A National Rifle Association-authored opinion piece in The Hill is rife with misleading claims about legislation that aims to expand background checks for gun sales and fix current deficiencies in the background check system.
Chris Cox, a regular columnist and top lobbyist for the NRA, claimed in an op-ed that proposed legislation to expand background checks would create a national gun registry and "criminalize" transfers of firearms between family members. In fact, expanded background check legislation reported to the Senate on March 12, known as the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013, contains an exception for transfers between family members and federal law already prohibits the establishment of a national gun registry. Cox also misled about the effectiveness of the current background check system as an argument against making improvements.
In his March 18 column titled, "A universally bad idea," Cox claimed, "A mandate for truly 'universal' background checks would put the federal government squarely in the middle of every sale, loan or gift of a firearm between private individuals. In other words, it would criminalize all private firearms transfers, even between family members or friends who have known each other all of their lives."
The Fix Gun Checks Act, the leading piece of background check legislation, would require a criminal background check for nearly every gun sale to occur with some important exceptions. The legislation exempts "bona fide gifts between spouses, between parents and their children, between siblings, or between grandparents and their grandchildren" from the background check requirement. Other exemptions waive the background check requirement for temporary transfers for hunting and other sporting purposes.
The exemptions laid out in the Fix Gun Checks Act mirror the Obama administration's policy proposal on reducing gun violence, which called for background check legislation with "common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."
In addition to expanding background checks, the Fix Gun Checks Act also aims to improve the background check system by using a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize states to submit disqualifying records into the background check system that are currently missing.
Fox News host Sean Hannity used prior comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about her past gun ownership to claim that her proposed assault weapons ban would deny Americans the same gun rights that Feinstein herself bragged about enjoying. In fact, the .38 caliber revolver Feinstein previously carried after being attacked by terrorists in the 1970s would not be banned under her proposal.
Feinstein turned her revolver over to police in 1982, citing the shooting deaths of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk as the impetus. [The Washington Post, 7/31/82 via Nexis] Feinstein, who was president of the Board of Supervisors at the time, discovered Moscone and Milk after they had been shot by ex-supervisor Dan White, and later described the incident as "a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy."
On the March 18 edition of his show, Hannity played a clip from a 1995 U.S. Senate hearing on terrorism where Feinstein described how she carried a gun in the 1970s and claimed she was "bragging" about her prior gun ownership:
HANNITY: Now the interesting part, with all this gun control talk. You, for example, in New York City, very few people have the right to carry a weapon. It's almost impossible to get a carry permit in New York City. So she's not affording her fellow Americans the same right that she was bragging about back then.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards complained about the arrest of New York linen mogul George Bardwil on illegal gun possession charges, even though Bardwil is currently under indictment for felony domestic abuse and is therefore prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
Edwards' defense of Bardwil demonstrates how the NRA claims that existing gun laws should be better enforced while simultaneously undermining the enforcement of the federal prohibition on firearm possession by domestic abusers.
On the March 15 edition of Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel, Edwards cited news reports in The Washington Times and The New York Post that described how Bardwil was arrested after police reviewed footage of Bardwil using a handgun that was not registered to him to scare off a would-be burglar at his Manhattan residence. New York City law requires that handgun owners register their weapons with the city.
During the segment, Edwards suggested that in New York, "you are still looking at three years in prison for acting in self-defense in your own home," even though the actual charge relates to Bardwil's alleged "criminal possession of a weapon" and not his conduct when confronting the would-be burglar.
Edwards also described the situation as "pretty awful" and said, "I thought we lived in the United States of America." He concluded by suggesting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could prove that he was not "anti-gun" by convincing the district attorney to not pursue charges against Bardwil:
EDWARDS: Mayor Bloomberg still has the, well I'll use the word tenacity, this is a family friendly show. Still has the tenacity and the gall to say he is not anti-gun. If that is the case, why don't you call up your buddy the DA, chew him out, and get those charges dropped against George Bardwil?
From the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference on March 15:
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Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
From the March 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) bills itself as an event convened to "crystallize the best of the conservative thought in America" that will showcase "all of the leading conservative organizations and speakers." Media covering CPAC 2013 should know that the conference's speakers, from the most prominent to the lesser-known, have a history of launching smears, pushing conspiracy theories, and hyping myths about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.
The National Rifle Association will feature Fox News' Sean Hannity during the 7th Annual NRA Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon, despite his association with a group whose leadership has claimed that one of America's greatest mistakes was allowing women to vote.
Hannity is slated to be the keynote speaker at the NRA Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon, "a coalition of philanthropic women united ... for Second Amendment freedoms," to be held at the NRA's annual meeting on May 3. Hannity is also an advisory board member of the Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny, whose founder has come under fire for making radical statements against women.
In a testimonial on BOND's website, Hannity writes, "BOND has played an instrumental role in helping young men and women build lives which will help inspire the next generation. BOND continues to fight the good fight standing for the values of God, family, and country, and are deserving of our support."
