The Daily Caller is currently running an "urgent poll" on its website asking its readers if the United States should "sign on to the UN gun ban."
There's just one problem: there is no "UN gun ban." While the right-wing media and theNational Rifle Association have consistently fearmongered over a proposed UN Arms Trade Treaty, there is no evidence their dark claims will come to pass. In December, the Daily Caller launched a "Guns and Gear" section, featuring content and advertising largely provided by the NRA.
The treaty in question seeks to regulate international arms deals to prevent weapons trafficking to human rights violators; the U.N. General Assembly's resolution on the treaty makes clear that countries will "exclusively" maintain the authority within their borders to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership." The goal of U.S. negotiators is get other countries to agree to follow import and export rules that the U.S. already has already instituted.
The Daily Caller promises to "share the poll results with major media outlets across the country," but it's unlikely that such outlets would be interested with the results of an unscientific online poll that features a flagrantly inaccurate description of the proposed treaty. The more likely purpose of the exercise is likely to allow the Caller to harvest its readers' email addresses, the submission of which is required to see the poll's results.
In a press release announcing the launch of its Guns and Gear section, Caller publisher and CEO Neil Patel criticized the media as "hopelessly out of touch with American values and interests" for not providing news coverage to "[t]he millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns." But now it appears that the publication is happy to treat those millions as rubes, playing to their fears pushing gun lobby nonsense in order to get their email addresses.
Long discredited gun researcher John Lott recently took to FoxNews.com to push for weakened restrictions on carrying concealed guns. Not surprisingly Lott again uses distorted anecdotes to support the gun lobby favored National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act. In fact, the same examples Lott cites to suggest gun laws are unreasonably punitive and inflexible actually show that even in states where gun charges can lead to stiff penalties, prosecutors have used discretion to avoid excessive punishments.
The legislation in question would force any state that issues its residents permits to carry concealed guns to accept the concealed-carry permits of all the other states -- no matter how weak the standards for getting a permit in those states. Several law enforcement associations have spoken out against the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act suggesting it would "endanger" police officers and "compromise public safety."
Lott focuses on two prominent cases where travelers to New York were arrested on gun charges. In both cases the individuals had concealed carry permits from their home states that were not valid in New York, and were voluntarily seeking to check their guns with authorities. Standards to carry concealed guns vary among states and states like New York with stronger restrictions sometimes don't accept permits from other states with less stringent restrictions. Lott's inaccurate description of these cases largely serves to falsely create the appearance that without concealed carry reciprocity, New York guns laws result in long jail terms for accidental offenders without consideration of possible mitigating factors.
Just a few days before Christmas, Meredith Graves made a mistake that could end her medical career and send her to prison for at least 3 ½ years. The 39-year-old fourth-year medical student was carrying a permitted concealed handgun when she saw the sign at the 9/11 Memorial saying "No guns allowed." She did the responsible thing and asked a security guard where she could check her weapon. Unfortunately, while her Tennessee concealed carry license is recognized in 40 states, New York isn't one of them. Meredith was arrested.
Just a week earlier, Californian Mark Meckler told LaGuardia Airport officials that he had licensed handgun in a locked safe in checked baggage. At virtually any other airport in the country, checking a gun locked in a box wouldn't be a problem. Meckler was arrested and charged with second-degree possession of an illegal weapons. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the local District Attorneys don't seem interested in showing mercy. They take a zero tolerance approach towards these mistakes.
However, four days before Lott's opinion piece was published, Meckler reached a plea agreement allowing him to pay a $250 fine for disorderly conduct with the gun charge conditionally dropped if Meckler stays out of trouble for a year.
A spokesman for the New York Port Authority police also challenged the suggestion that Meckler's violation was exclusively related to bringing the gun to the airport saying, "It's not a case that Mr. Meckler was in transit. He was in New York for several days having that weapon illegally. The bottom line is he violated the law."
The details of Graves' case doesn't support Lott's depiction of New York prosecutors taking a zero tolerance approach to honest mistakes either.
While her case hasn't been resolved yet, six days before Lott's piece was published The New York Post reported that Manhattan prosecutors were trying to work out a plea deal with Graves that according to sources cited by the paper could include no jail time. New York prosecutors also showed discretion in the case of a Maryland man accused of illegal gun possession, working out a deal in exchange for a misdemeanor plea involving no jail time earlier this month.
