CNN falsely reported that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis, a black teenager.
While visiting a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, Dunn fired ten shots into an SUV full of black teenagers after they refused to turn down the volume of their music. The shots killed Davis, who was unarmed. Dunn subsequently claimed that Davis threatened him, drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and reviving media attention on the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association and allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat in some circumstances.
On February 15, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. In their article on the verdict, CNN inaccurately reported that "stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn":
The incomplete finale to this emotional, hot-button trial -- partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.
In fact, "Stand Your Ground" is embedded in the Florida statute dealing with the "use of deadly force" in self-defense, and was specifically cited by Dunn's lawyer and noted in the judge's instructions to the jury. During closing arguments, Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla explained, "His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a public place where he had a legal right to be, a public parking lot asking for a common courtesy, saying thank you, trying to tell the guy I said thank you. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." Strolla later added of the law, "It's not because I wrote it. It's not cause I like it. We're not here to change it and we're not here to fight it. We're here to apply it."
CNN previously reported that "Stand Your Ground" played no role in the Zimmerman trial, even though 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. A Zimmerman juror subsequently told CNN that they had found Zimmerman not guilty because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under "Stand Your Ground."
Inflammatory conservative columnist Ted Nugent will be making two campaign appearances with Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Abbott is predicted to run against Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, who has been the target of sexist attacks from the conservative media. Nugent himself has a lengthy history of vile misogynist commentary.
The Drudge Report and Fox Nation are promoting an outlandish report from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars that suggests a sinister purpose behind a Department of Homeland Security procurement request for 141,160 rounds of .308 rifle ammunition.
Jones and his website have long fearmongered about the government's bulk purchase of ammunition. Conservative media outlets and Republican politicians have followed Jones' lead and run wild with the conspiracy, suggesting that the government was preparing for widespread civil unrest, attempting to limit the civilian ammo supply, or even planning to wage war against Americans. The conspiracy even inspired a Republican-led House Oversight Committee hearing and Republican-backed legislation to limit government ammunition purchases.
A man accused of violating Washington, D.C.'s gun laws is conservative media's latest dubious "hero" in its ongoing effort to attack stronger gun laws.
Right-wing media are defending a Washington, D.C. man on trial for possessing unregistered ammunition by making a flawed comparison between his situation and NBC News host David Gregory's display of a high-capacity ammunition magazine on Meet the Press following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Conservative media's complaint that Washington, D.C. financial advisor Mark Witaschek faces trial while Gregory faced no criminal charges ignores that those two situations rest upon entirely different circumstances.
On the December 23, 2012, edition of Meet the Press, Gregory showed, for demonstration purposes, a 30-round high-capacity ammunition magazine like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives nine days earlier. In Washington, it is illegal to own a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. NBC apparently ran the segment after a miscommunication with law enforcement. Gregory's display of the magazine angered conservative media including Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller who wrote that Gregory "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." In January 2013, Washington prosecutors announced that Gregory would not be charged with a crime in a letter that explained, "Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States."
Witaschek's legal problems began in the summer of 2012. Following alarming allegations that Witaschek threatened his "estranged wife" with a gun, police visited his home on two occasions. During both visits, police found unregistered ammunition in Witaschek's home. In Washington, D.C., only individuals who have registered firearms may possess ammunition. Witaschek was charged with violating Washington's gun laws. The charge from the first police visit was thrown out because even though Witaschek consented to a search, the visit was conducted without a warrant. Witaschek was offered a plea deal that included no jail time and a $500 fine to resolve the charge from the second police visit, which was performed with a warrant. Witaschek rejected the offer and plans to go to trial on the remaining charge.
National Rifle Association board member R. Lee Ermey, best known for his drill sergeant role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, criticized "neutered" boys who commit suicide because of bullying for not standing up to their tormenters.
Ermey made the comment during a February 7 appearance on an NRA News show to preview his upcoming show on The Sportsman Channel Saving Private K-9. Claiming that "we've neutered all the young boys in this country," Ermey said, "We've got little kids committing suicide because somebody bullied them in the school yard. Well, you know what, I was bullied when I was a kid, but I tried diplomatically to get out of the situation. If that didn't work, then I would resort to force, I would pop the guy in the snot locker, drop him down on the deck, and he would think twice before he came and bullied me again."