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, the founder and president of BOND, was the subject of widespread criticism after engaging in an anti-women diatribe during a March 2012 sermon where he claimed "one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote."
From the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five:
ERIC BOLLING: Check this story out. A town in Georgia has proposed a new law requiring every head of a household to possess a firearm. The town is Nelson, Georgia, population 1,000. They have only one police officer, and that guy works one eight-hour shift. So I'm on board with this.
GREG GUTFELD: Mandatory gun ownership? The next thing you know we have mandatory health care. Weird. And why is this so radical? At least the town is doing this legally, unlike Detroit and Chicago, where you have mandatory gun ownership -- it's called gang membership. Look, if an outlaw is going through the country and looking for a town to hit, he's going to drive right past this one and he'll find a gun-free zone. It's just like we talked about the theater shooter. He found a place where there were no guns.
BOLLING: Dana, 90 percent of the town agrees with this. By the way, it isn't a law yet, it has to go through the city council. It's proposed right now. I believe there will be a vote April 1st. Ninety percent of the town agrees with it and the one police officer agrees with it, too.
DANA PERINO: Yeah, so I'm for local control and for Washington to mind its own business. The local control that was tried here in New York City yesterday was about soda drinking. I think that this one -- if this town feels that this is what they need to do to protect themselves, I'm for it. Plus, if it's mandatory, people will be trained, they'll have the background checks. and all the laws will be covered.
BOLLING: And Bob, If you don't like it, if you object, if you have a conscientious objection to it, you don't have to have the gun. It sounds like a good idea.
BOB BECKEL: It sounds to me like one of the worst ideas I've heard. I mean, the idea that you're going to mandatory -- it's mandatory if you don't object and you don't have a religious problem with it or you're not -- whatever. That you have to buy a gun when you may not like guns --
BOLLING: Well, you can object --
GUTFELD: Replace that with health care, Bob.
BECKEL: Let's not talk health care. The idea -- why don't we next make it mandatory for over the have a bazooka on their roof. I mean --
GUTFELD: Or health care.
BECKEL: You know who's behind this? This is an NRA-sponsored deal. They've done this before. Georgia seems to be --
BOLLING: This has nothing to do with NRA.
GUTFELD: Replace NRA with AARP, and you have health care.
ANDREA TANTAROS: As much as I love they're doing this and I understand that the next town over has the same law on the books -- so I love the law in theory. I actually don't like being mandated to do anything. And so, that's like someone saying, OK, we mandate you to exercise your First Amendment all the time, and to exercise it you must say, 'I love Obama.'" And what if you live in a town with 90 percent of the people -- or maybe New York -- believe that way? So I try to put the shoe on other foot.
PERINO: That was all those Philadelphia counties -- Pennsylvania counties.
BOLLING: A hundred percent, right? A hundred and one percent, actually.
BECKEL: Why don't you just make it nationwide? Why doesn't everybody make it mandatory --
BOLLING: It'd be a safer country.
BOLLING: By the way, If you're a criminal, Bob -- honestly you're driving down the road, looking to rob, stick up a house -- are you going to go to the town where you know every house, every door you knock on or break into has a gun behind it? You're going to go to the next town where --
BECKEL: I don't think, first of all, they're going to stop and read The New York Times and figure out who's got a town like that.
GUTFELD: You know, the police exist primarily to respond to crime, not to prevent it. It's up to you to prevent it.
Gun researcher John Lott's chapter on firearms in his new book titled, At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over The Edge?, is filled with inaccurate claims about guns and firearm policy. Lott makes a range of misleading or blatantly false statements, including that the worst school shootings in the world have not occurred in the United States and that concealed carry laws help prevent mass shootings.
A floundering attempt to smear a Colorado state lawmaker who recently sponsored gun safety legislation demonstrates that the nationwide network of state-based conservative media outlets that the right wing has founded in recent years have the same problems with journalistic rigor as their larger, better-known cohorts.
The Colorado branch of the right-wing news outlet Media Trackers published a March 6 report claiming to offer new information which "exposed" the "criminal record" of State Representative Rhonda Fields. Fields has sponsored gun safety legislation currently under the debate in the legislature, including a bill extending the background check system. Alongside her mug shot, the group explained that Fields was arrested for larceny and shoplifting decades ago, commenting, "Despite her own criminal record, Rep. Fields has sought to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
The Media Trackers piece quickly spread through the right-wing blogosphere, with Instapundit Glenn Reynolds commenting, "criminals prefer unarmed victims." But contrary to Media Trackers' "BREAKING" headline, Fields has long been open about her past. Declaring the report "old news," Fox's Denver affiliate reported:
Fields was arrested in 1976 for larceny, and then again in 1991 for shoplifting. In 2010, FOX31 Denver reported on Fields' arrest record when she was campaigning for a position in the state House. The Denver Post dug into the politician's past, as well.
