MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe suggested that gun violence prevention is a killer issue that hurts Democrats, attributing the party's success in recapturing the House in 2006 to Nancy Pelosi taking the issue off the table. This fantastical claim ignores the variety of issues on which the 2006 election actually turned, including the handling of the war in Iraq; the fact that several strong gun restrictions were and remain extremely popular; and that the Democrats lost the majority in 2010 without taking action on guns.
Discussing what he saw as the failures of the Republican Party during this election, Wolffe said on the November 6 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
WOLFFE: I don't think that the choice of character what really their problem this time around. It's not that their profile didn't fit. They need a nominee the next time around who can lead this party in a different direction. You know, we're talking about the House and the Senate and where they're going to end up, Nancy Pelosi, who gets a lot of criticism for being supposedly arch-liberal, she did one big thing to help Democrats take majority in the House, which is to say, we're not going to stick with gun control. You know, if you want to be a Southern Democrat and you want to not talk about guns at all, you do what you like. Republicans need to have a candidate who will say, on abortion you can be pro-life, you can be pro-choice, it doesn't matter.
While the Democratic Party did make an effort to recruit candidates who opposed strong gun violence prevention laws during the 2006 election cycle, it beggars belief to claim that that effort is what paved the way for their victory.
The Washington Post concluded at the time that the Democrats were able to take back the House due to "an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq and a rash of scandals tainting GOP incumbents in several states." Exit polls also showed the economy and terrorism as top issues for voters.
If avoiding the supposed stain of being in favor of gun violence prevention had been as important as Wolffe suggests in 2006, one would expect the National Rifle Association to have had some impact. But the purportedly pro-gun Democratic class of 2006 made big gains even though not a single member was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and all four NRA-endorsed Republican challengers lost to their Democratic opponents that year.
Right-wing media outlets are reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun violence prevention, denied the National Guard entry into Brooklyn to aid victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because members of the National Guard carry firearms. In fact, during the press conference the critics are citing, Bloomberg said he opposed having the Guard patrol the streets because he believed the New York Police Department was sufficiently equipped to protect the public and that the Guard would be better used in locations with smaller police forces.
During an October 31 press conference, Bloomberg was asked to respond to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's request for additional National Guard resources to deter criminal activity. Bloomberg responded that "The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns," adding that "[w]e don't need it" and that the troops would be better used for that purpose in "locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York."
REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has a question, additional National Guard in Brooklyn, do you agree?
BLOOMBERG: No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns. We don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful as they may be, looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources, the NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public, we've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be.
From the November 3 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse highlighted fears from gun owners about President Obama's call to reinstate the assault weapons ban and suggested that those fears could sway the presidential election. In so doing, Fox is ignoring the fact that an assault weapons ban is favored by most Americans and that research suggests that the gun lobby has relatively little influence on election outcomes.
During the November 1 edition of Happening Now, La Jeunesse claimed that President Obama "stunned gun owners with his plans for a second term" when he indicated support for restrictions on assault weapons during the October 16 presidential debate. He further indicated that "gun owners could cause a problem" for Obama in some swing states, warning that "gun owners do vote."
But by harping on the importance of gun owners in presidential elections, La Jeunesse helped advance a false National Rifle Association narrative that exaggerates the influence of the gun lobby. An analysis conducted by The American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (a former Media Matters staffer) found that NRA intervention has almost no influence on election outcomes. Waldman's report further showed that claims that the NRA had a significant impact on the 2000 presidential election -- a claim often repeated by the NRA and the media -- is baseless.
In focusing on the opinions of the handful of gun owners he interviewed, La Jeunesse also ignored the fact that large majorities of Americans say that they would support a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Ted Nugent claimed that Democratic politicians in Detroit "train[ed] and reward[ed] people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive" causing the majority of residents to become "pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle" during an October 30 interview with The Washington Times. Nugent, a board member of the National Rifle Association and columnist for the Times, is also a high-profile endorser of Mitt Romney.
