A Fox News contributor who network CEO Roger Ailes reportedly uses to communicate his views on-air suggested that he might support new gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre.
Peter Johnson, Jr., a Fox News legal analyst, said that "the government has the right to register and regulate... firearms" and suggested that we should consider restricting ownership of assault weapons in light of recent events during a monologue on the December 18 edition of Fox & Friends.
JOHNSON: People have the right under the Second Amendment to own firearms. The government has the right to register and regulate those firearms. At the same time we need to be thinking about where should we be allocating law enforcement resources. How can we better register?
Let's look at AK-47s and AR-15s. The numbers show that it's a small portion of the deaths and violence in America. But it's a high portion, it's a high proportion of these mass violence episodes. Let's look at everything in a dispassionate, smart, objective way that protects Americans and protects the Constitution both.
During the same segment, Johnson suggested that Americans should also examine the "entertainment industry" because of their support for "videos." The Washington Post has noted that data show no correlation between video game spending per capita and gun-related homicides.
Johnson's role at Fox is reportedly much greater than a typical contributor. In addition to his regular appearances on Fox & Friends, Johnson serves as Ailes' personal attorney, confers regularly with the Fox chief and is reportedly the outlet Ailes uses to channel his views on the network.
In an attempt to distract from an emerging debate over how much to strengthen gun laws, Newsweek and Daily Beast special correspondent Megan McArdle called for people, even children, to be trained to "gang rush" active shooters. The Department of Homeland Security, however, recommends that people evacuate or hide in response to an active shooter, and to take direct action only as a last resort and when your life is in "imminent" danger.
McArdle's essay on how to prevent mass shootings in the wake of the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, begins with a libertarian defense of congressional inaction on gun issues, even sneering that it is "easy and satisfying to be for 'gun control' in the abstract, but we cannot pass gun control, in the abstract." You might well have seen most of this essay after any mass shooting in recent decades.
McArdle is so resigned to any gun laws failing to prevent gun violence that she concludes that people should be encouraged to "gang rush" shooters rather than hide:
I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
So, in sum: the chances of achieving anything with any gun legislation are so low that in these circumstances, people should resign themselves to probable death by running at the person firing a gun in the hope that enough people will follow that their likely death will not be in vain.
As Jonathan Chait points out at NY Magazine, this is an absurd proposition:
Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It's way more feasible than gun control!
Unless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle's plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication. Newsweek, I award this essay no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has specific guidelines on how to act when one's life is threatened in a shooting situation. Objective 1 is to evacuate, and if you cannot evacuate, objective 2 is find a hiding place: "If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you." DHS recommends that people take action against an active shooter only as a last resort and when your life is in imminent danger.
From the December 17 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
In a New York magazine post, Gabriel Sherman pointed out that while Fox News resisted calls to discuss gun policy in the wake of the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox's parent company, News Corp., was expressing support for more restrictive gun laws. Sherman noted that the difference between Fox's pro-gun history and Murdoch's call for action on gun control "highlights the growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News CEO Roger] Ailes":
Certainly Fox's decision to avoid widespread policy talk could be seen as an editorial impulse to keep the focus trained on the tragedy's human dimension. But Fox's coverage also highlights the growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and Ailes. Gun culture is alive and well at Fox News. Roger Ailes and Sean Hannity are reportedly licensed to carry concealed handguns in New York City. Fox personality Eric Bolling is a vocal Second Amendment proponent on air. "Not only do they carry guns, they don't allow an honest debate on TV," a Fox News insider said. In the past, when Ailes has clashed with Murdoch on politics, Fox News's outsize profits have helped Ailes prevail. Earlier this fall, Ailes signed a new four-year contract, and he retains complete editorial control over the network.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment on Ailes's Second Amendment views.
While Ailes's network said it wasn't the right time to talk about legislation, Murdoch had no hesitation. Within hours of the attack, he took to Twitter to call for an automatic-weapons ban. "Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy," he wrote, referring to Australia's move to ban assault weapons in 1996 after a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 21. That massacre came six weeks after the horrific mass school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which sixteen children and one adult were murdered. (Despite Murdoch's plea, automatic weapons are already illegal in the United States; Adam Lanza used semiautomatics.)
Sherman further reported that the lack of gun policy coverage on Fox stemmed from an order from David Clark, executive vice president of Fox's weekend coverage, who reportedly instructed producers to avoid the subject. According to Sherman's sources within Fox, the decision not to address gun policy "created a rift inside the network."
Fox has a history of top-down orders to affect how news is reported on the network. Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon has attempted to slant Fox's coverage on everything from climate change to health care reform and influenced Fox's coverage of President Obama's 2009 Cairo speech on America's relationship to the Muslim world.
Gun researcher John Lott has made numerous media appearances in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. to argue against the enactment of gun violence prevention measures. While Lott uses his media platform to push a multitude of statistics -- often from his own research -- he has been thoroughly discredited as a serious academic researcher.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch's call for politicians to find the "courage" to ban automatic weapons in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school is sharply at odds with the extreme rhetoric often heard on Fox News. Indeed, Fox voices routinely demonize any calls to strengthen gun laws.
Members of the media have been quick to push the myth that the National Rifle Association can remove politicians from office who support new gun violence prevention measures in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The influence wielded by the NRA has been overblown by the media for years, a fact further evidenced by the organization's poor showing during the 2012 elections.
From the December 17 edition of Current's Talking Liberally with Stephanie Miller:
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Two recent gun tragedies produced instant reaction within the world of Fox News. The fact that they were diametrically opposed suggests an internal conflict may be looming. Either that, or Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch has no idea what's being broadcast on his all-news channel in America.
