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.
Fox News used part of a 2007 speech by President Obama to falsely accuse him of hypocrisy for considering the use of executive orders to reduce gun violence. The 2007 speech was actually focused on the Iraq war, and in it, Obama never mentioned executive orders.
On Thursday's Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott reported that Vice President Joe Biden said Obama plans to use executive orders to respond to gun violence. Scott then said, "A few years ago, back in 2007, an Illinois senator named Barack Obama had some complaints about the White House issuing executive orders."
After playing video of Obama's speech, Scott said to guest A.B. Stoddard, "So, I guess things change once you get into the Oval Office?"
But the topic of Obama's speech had nothing to do with guns -- it was a foreign policy address regarding the Iraq war -- and Obama didn't use it to criticize the use of executive orders. (Full context below the jump.)
Earlier this week, Fox News deceptively cropped a 2008 speech by Obama to falsely accuse him of being hypocritical for reportedly supporting an assault weapons ban.
Right-wing media outlets are feverishly spinning a remark by Vice President Joe Biden that the administration is considering executive action as well as other options for curbing gun violence in order to suggest that the Obama administration plans to gut the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Though Biden did not specify what executive action the administration is considering, the Justice Department has offered possible executive actions that could be taken, none of which involve restrictions on weapons that law-abiding Americans may purchase.
After meeting with gun violence prevention advocates on Wednesday, Biden -- who is leading a White House task force on gun violence prevention following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre -- said that the administration is "reaching out to all parties on whatever side of this debate you fall." He promised that "the president is going to act" and added: "There is executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet."
The right-wing media responded to Biden's comments by comparing President Obama to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler and suggesting that Obama is planning to confiscate guns and gut the Second Amendment:
But these claims are baseless at best. Biden said the administration has not decided what executive action to take, but the Justice Department has reportedly considered executive action to ensure that more records of mental illness are included in the FBI's background check system, in addition to similar measures. The New York Times reported that the Justice Department "did not focus on new restrictions on the kinds of weapons that most law-abiding Americans may purchase."
Furthermore, there is ample precedent for presidents to take executive action for the purpose of gun violence prevention. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 and simultaneously signed an executive order, which regulated arms imports into the United States. President George H.W. Bush used his authority under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to permanently ban the import of 43 types of weapons, including versions of the AK-47 and the Uzi. President Clinton also took executive action to ban more than 50 types of assault weapons in 1998
From the January 8 edition of KFTK's Allman in the Morning:
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Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed that gun owners will be the next Rosa Parks if President Obama issues an executive order confiscating guns.
While Vice President Joe Biden has suggested that the White House could take executive action on guns, no one in the administration has said that such action would involve gun confiscation. The administration has reportedly previously considered executive action to ensure that more records of mental illness were included in the FBI's background check system.
During an interview with conspiracy clearinghouse WorldNetDaily, Nugent predicted that if an "actual confiscatory directive" came from Obama, then "heroes of the law enforcement will defy this order." Nonetheless, he worried that there were "enough soulless sheep within our government who would act on such an illegal order" and predicted peaceful resistance from "law-abiding gun owners," who would "be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus":
"If it comes to the actual implementation of an actual confiscatory directive from our president, then I do believe that the heroes of the law enforcement will defy this order. I do believe that there are enough soulless sheep within our government who would act on such an illegal order but I believe the powers that be at the local, state, and regional law enforcement would halt such an illegal, anti-American order," said Nugent.
Nugent continued, "You are talking to a guy who talks to more gun owners in more heated and concerned conversations than anyone who lives. These are top notch heroes of law enforcement and military who understand this experiment in self-government and we will not let it [gun confiscation] happen, we will do it peaceful.
"But there will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus, case closed."
Fox News used debunked statistics to support its suggestion that guns may "deter more crimes than they cause." In fact, evidence shows that guns are involved in nearly 70 percent of homicides, but are rarely used successfully in self-defense.
In the weeks following the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Fox News has repeatedly pushed the misleading claim that owning guns makes people safer.
On the Wednesday edition of Fox News' Happening Now, correspondent William La Jeunesse gave a report on gun violence and mass shootings. La Jeunesse began by saying, "America has a record-high number of guns, but a lower crime rate. So is it demographics, police work, or because guns deter more crimes than they cause?" La Jeunesse went on to claim that "Americans use guns every day to stop crime, up to 2.5 million times a year. ... Others lower that figure to 1 million."
But La Jeunesse's report is misleading. His figure of 2.5 million gun owners stopping crime annually has been debunked. This number comes from the discredited research of criminologist Gary Kleck. The director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, David Hemenway, concluded that Kleck's study was conducted with "serious methodological deficiencies" that led the self-defense figure to be "an enormous overestimate." In order for Kleck's figures to be correct, Hemenway wrote, victims of burglaries would had to have used guns in self-defense over 100 percent of the time.