These cases show that when concealed carry permit holders from other states violate New York's laws unintentionally, there are already mechanisms in place to shield them from serious punitive action, without the passage of dramatic new national legislation.
During a recent interview with National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, Glenn Beck wondered if the NRA would be able to raise the money to effectively launch political attacks against President Obama in 2012. Not surprisingly, LaPierre was confident the NRA would be able to fund a 2012 campaign blitz. Depicting unions as a political counter weight to the gun lobby, Beck asked LaPierre how the NRA could hope to match campaign spending by unions:
BECK: You have to go out and drum up the money, the unions just take it. They just have it. They just take it out of everybody's paycheck.
LAPIERRE: We raise it all through 5, 10, 15, 20 dollar contributions that Americans are willing to preserve freedom. And they're willing to support it. But, you know, that's what NRA is about. I mean, I always say we're about our membership and we're about giving voice to our membership.
There's no doubt that as in previous election cycles, the NRA will be able to funnel tens of millions of dollars towards their favored candidates, but LaPierre's claim that the NRA's fundraising is based exclusively on small dollar donations is false. The reality is that under LaPierre's leadership, the NRA has built extensive financial ties to the gun industry and other corporations. These arrangements have netted the NRA tens of millions dollars according to a recent Bloomberg News account and the gun companies funneling cash into the NRA's coffers have greatly benefited from the NRA's lobbying efforts. One former president of the NRA credited NRA-backed legislation that limited the legal liability of gun makers with saving "the American gun industry from bankruptcy."
The NRA pitches itself as a low-dollar, grassroots organization -- an annual membership currently costs $35 -- and maintains it is "not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition." However, the NRA has formally established many lucrative arrangements with "corporate partners."
Last April, the Violence Policy Center issued a report, titled Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bank Rolls the NRA, which details these intimate ties between the gun industry and the NRA. From Blood Money:
Since 2005, corporations--gun related and other--have contributed between $19.8 million and $52.6 million to the NRA as detailed in its Ring of Freedom corporate giving program. In a promotional brochure for the program, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promises that the "National Rifle Association's newly expanded Corporate Partners Program is an opportunity for corporations to partner with the NRA....This program is geared toward your company's corporate interests."
From the January 13 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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On January 11, Fox Nation and right-wing blog Weasel Zippers highlighted a video of Newark, NJ, Mayor Cory Booker outlining the details of a Newark gun control program to fearmonger that people would be "turn[ed] in" for "owning a gun."
The program, called Gun Stoppers, offers a reward of up to $1,000 for residents who provide information leading to an arrest for a gun-related crime. After Weasel Zippers posted the video of Booker under the headline, "Newark, NJ Mayor: Turn In Your Neighbor For Owning A Gun...Get $1,000 Reward," Fox Nation quickly followed suit:
But the headline used by both blogs is incredibly misleading. The program does not reward Newark residents for "turn[ing] in your neighbor for owning a gun." It rewards residents for providing information leading to arrests related to cases of illegal gun possession or gun-related crimes -- a fact made abundantly clear in the video, in which Booker says, "If you know someone carrying an illegal gun, give us the information and get the money."
Last week, teenage mother Sarah McKinley used a shotgun to shoot and kill a home intruder in defense of her infant son. The case made national news after the media obtained the audio of her call to 911, in which she asked the operator for permission to fire.
It didn't take long for the National Rifle Association supporters in the right-wing media to deploy her harrowing experience as a cudgel against their political foes. Here'sNational Review editor Rich Lowry in his latest column:
Instances of self-defense are the anecdotes that gun controllers never want to hear. The NRA keeps a running list of them on its website: attempted armed robberies, home invasions, and other attacks rebuffed every month by the would-be victims. Surely, Sarah McKinley's assailants thought the young, slender, widowed mother was an easy mark. Her shotgun meant they were wrong. Who would have it any other way? Otherwise, the intruder has the knife and she has nothing except a cellphone and the wan hope that someone armed with a gun makes it to her in time.
Lowry's question is revealing, largely because he doesn't bother to attempt to name any of the "gun controllers" who wouldn't want McKinley to be able to defend herself.
Major gun violence prevention groups are upfront about their support for law-abiding citizens to be able to keep firearms for their own protection. Here's what the website of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says:
We believe that law-abiding citizens should be able to buy and keep firearms. And we believe there are sensible gun laws that we can and should insist upon when it comes to gun ownership.
