews with Media Matters, with some saying that it appears unconstitutional.
"It seems absurd on its face," said Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman said. "In fact, it seems to me on the surface it is a prior restraint issue."
"Prior restraint" is government action that prohibits speech, and with few exceptions has been found by the Supreme Court to violate the First Amendment.
The Louisiana law, signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 19, sets penalties of fines of up to $10,000 or six months in jail for those who publish "any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit." The law includes exceptions for cases in which the concealed handgun holder is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun.
The law stems from the controversial decision by The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., to publish names and addresses of those who had conceal carry permits in their area last year. The information was obtained legally through open public records; in Louisiana, such records are closed to the public.
Journalists in the state have spoken out against the bill, arguing that it chills and criminalizes journalists for doing their jobs. That argument found support at the ASNE convention.
"The reporting of factual information in the public interest is something I support," said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, who added that it must be handled carefully, but should not be outlawed.
Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, also said he would not necessarily publish such information, but opposes legal restrictions.
"I don't think media organizations should have to pay a price," he said. "It is up to the news organization to decide if it should be published. I think that is for every individual news organization to make that decision on their own."
Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times and former editor of The Buffalo News, said "I am not in favor of punishing newspapers who serve the public by getting information out there."