"It's something I'm not proud of," Fields said of her arrests during her campaign. "It happened over 20 years ago. I had to leave a husband who was addicted to drugs. I stole food to feed my kids. I'm so glad I'm not the woman I was back then."
With the story dissolving, Media Trackers followed the right-wing media's time-tested maneuver of doubling down. They produced a follow-up report breathlessly claiming Fields' "disregard for the state's laws continued well into her tenure as an elected lawmaker." They cited as evidence minor traffic violations such as Fields being "fined $130 for a lane assignment infraction."
The Media Trackers attacks on Fields come just days after the well-publicized arrest of Franklin Sain, a gun rights proponent who allegedly threatened Fields for sponsoring gun legislation. In an email to Fields, Sain said the legislator was a "pathetic N***** C*** alnog with MCCANN, two c**** who are way overdue a good f***ing." Fields, whose son was shot and killed alongside his fiancée because he planned to testify about drug dealers who had murdered his friend, is not the only state legislator who favors strengthening the state's gun laws to receive threats in recent days.
The National Rifle Association's stand against expanding the criminal background check system to all gun buyers has become a lonely one. The NRA has been abandoned by other gun lobby activists, conservative media figures, and the American public.
The first episode of Ted Nugent's new TV show featured a variety of bizarre antics by the National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist, including the rocker apparently killing a chicken by slamming its head into the ground.
On March 4 The Sportsman Channel aired the first episode of a miniseries starring Nugent. Wanted: Ted or Alive is a survivalist reality show where five contestants are dropped into Nugent's ranch in the Michigan wilderness to compete in physical challenges and earn money.
In October 2012, Nugent was featured in a different special on the Discovery Channel that was described as "an inside look at American gun culture." While promoting Ted Nugent's Gun Country, Nugent promised to use the show to advance his views in the "culture war" and said to "expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year." Only one episode of Ted Nugent's Gun Country ever aired and following the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a Discovery Channel spokesperson stated that Nugent would not appear on Discovery "in any form or fashion."
Here are four absurd moments from the Sportsman Channel program:
National Rifle Association president David Keene excused pro-gun activists at a New York rally last week whose signs depicted New York governor Andrew Cuomo as Adolf Hitler, saying that the attendees were "cognizant of the history" of supposedly anti-gun Nazi Germany and did not wish to see it repeated in the United States.
Keene was the featured speaker at the February 28 rally in Albany, New York against newly enacted gun violence prevention laws in that state. The rally drew controversy because some attendees brought signs portraying Cuomo as Hitler. In a March 1 interview with conservative radio host Fred Dicker, Keene agreed that the attendees were making a reference to "a 1935 law passed by the Reichstag [The Third Reich parliament] that took away people's rights to own firearms." Keene added that "Folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here."
But while gun activists commonly claim that Hitler implemented tougher gun laws to pave the way for his tyrannical reign, the Nazis actually loosened gun restrictions. In fact, the "1935 law" referenced by Dicker reportedly does not exist.
FRED DICKER: Some of the signs may have been a little over the top from the point of view of some people. But they fail, I think a lot of the people fail to have a sense of history that many the demonstrators have. And when they use the Adolf Hitler image they're not thinking of Adolf Hitler the monster of the Holocaust and of world domination. Many of them are thinking in terms of, I guess it was a 1935 law. It was passed by the Reichstag in Germany that took away people's rights to own firearms.
DAVID KEENE: That's right, and folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here.
As Alex Seitz-Wald wrote in an article for Salon, "the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone's guns is mostly bogus." Seitz-Wald summarized a 2004 law review article on the myth by University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt to note that the German parliament essentially banned firearms in 1919 to comply with surrender terms in the Treaty of Versailles. The law remained in effect until 1928 when the Reichstag allowed private gun ownership with a registration requirement. In 1938 Hitler signed into law new discriminatory firearms laws that did away with restrictions for individuals aligned with the Nazis while outlawing Jews and other persecuted peoples from possessing weapons. As Seitz-Wald points out, the fact that Hitler loosened gun laws for some while banned firearms for others is not an indictment of gun violence prevention laws, but instead of fascistic policies
Fox's Lou Dobbs hyped the false claim that the Department of Homeland Security bought 2700 light armored vehicles, echoing claims made on fringe conservative blogs. In fact, the order for 2717 new light armored vehicles is coming from the United States Marine Corps -- not the Department of Homeland Security.
On the March 4 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed that DHS is buying "2 billion rounds of ammunition" and, "allegedly," "2700 light armored vehicles." Dobbs then asked his guest, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, "What in the world is going on as the Homeland Department -- the Department of Homeland Security seems to be arming up and the administration is trying to disarm American citizens?"
Dobbs' pairing of those two claims echoed a post on right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, which was also posted to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' Infowars. The post was headlined, "Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile" and cited Modern Survival Blog, a survivalist website, as its source.
But according to a Defense Department press release, it was the United States Marine Corps, not DHS, that purchased 2,717 light armored vehicles.