From the January 9 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Matt Drudge is highlighting a report that President Obama might issue an executive order regarding guns with images of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
From the Drudge Report on January 9:
The argument that commonsense gun violence prevention measures will lead to a dictatorship are common in right-wing media, with conservative guests on Fox News and CNN making similar comparisons this week.
From the January 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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From the January 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Regular Fox News guest Kate Obenshain criticized the Obama administration's reported forthcoming push to require background checks for all potential gun buyers, claiming it would keep her from selling a gun to her neighbor. In fact, it would only prevent such sales if the purchaser was not legally permitted to own the weapon.
The Washington Post has reported that a working group led by Vice President Biden is considering measures to prevent gun violence. Neither the White House nor the working group has proposed any legislation banning private sales altogether as Obenshain suggested on Fox & Friends when she said that banning "individuals from being able to sell guns to other individuals" is what "closing the gun show loophole is about."
Instead, the Post reported that the White House is considering requiring every would-be gun purchaser to submit to a background check when they try to buy a firearm; federal law currently requires such a check only if the gun is bought from a licensed firearms dealer. These background checks determine whether or not the intended buyer is legally allowed to own a gun, or is banned from gun ownership due to mental health or a criminal record. Several states already have universal background checks to prevent gun sales to felons and other prohibited purchasers while still allowing the private sale of firearms, provided the buyer undergoes a background check.
In the absence of a universal background check requirement, private sellers at gun shows have proven to be a source of weapons trafficked to Mexican drug cartels. According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms singled out private sellers at gun shows as a source of guns used by drug cartels:
In addition to these firearms that are successfully traced back to a retail dealer, some ATF officials told us, based on information from their operations and investigations, many seized guns also come from private sales at gun shows, though it is impossible to know this exact number due to the lack of records kept for such purchases.
Though more recent figures are unavailable, a 1997 study from the Department of Justice found that private gun sales outside of stores also make up an estimated 40 percent of all firearm sales.
Moreover, Obenshain is at odds with the overwhelming majority of NRA members and gun owners who support universal background checks. A poll conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns in July found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support "requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun."
CNN's Piers Morgan hosted noted radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to discuss his petition to deport Morgan because of his views on gun control. Jones is a 9/11 truther who has a history of inflammatory and baseless remarks.
On Monday's edition of Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan asked Jones to explain his "Deport Piers Morgan" petition. Jones responded with a lengthy tirade that filled two segments. His comments included pushing the debunked myth that "more guns means less crime," claiming that "1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms," referring to antidepressants as "mass murder pills" that cause people to commit violence, and claiming that "megabanks" have "taken everybody's guns but the Swiss and the American people, and when they get our guns, they can have their world tyranny."
Jones is one of the country's leading conspiracy theorists. Here are just a few examples of conspiracy theories Jones has promoted:
Jones has also pushed numerous conspiracy theories about weather control, mass sterilization, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. In June 2012, Jones' Infowars.com promoted the myth that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was using drones to spy on Midwestern ranchers. Finally, the radio host has declared that Obama's birth certificate is a fraud.
Jones' lengthy history of pushing absurd conspiracy theories should disqualify him from being mainstreamed on media outlets such as CNN.
Fox News has repeatedly hidden the danger of keeping guns in homes behind a handful of anecdotes about home owners who frightened off criminals with their own firearms. Research actually shows that guns kept in homes are far more likely to kill or injure those living there than deter crime.
On Monday's edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly juxtaposed reports that the White House may push for laws to prevent gun violence with a story about a homeowner near Atlanta who successfully repelled a burglar with her gun. Kelly said that the home invasion "could have ended tragically for a family, but for the fact that the mother had a .38 revolver and knew how to use it."
As correspondent Mike Emanuel gave a report on the White House's interest in gun-violence legislation, text aired on-screen that read: "Mom's Shooting of Intruder Puts New Twist On Gun Control Debate."
On the December 5 edition of The Five, the co-hosts recited two stories of homeowners who had repelled invading criminals with firearms in the first five minutes of the show. Co-host Andrea Tantaros concluded that "burglars are less apt to break in if they think they might have their brains blown out."
Yet Fox's emphasis on these reports hides the fact that such successful self-defense stories are extremely rare. In a 2011 report summarizing scientific literature about the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, found that one study in Atlanta determined victims of break-ins used firearms in self-defense 1.5 percent of the time. Hemenway cited a second study that found guns were used in self-defense by victims of sexual assault in fewer than 0.1 percent of incidents. He concluded that "genuine self-defense gun use is rare" and that "the evidence does not indicate that having a gun reduces the risk of being a victim of a crime or that having a gun reduces the risk of injury during the commission of a crime."