In the wake of the Newtown, CT school massacre, the News Corp. chairman used his Twitter account to belittle politicians for their inaction on the issue of gun control and demanded to know when they will "find [the] courage to ban automatic weapons."
On Saturday, Murdoch took a swipe at the president: "Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy, but how about some bold leadership action?"
The irony here is that if Murdoch didn't own Fox News, Fox News hosts would denounce him for trying to "politicize" the Newtown shooting. That's what Murdoch's team did two weeks ago after NBC sportscaster Bob Costas spoke for 60 seconds during the halftime of an NFL game and addressed America's "gun culture" in the wake of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then driving to the local football stadium and shooting himself in front of his coach.
The morning after his comments, Fox targeted Costas for a full-on barrage of criticism, denouncing him for having the audacity to broach the topic of gun violence. Costas was "kind of a coward" in the way he made his comments, which were possibly fueled by his own "political ambitions," according to Fox.
The message from Fox to Costas was unmistakable: Sit down and shut up about guns. But now, as Newtown prepares to bury 26 victims, Murdoch's lashing out at "politicians" and the "POTUS" for failing to lead on gun reform?
By going on Twitter and demanding Obama take action while Murdoch's highest profile property in the United States actively tries to silence debate about gun reform, the media baron either revealed himself to be a hypocrite of historic proportions, or clueless about Fox News' content. It's content that seems specifically designed to interfere with any attempt to have a rational conversation about guns. (Just ask Costas.)
Note to Murdoch: By all measures, your cable channel operates as an appendage to the National Rifle Association. Fox News has done more in the last four years to embrace and echo the NRA's paranoid, anti-Obama gun fantasies than any other national media outlet in America, such as Bill O'Reilly calling gun control advocates "totalitarians," Glenn Beck warning about a looming "ban on guns," and Dick Morris feeding right-wing fears about "back-door gun control" in America.
Here's a test of leadership for Rupert Murdoch: If you're truly concerned about gun violence in your adopted home country, then you should demand Fox News stop demonizing gun reform and stop championing fanatical, pro-gun paranoia.
If Murdoch wants to lead on the topic of gun reform, he has the media tools to do so. The question is, does he really care about America's crisis at hand?
From the December 17 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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The hosts of Fox News Sunday and Meet The Press pushed the myth that Democratic support for gun violence prevention measures was a significant factor in their 1994 and 2000 electoral defeats.
These claims echo a false media narrative that the National Rifle Association is able to influence electoral outcomes and punish politicians who refuse to line up with the pro-gun organization. This narrative is faltering following the 2012 elections where the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars in a largely unsuccessful attempt to defeat candidates in favor of gun violence prevention policies. Furthermore, there is strong public support for specific gun violence prevention measures and claims that Democrats paid a price for supporting gun violence prevention in 1994 and 2000 are overblown.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace claimed during an interview with Al Gore's 2000 running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who advocated for universal background checks on gun sales and renewal of the assault weapons ban on the show, that support for such policies contributed to his 2000 defeat:
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Back in the 90's you supported the Brady law which called for a five day waiting period.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: Right.
WALLACE: You supported the assault weapons ban. Then in 2000 you and Al Gore campaigned around the country and you lost, and a lot of people took as a lesson, part of it was in states like Tennessee and West Virginia, the fact that you were pro-gun control. And quite frankly ever since Democrats have been scared of touching that issue.
Fox host and former governor Mike Huckabee attempted to walk back his comments linking a lack of religion in schools to Friday's tragic shooting in Newtown, CT. But while Huckabee now claims that he did not suggest "prayer in schools" would have prevented the shooting, he indeed seemed to imply that religion in schools could have done as much in his remarks on Friday.
On Friday, Huckabee responded to a question about God from Fox host Neil Cavuto by linking the removal of "God from our schools" to mass school shootings.
On Fox & Friends Saturday, he attempted to clarify his comments, saying, "Yesterday, I was on Neil Cavuto. He asked me, you know, where was God? I said, you know, we've systematically removed him from our culture, from our schools. Well, I've been barraged by people who have said that I said, well, if we just have prayer in schools, this wouldn't happen. That's not my point."
HUCKABEE: No, my point is a larger point -- that we have as a culture decided that we don't want to have values, that we don't want to say that some things are always right, some things are always wrong. When we divorce ourselves from a basic sense of what we would call, I would say, collective morality where we agree on certain principles to be true always, then we create a culture -- not that it specifically creates this crime. It doesn't. But it creates an atmosphere in which evil and violence are removed from our sense of responsibility.
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From the December 14 edition of Fox News' Your World:
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With every tragic shooting comes the same series of media narratives. Some in the right-wing media will proclaim that now is not the time for a discussion about the larger issue of gun violence, and the steps that can be taken to prevent it. Other conservatives will claim that the tragedy could have been averted if the victims were armed. And inevitably, someone in the traditional media will push the myth that no action can be taken because of the supposed power of the National Rifle Association.
National Journal Editor-in-Chief Reid Wilson is the latest to go down the latter path. In a December 13 column, he writes in response to the "missing conversation" that followed NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder of his girlfriend and suicide and the subsequent response from sports journalists:
The president is unlikely to devote political capital to any sort of serious push for new gun-control legislation. Though the National Rifle Association's power has waned from its peak, Republicans remain firmly on the NRA's side while Democrats remain deeply scarred by the gun-rights group's success in ousting pro-gun-control legislators.
While Wilson acknowledges that the NRA's power has diminished, he does not question the central premise of the myth of the NRA's electoral dominance. While reporters have cited this phenomenon for years, there is little evidence to support the notion that the group has an outsized role in winning elections.