And here's Mayors Against Illegal Guns:
We support the Second Amendment and the rights of citizens to own guns. We recognize that the vast majority of gun dealers and gun owners carefully follow the law. And we know that a policy that is appropriate for a small town in one region of the country is not necessarily appropriate for a big city in another region of the country.
The NRA's "running list" of self-defense anecdotes to which Lowry refers exists simply to push the myth that "gun controllers" don't want law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves.
Back in September, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre drew ridicule after claiming the existence of a "massive Obama conspiracy" to take no action on gun control in his first term, get reelected, and then "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."
What the "Obama not coming after your guns is really evidence of his desire to come after your guns" thesis lacks in accuracy or logic it makes up for in convenience. The NRA's "massive Obama conspiracy" justifies the need to help them raise contributions and encourage people to buy more guns.
It's no surprise the NRA's election year message is starting to spread to their faithful allies at Fox.
During a segment last night on Fox Business' Follow the Money, guests Bo Dietl and Lars Larson agreed that the reason gun sales have supposedly seen a "dramatic increase" is because of this fear that if Obama is re-elected "they're going to go after your guns." Of course, since gun manufacturers heavily contribute to the NRA, this fear helps the organization as well.
Former National Rifle Association (NRA) chief Ray Arnet once said, "You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere." The organization has long taken this sentiment to heart. For years, the NRA has warned that nationwide gun bans and confiscation were right around the corner. These threats made up in hysterical rhetoric for what they lacked in credibility.
Arnet's comments demonstrate why the organization has adopted such a dishonest strategy. To sustain its $200-million-plus annual budget, the organization relies upon donations from both its members and the gun industry; constant fearmongering boosts donations from both. By working their members into a frenzy, they can better convince them to financially support the NRA and thus stave off that dark future.
The effort also encourages existing gun owners to purchase more firearms in case such laws are actually passed; new sales to current gun owners are essential to the gun industry given that the number of households owning a gun is in long term decline. Terrifying gun owners bolsters gun sales, which in turn keeps the gun industry profitable enough to direct more funds back to the NRA.
But sometimes, your run-of-the-mill fearmongering just isn't enough. In 2011 the NRA repeatedly turned to one of their favorite weapons to keep alive this crisis atmosphere justifying their extremist political agenda and their own existence: conspiracy theories. Below, Media Matters documents a few of our favorites of the year.
Fox host Eric Bolling frequently allows his programs to degenerate into gun-related antics. In the last month alone, he has repeatedly urged guests to brandish firearms on-air, defended a gun club that allows families to take pictures with Santa and assault weapons, posed with a sign depicting a handgun and the phrase, "Obama's War On Christmas," and on at least seven occasions referenced taking his 13-year-old shooting.
From the December 21 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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Charlie Savage's New York Times profile of Attorney General Eric Holder and how he has become a "lightning rod" for partisan criticism must have seemed like an early Christmas present to The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle: It lets him accuse The New York Times of bias and attack Holder in one fell swoop.
It was clearly so exciting that he didn't bother to put together even a minimal arrangement of facts before suggesting the Times should issue a retraction.
Boyle suggests that Savage inaccurately reported that neither testimony nor documents have contradicted Holder's statements that he didn't know about the controversial 'gunwalking' tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, just as Savage reported, there has not been any documents or testimony that suggest Holder knew about those tactics.
"Mr. Holder has denounced the tactics used in the operation, known as 'gunwalking,' but said he did not know about them or sanction their use," Savage wrote. "No documents or testimony have shown otherwise, but Republicans have pummeled him at oversight hearings and in news media appearances."
Savage made these statements without attribution.
Despite those assertions, Holder's office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials. The memos contained intimate details of how Holder's DOJ allowed guns to walk.
The claim is specific: neither documents or testimony have shown that Holder himself knew about gunwalking tactics.
It seems that this year's effort to wage war against Christmas will be better armed than usual.
The National Rifle Association's website is currently featuring a "Happy Holidays" message from NRA radio hosts Cam Edwards and Ginny Simone and "the entire NRA News team."
This follows an email fundraising missive from NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox, who offered his "best wishes to you and your family for the holiday season" before asking for donations to stop "four more years of President Barack Obama imposing his anti-freedom values on the American people."