According to Nugent, President Obama is "doing everything he can to take the whole country down" the same path as Detroit:
It is so very true that my birth city of Detroit was the cleanest, most neighborly, positive-energy, work-ethic epicenter of planet earth when I was born there in 1948, right on through to the 1960s. Enter the liberal death wish of Mayor Coleman Young and a tsunami of negative, anti-productivity policies by liberal Democrats that put a voodoo curse on our beloved Motor City. When you train and reward people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive, there is only one direction that society can go: straight down the toilet. It is truly a heartbreaker. Some wonderful people are still to be found back home, but they are outnumbered by the pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle. And now we have a president who is doing everything he can to take the whole country down that same path. Truly amazing.
Nugent also claimed that The New Deal and Great Society economic programs "succeeded in brainwashing a segment of our country to believe Fedzilla would provide for anyone who decided, for whatever reason, to not be productive."
The New Deal was responsible for creating the Social Security Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs to combat poverty were responsible for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and a variety of other anti-poverty programs. These initiatives dramatically reduced the rate of poverty, particularly among the elderly.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sharply critiqued a Montana self-defense law that has been cited by the local prosecutor as the reason that Brice Harper will not face charges after fatally shooting Dan Fredenberg in Harper's garage on September 22. Fredenberg, who was unarmed, entered the garage to confront Harper who was having an affair with his wife.
During Thursday's segment on American Live, Kelly stated "it looks like that guy who did the shooting, who was having the affair is going to get away with it" and said that Harper "is getting off. Why? Because of the 'stand your ground' law or the 'castle doctrine' in Montana." Kelly also expressed the belief that the law effectively makes the punishment for unlawfully entering someone's property "the death penalty."
Montana's "castle doctrine" law allows an individual to use deadly force while in their home if the individual has a reasonable apprehension of assault. The deadly force requirement was created in 2009 by HB 228, a bill that expanded the circumstances under which deadly force could be used in self-defense and also loosened rules on the carrying of concealed weapons in public.
While the bill was under consideration, National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy called it "our most important bill of the session." The proposed legislation, however, was opposed by some members of law enforcement who cited public safety concerns.
Even as numerous states have expanded self-defense laws in recent years (often at the behest of the NRA), Montana's "castle doctrine" law stands out for the extremely low requirements that an individual must satisfy before using deadly force. Under Montana law, an individual may use deadly force on someone who unlawfully enters his or her property if that individual "reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault."
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, recently downplayed the public safety threat posed by a loophole in federal law that allows domestic abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase firearms without undergoing a background check. But the alleged perpetrator in an October 21 shooting at a Brookfield, Wisconsin spa that left three dead and four wounded reportedly abused that same loophole to obtain his firearm.
Today the Associated Press reported that Radcliffe Haughton purchased a handgun without a background check from a private seller, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming subject to a restraining order that required him to turn any firearms he owned into police.
On August 29, Cam Edwards, the host of Cam & Company on NRA News, obfuscated the loophole during a segment in which he expressed opposition to a proposal by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to require background checks on nearly all gun sales.
CAM EDWARDS: As you know, the gun laws in this country are the same for private citizens at gun shows or at their home. The laws in the country are the same for federally licensed firearms retailers whether they are at their brick-and-mortar store or whether they are manning a table at a gun show. The laws don't change based on the location.
Edwards' focus on where guns are sold is a distraction from the real issue: the lax regulation of private gun sales creates a venue for prohibited persons, like Haughton, to obtain firearms.
A CNN article published yesterday about increased efforts by the National Rifle Association to defeat President Obama credulously echoed false NRA talking points on assault weapons, without noting Mitt Romney's well-documented flip flop on the issue.
The article notes that in responding to a question about assault weapons in Tuesday's presidential debate, Obama mentioned an assault weapons ban. Instead of offering independent reporting on the topic, CNN political director Mark Preston only provided readers with the take of the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, on the issue of assault weapons bans:
"Some gun owners took Obama at his word four years ago, when he said he wouldn't take their guns away," said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "So, after years of paying lip service to the Second Amendment, President Obama finally let it slip last night that he supports the most draconian form of gun control - a gun ban."