More than six months after two Colorado state senators were recalled over their support for stronger gun safety legislation, Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain continues to push false information to defend supporters of the recall.
Controversy in Colorado has erupted over the February 3 testimony of primary recall organizer Victor Head before the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. In calling for the repeal of a 2013 law that created a requirement for background checks on most gun sales, Head testified that he gathered recall petition signatures by telling people that the background check law would prohibit firearms loans between immediate family members for longer than 72 hours without a background check.
In fact, Colorado's background check law allows "a bona fide gift or loan" without a background check "between immediate family members, which are limited to spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles" with no time limit. State Democratic Sen. Angela Giron -- one of the two senators targeted by Head for recall -- was responsible for authoring this family exemption.
In a February 7 article (subscription required), the Chieftain attested to the accuracy of Head's testimony in an article that stated, "But Head, a Republican who is running for Pueblo County clerk, was right when he told petition signers the new gun law blocked family members from loaning guns to each other indefinitely without a background check."
Again positing that Head was "right," the Chieftain article went on to inaccurately state: "It may seem like a technicality, but indefinite loans without a check -- like a brother to a brother -- are not allowed."
While representing the Outdoor Channel at a gun show, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent cited President Obama's expression of sympathy to deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's parents as evidence the president is "an avowed racist."
During an interview with PennLive.com, Nugent said "the best Americans are so heartbroken right now" in part because we have "a president who's an avowed racist who claimed because Trayvon Martin was black, even though he was a gangster and an attacker and a doper, that he could have been his son."
In March 2012 -- less than a month after an unarmed Martin was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman -- Obama expressed sympathy towards Martin's parents by stating, "[M]y main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."
The National Rifle Association's radio show and other conservative media are baselessly attacking an ABC News special that highlighted how gun accidents can occur when children access unsecured firearms.
The ABC News 20/20 special, hosted by Diane Sawyer and titled Young Guns, reported that 1.7 million children live in a home with an unsecured and loaded firearm, 98 children under the age of 18 died in accidental shootings in 2010, and 80 percent of accidental shooting victims are boys.
The January 31 Young Guns special centered on a psychologist-designed experiment that placed children in an empty classroom that contained an unsecured firearm. According to 20/20 "nearly all" of the 44 children in the experiment had been taught not to touch a gun and half of those children were shown the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program to reinforce the lesson. But when an unloaded firearm was left in the classroom, many of the children still touched and played with it. Some even pointed the weapons at themselves or other children and pulled the trigger. The NRA declined repeated requests by ABC to participate in an interview for the special.
Since a 2011 appearance on Huckabee, Nugent caused controversy for claiming in April 2012 he would be "dead or in jail" if President Obama was reelected and has used increasingly inflammatory rhetoric to voice his opposition to the Obama administration and to attack the African-American community.
Nugent previewed his O'Reilly Factor appearance on birther Peter Boyles' Colorado radio show by praising O'Reilly for bringing "a lot of piss and vinegar to an otherwise flatlining Mr. Rodgers media," but also by raising a previous dispute between him and the Fox host about whether it is possible for civilians to obtain machine guns and other heavy weaponry.
Chuck Michel, one of the National Rifle Association's top lawyers, urged California NRA members not to cooperate with police if their guns turn up at crime scenes, warning that prosecutors would use a non-existent California law to engage in malicious prosecution against gun owners.
A recipient of the NRA's 2013 Defender of Justice Award and representative of the NRA in California, Michel appeared on the January 28 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company to criticize California's Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS). APPS is a unique crime fighting tool aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who, because of their criminal record or mental health issues, are banned by law from owning them. The system cross references California's gun ownership databases with databases of individuals prohibited from owning a gun in order to identify gun owners who are no longer allowed to own their weapons, who are then instructed to turn in their firearms. If notices to prohibited owners to turn in guns do not receive a response, law enforcement officers may visit the prohibited owners at home to take the guns and in some cases make arrests.
Michel characterized APPS -- which has recovered more than 10,000 guns since its inception -- as a "campaign of shame against gun owners." Stating that "laws out here are now turning the tide so that gun owners cannot trust the police," Michel also claimed that gun owners could be prosecuted if their firearms innocuously end up at the scene of the crime under California law.
On February 1 the National Rifle Association will commence its inaugural hosting of one of the largest gun shows in the United States with the weeklong Great American Outdoor Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The show promises attendees nearly 1,000 exhibitors displaying wares for hunting, fishing and other outdoors activities as well as "concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!"
