From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow repeated the false accusation that President Obama will issue illegal executive orders that violate Second Amendment rights, before admitting he doesn't actually know what the administration will propose.
On the January 10 edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly thwarted Sekulow's attempt to recycle the right-wing claim that forthcoming gun violence prevention proposals resulting from Vice President Biden's recent efforts will infringe on Second Amendment rights. When Kelly asked him how he reconciled his allegation with the fact that the first President Bush installed a ban on imports of certain types of assault weapons by executive order, Sekulow tried to explain that although there are many constitutional strategies Obama could pursue, Obama will push the illegal one. Still, Sekulow admitted he has no proof to back up this claim. From the interview:
KELLY: Jay, let me start with you on this. The research that we've looked at suggests that he's got some leeway to curtail some gun rights by executive order if he so chooses. What say you on it?
SEKULOW: I don't think so.
SEKULOW: The Second Amendment rights have been pretty clear and I think the idea that you can utilize an executive order to implement restrictions on that right not through a legislative process, by just executive fiat, I don't think that's going to work constitutionally. So I think that would be a very difficult challenge. It's different if you have legislation passed by Congress that could somehow regulate this and then the White House would simply, you know, issue regulations off them. Here there's no regulation...
KELLY: Wait, wait, let me jump in, let me jump in. That may be the difference that we're talking about because I looked back. The research suggested that when George H. W. Bush was president back in 1989, he used executive order to ban the import of assault weapons using his powers under the Gun Control Act of 1968 that stipulated that legal rifles had to be suitable for sporting purposes. So he did it that way using this 1968 gun control act law. But, you know, it begs the question, could Barack Obama do the same thing?
SEKULOW: I don't think -- that law -- we don't know what the president wants to do yet, but assuming it's going to be significant restrictions and restraints, I don't think you can use that law from 1968 to implement an executive order that would do anything other than comply with existing law. I mean, when you talk about what President George H.W. Bush did, he did use the '68 law, but we don't know what the president is proposing yet. But you listened to Vice President Biden yesterday and a kind of foreboding experience. We're talking about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution here. Look, if it's the First Amendment the president can't simply say I don't like that provision anymore, I'm going to get an executive order, saying, you know, freedom of press, not so helpful, I'm not going to use it.
Sekulow was right when he said the President can't "implement an executive order that would do anything other than comply with existing law." It is true: laws issued pursuant to other laws can't violate the law. However, the administration is not proposing any such action.
If an executive order to address gun violence is forthcoming, it will have ample precedent, as Kelly herself noted, and Sekulow later admitted. There are existing laws on the books that Obama could enforce -- the preferred form of "gun control" for the NRA and its allies -- that would satisfy Sekulow's rule of thumb that a President shouldn't "do anything" that violates existing law. From The New York Times' description of President Bush's executive action:
In the Presidential campaign last year Mr. Bush, a hunter and longtime member of the N.R.A., opposed to any bans on assault weapons. But a public outcry after a drifter armed with an AK-47 killed five schoolchildren in Stockton, Calif., in January helped convince others in the Administration that some limits were needed.
At the urging of William J. Bennett, the director of national drug control policy, the Administration suspended imports of certain types of semiautomatic assault rifles in March. The President expanded that temporary ban as part of a broader anticrime program that he announced in April, and said he would make it permanent for imported weapons that did not have a legitimate sporting use.
Sekulow's claim that executive orders in this area don't "work constitutionally" has no basis in law. District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, explicitly held that reasonable gun violence prevention strategies are constitutional.
Prior to Sekulow's confession that right-wing media is speculating, it was possible that Biden told right-wing media Obama was planning on issuing an executive order, completely untethered to current legislation, which would reinstate the ban on individual possession of handguns in Chicago homes that Heller struck down.
But as Sekulow confirmed in his America Live appearance, this hasn't happened.
Paul M. Barrett, a senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, cherry-picked polls on gun violence to suggest that the National Rifle Association will be able to block proposed gun violence prevention measures. According to Barrett, who authored a book about the rise of Glock as a popular firearm manufacturer, gun violence prevention proposals are unpopular with the public and the "NRA wins because it's popular with a broad swath of Americans."
Barrett's article is typical of a narrative in the media overemphasizing the NRA's clout. In the wake of the December 14 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, traditional media have suggested that the NRA will remove from office politicians who favor gun reforms; even though the NRA's massive spending during the 2012 elections was almost entirely ineffectual.
Contrary to Barrett's assertion about NRA popularity, a poll released yesterday found that a plurality of the public holds a negative view of the NRA. Furthermore, specific gun violence prevention proposals, such as making background checks on gun purchases mandatory, are supported by the vast majority of NRA members and the public at large.
From the January 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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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."