In his December 16 Washington Times column, Ted Nugent wrote that "[b]eing poor is largely a choice, a daily, if not hourly decision," and that "we need to punish poor decisions instead of rewarding them. We cannot continue to offer a safety blanket to those Americans who make poor choices. The fewer social welfare programs, the better." From the Times:
Being poor is largely a choice, a daily, if not hourly, decision. If you decide to drop out of school, fail to learn a skill, have no work ethic or get divorced, a life of poverty is often the consequence. The children of parents who choose a life of poverty quite often pay a horrible price, and so does all of America.
Poverty rates among college graduates, those who learn a trade or skill and parents who stay married are much lower than the rates among those who choose opposite paths. As author William J. Bennett pointed out a number of years ago in his book "The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators," children of single parents are much more likely to be involved in crime and premarital sex, to drop out of school and to get involved with drugs. Ugly and uncomfortable as that may be, it's the truth.
The question is: What to do about lowering the poverty rate?
First, we need a government that respects the free market and private sector instead of spitting on them. The more our government embraces the private sector, the more opportunity there is available for people who choose it. That will be good for kids.
Second, we need to punish poor decisions instead of rewarding them. We cannot continue to offer a safety blanket to those Americans who make poor choices. The fewer social welfare programs, the better. This, too, may be ugly and uncomfortable, but we must make hard choices that force people into making smart, responsible decisions.
When National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre isn't pontificating about the purported "massive Obama conspiracy," there's a decent chance he's hurling personal insults and employing other types of overheated rhetoric in pursuit of his political agenda. Some of LaPierre's greatest hits:
LaPierre is free to say whatever he wants, but do the media really have to cover his comments? According to the Media Research Center (MRC), the answer yes, even when the NRA doesn't bother to the return its calls.
This morning, the MRC blog NewsBusters posted a critique of Reuters' coverage of a recent investigation of online guns sales by New York City that showed that many private sellers were willing to sell guns to people who identified themselves as unable to pass a background check.
MRC complained there was insufficient gun lobby criticism of Bloomberg in the article:
The next big misstep in this article is its one-sentence dismissal of Bloomberg critics. "The National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, was not immediately available for comment on the study."
MRC's message to the media: Print overheated NRA talking points whether or not the NRA gets around to giving you a comment before your deadline.
What should Reuters have done according MRC? Dig through the NRA's website and find the most recently available blog posts written about Bloomberg's efforts with Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The blog posts the MRC identifies as appropriate representations of the NRA's views were written before the online gun sale investigation was announced, so naturally, they weren't responsive to the topic of the article.
The first of the two blog posts MRC suggests could have been represented in the Reuters report includes LaPierre's suggestion that Bloomberg could aptly be viewed as a "petty tyrant." The MRC:
In the first post, which deals with an earlier anti-gun address Bloomberg gave to students at MIT, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre made the observation that "Bloomberg should also remember that a 'ruler' (which is what he seems to think he is) that denies the people of their Right to Keep and Bear Arms while maintaining a large 'army' (the NYPD) is apt to be viewed as a petty tyrant, not a benevolent and wise leader."
The second post highlighted by the MRC suggested that by opposing the NRA's favored legislation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns was engaging in a "shameful attack on the individual liberties of law-abiding Americans".
LaPierre's history of demonizing those who disagree with him might well deserve more media attention than it gets, but it's hardly essential context for a news report documenting the ease with which criminals can get guns online.
In his December 14 Washington Times column titled, "Occupy stooges on parade: It's fun watching Democrats getting hauled off to jail," Ted Nugent wrote about the "hearty laugh[s]" he had after "watching the cops pounce on and pepper-spray a few Occupy stooges and then drag the dirtballs off to jail in shackles." Nugent, and NRA board member, went on to say that this was "good for my conservative soul and gold for my sense of humor." From the Times:
While I don't condone violence, watching the cops pounce on and pepper-spray a few Occupy stooges and then drag the dirtballs off to jail in shackles is good for my conservative soul and gold for my sense of humor. Everyone needs at least one hearty laugh every day.
You have to admit that watching a stinky, dirty hippie being dragged off to jail is as funny watching James Brown drive across railroad tracks on the rims of his pickup truck, listening to Joe Biden stick his foot in his mouth, or watching Moe hit Larry and Curly with a pipe wrench. This is funny stuff, funny stuff. Lighten up.