But behind the NRA's sponsorship of the show is the backstory of how the NRA led a 2013 coup against the previous organizers of "the largest outdoor show in America" at the Farm Show Complex over a dispute about the sale of assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. With its takeover of the event -- which will now also be used as an NRA fundraising tool -- the NRA is consciously injecting its Second Amendment absolutism into an annual outdoors show that has been a Harrisburg fixture for more than 60 years.
Here are five reasons why the NRA's Great American Outdoor Show is different from your typical hunting and fishing enthusiast expo:
1. NRA Ousted The Previous Owners For Refusing To Allow Assault Weapons Post-Newtown
Following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman used an assault weapon to take 26 lives, Reed Exhibitions -- which in recent years had organized the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the annual hunting and fishing show held since 1951 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex -- announced that it would not allow assault weapons to be displayed or sold at the 2013 show. In response, sellers of assault weapons and other vendors staged a boycott of the show. The NRA entered the fray, backing the boycott and effectively killing the show, which was subsequently cancelled by Reed Exhibitions. Local officials estimated the cancellation caused an $88 million revenue loss in the Harrisburg area. In April 2013, the NRA announced that it would organize the 2014 show, renamed as the Great American Outdoor Show, after beating out 16 other potential organizers who submitted bids to put on a gun show at the Farm Show Complex.
In the wake of the January 25 shooting at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, Maryland, that claimed the lives of two victims, the Baltimore Sun's recently acquired conservative political blog made a series of inaccurate statements on firearms and firearms laws to attack supporters of stronger gun laws, including recently enacted measures strengthening firearms laws in Maryland.
In a blog post on the Baltimore Sun's Red Maryland blog, Mark Newgent criticized a statement by Vinny DeMarco, the president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence and a supporter of a measure strengthening firearms laws in Maryland, who explained that without Maryland's new firearms law -- which banned assault weapons and limited the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines -- the shooting could have been worse. However, in his criticism of the release, Newgent got several points wrong:
A man who is facing charges he raped a minor was recently honored during a daily NRA News feature that highlights instances of self-defense with a gun. The segments promote the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime.
The January 17 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel celebrated the actions of Marlo Ellis during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment sponsored by firearms retailer CheaperThanDirt.com. Ellis broke up the armed robbery of an Orrville, Alabama Dollar General by fatally shooting the alleged robber with his concealed handgun.
During the segment Cam Edwards described Ellis' actions in detail and asked, "I wonder how many other media outlets will be reporting on this story?" Curiously Edwards never said Ellis' name, although he mentioned the name of the alleged robber and several witnesses. A web search for Ellis' name reveals he was arrested in 2013 for allegedly raping a victim "between the age of 12 and 16." Dallas County's district attorney reportedly confirmed that Ellis is facing charges related to the 2013 investigation. A local news outlet covering the Dollar General shooting updated its account to include this fact, which was also appeared in an account on Guns.com.
Fox News "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow baselessly speculated about the mental health of the Columbia Mall shooter, ignoring proof that access to firearms, not mental health conditions, is the most significant factor in most gun violence.
On January 25, Darion Marcus Aguilar shot and killed two people before committing suicide at a mall in Columbia, Maryland. Two days later, Dr. Keith Ablow appeared Fox's America's News HQ to discuss the shooter's possible motive. Ablow dismissed the ready availability of guns, instead surmising that the shooter showed signs of "serious mental health care problems":
ABLOW: The anti-gun people are going to say, 'oh, it's the gun, it's the gun, it's the gun.' It isn't the gun. We have a crisis in terms of mental health care where I promise you that there were signs that this individual too was experiencing serious mental health care problems.
Recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coverage of the electoral defeat of two Pennsylvania mayors who were members of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) demonstrates how media cherry-pick data to falsely suggest mayors risk losing their jobs by joining the group.
MAIG, a coalition of more than 1,000 mayors, is best known for its Demand Action campaign in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and recent partnership with the 130,000 member grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In recent months the Tribune-Review has suggested that Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane and Butler Mayor Maggie Stock lost their re-election campaigns because of their MAIG memberships. The paper hasn't mentioned the MAIG memberships of any of the mayors who won reelection in 2013; 95 percent of Pennsylvania MAIG members were reelected.