Fox News correspondent John Roberts ignored Sen. Ted Cruz's inaccurate claim that gun violence prevention is "unconstitutional" while guest hosting Fox News Sunday. The following morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough highlighted Roberts' failure to correct Cruz's extreme talking point, one that even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected in District of Columbia v. Heller.
From the January 6 edition of Fox News Sunday (via Nexis):
ROBERTS: Gun control -- you probably heard the last segment. We're talking about 10 bills introduced in the House of Representatives regarding gun control. Joe Biden is leading a study group at the White House. You are a fierce defender of Second Amendment rights. You were in like 2010, given the NRA's Freedom Fund Award.
Is there any new gun control that you would accept?
CRUZ: The reason we are discussing this is it the tragedy in Newtown. And every parent, my wife and I, we've got two girls aged 4 and aged 2 -- every parent was horrified at what happened there. To see 20 children, six adults senselessly murdered, it takes your breath away.
But within minutes, we saw politician running out and trying to exploit this tragedy, try to push their political agenda of gun control.
I do not support their gun control agenda for two reasons. Number one, it's unconstitutional.
ROBERTS: But is there that you would accept?
CRUZ: I don't think the proposals being discussed now makes sense.
Cruz's repetition of the NRA talking point on Fox News Sunday that the "gun control agenda" is "unconstitutional" was especially notable because he is a well-credentialed attorney who clerked for former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that "gun control" is not unconstitutional, most recently in the landmark ruling of Heller that clarified the individual right to possess firearms. In fact, Cruz's endorsement of the NRA position is not only legally incorrect, it contradicts Justice Scalia's majority opinion:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.
[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons.
Because Cruz, a new Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is expected to know very recent and high-profile Supreme Court precedent, Fox's Roberts should have given Cruz an opportunity to correct himself on the constitutionality of "gun control." As explained by The New York Times in reference to the reports of the gun violence prevention task force recommendations that Cruz was commenting on, "[a]lthough the N.R.A. is sure to cry "Second Amendment!," the truth is that there's not a single Second-Amendment restriction in Mr. Biden's law-enforcement approved list."
Instead, that task fell to Scarborough and fellow Morning Joe regulars, who questioned how Cruz and Fox News Sunday could botch Heller without any explanation or follow-up:
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you a question, Mark Halperin. You know Ted Cruz, right?
MARK HALPERIN: I do.
SCARBOROUGH: A smart, gifted guy?
HALPERIN: He's a very smart man.
SCARBOROUGH: Has he ever read the Constitution, do you know?
HALPERIN: I'm certain that he has.
SCARBOROUGH: Isn't he like a lawyer, or something like that?
HALPERIN: He is, he's an esteemed lawyer, he was Solicitor General of Texas...
SCARBOROUGH: He's a Harvard Law graduate. So you think he's probably read a Supreme Court case before?
HALPERIN: I'm certain he has.
SCARBOROUGH: You think maybe he's read Heller, the Supreme Court...
SCARBOROUGH: Seminal case on the Second Amendment, on the definition of what's constitutional and unconstitutional, you think he's read that?
SCARBOROUGH: It's hard to know, but you would think he probably would, right? Because if he had...
HALPERIN: He would know?
SCARBOROUGH: He would not say that background checks are unconstitutional. Or any of the things that have been brought up are unconstitutional. Because the Supreme Court clearly and unequivocally said that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms, and that means keeping handguns in their home. That means being able to protect their families in their home. But they gave wide latitude to the government to regulate guns in every way that people determine.
I disagree with a lot of [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein's suggestions and recommendations, but background checks, the banning of military-style assault weapons, the banning of high-capacity magazine clips, it's all constitutional under Heller. It's not even a close call.
Fox Nation highlighted a WND article that claimed a leaked Military Police training manual on civil disturbances shows that President Obama has a plan for disarming Americans during a civil emergency. But the manual is actually from 2006, and only provides guidelines for preventing firearms from falling into the hands of rioters and looters during an emergency.
A January 7 Fox Nation post highlighted an article from WorldNetDaily that accused Obama of having a "blueprint for disarming Americans." The article linked to a leaked document outlining guidelines for Military Police on how to deal with civil disobedience. WND claimed, "Given the imminent introduction of Senator Dianne Feinstein's draconian gun control legislation, which would instantly criminalize millions of gun owners in the United States if passed, concerns that the Obama administration could launch a massive gun confiscation effort have never been greater."
But the guidelines WND linked to were published in 2006, during George W. Bush's administration. The document outlines a course at the United States Army Military Police School. According to the Army, the purpose of the course is "to describe the nature and causes of disaffection and social unrest; define the potential for social unrest in the United States; identify the types of confrontations; define crowd behavioral and psychological influences; identify patterns of disorder."