Preston, however, did not acknowledge that 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, favor assault weapons bans. Nor did he mention that President Obama never made a promise to gun owners to not restrict access to assault weapons, as Cox suggested.
Turning to an exchange during Tuesday night's presidential debate where Romney was asked by moderator Candy Crowley about his changing position on assault weapons, Preston served as a stenographer for Romney without noting that the GOP nominee told a distorted version of events concerning his role in banning assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts.
From the October 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A good deal has been written about how Mitt Romney's answers on Libya at last night's presidential debate illustrated the degree to which his foreign policy is influenced by the closed conservative media feedback loop. But there was another moment from Romney last night on gun violence prevention that might indicate the degree to which the fringe right influences the Republican candidate's campaign rhetoric.
In the middle of his answer to a question about limiting "the availability of assault weapons," Romney launched into a discourse on Operation Fast and Furious, the failed gun trafficking sting. Romney called it the "greatest failure we've had with regards to gun violence" and intimated that no one knows why it was initiated: "For what purpose it was put in place, I can't imagine. ... I'd like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords."
What made this so odd was that there isn't any uncertainty as to what the idea behind Fast and Furious was. The operation was intended to identify and dismantle the cross-border gun-trafficking rings that operate within the United States and Mexico, and both the Justice Department's inspector general and House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have released reports affirming that fact.
In an October 16 column, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller praised Mitt Romney's opposition to gun violence prevention legislation while fearmongering about President Obama' s support for an assault weapons ban. But Miller did not acknowledge that Mitt Romney has been a proponent of assault weapons bans -- as recently as the last time that he ran for president.
Criticizing former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for backing some gun restrictions, Miller warned that Obama "would put another liberal justice -- or three -- on the bench if given a second term." Miller presented Romney in sharp contrast to Justice Stevens, and reprinted Romney's claim that his "Sportsmen for Romney" coalition, whose members include representatives of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, "will have a friend in the White House" if he becomes president. Obama, who has not enacted any new restrictions on firearms while president, was characterized by Miller as "an outspoken gun-control advocate before he ran for president."
By presenting Romney as a vigorous defender of gun rights, while attacking Obama on the issue, Miller effictively hid Romney's own well documented past support for rigorous gun violence prevention measures.
During tonight's presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed a false claim from the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company that whitewashes the former Massachusetts governor's record on guns.
News outlets will surely report on what was a contentious exchange between candidates on an issue that has thus far been ignored in the presidential race. But will they get to the bottom of Romney's past support for gun violence prevention measures?
Romney echoed the NRA talking point that an assault weapons ban he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts was agreeable to that state's leading gun advocacy group after moderator Candy Crowley suggested that his position on assault weapons has changed in recent years.
CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that given the kind of violence we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you've changed your mind?
ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually in my state the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had -- at the signing of the bill both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.
The NRA has endorsed Romney and recently used its NRA News radio outlet to rewrite history in an attempt to hide Romney's past support for tough gun control measures.
During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards told viewers that Romney's gun policy while governor was in line with the positions of Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), the Massachusetts state gun advocacy group. Edwards also claimed that Romney loosened restrictions on assault weapons while governor instead of enhancing them. Neither claim is accurate.
The second presidential debate, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley, featured a question and extended discussion on the potential reinstatement of an assault weapons ban. Previously, debate moderators in 2008 and Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour, the moderator of the first presidential debate, had ignored the issue of gun violence prevention.
Introducing the town hall participant who asked the candidates what they would do to limit the availability of assault weapons, Crowley noted that the topic of gun violence is one "that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd."
CROWLEY: Because what I -- what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
GONZALEZ: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
During today's meeting of a Florida taskforce that is investigating the "Kill At Will" law implicated in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association representative Marion Hammer said that the NRA was "proud to have been a part of the process" in enacting the law in 2005.
We believe the law is doing what the legislature intended. It is protecting the rights of people who defend themselves against attackers and intruders. The NRA supported this law. We are proud to have been a part of the process. We are proud to say we worked with legislators from both sides of the aisle to protect self-defense rights. And although there may be other bodies of law that do not go far enough to protect the innocent and the righteous, we don't see any basic need to change the premise of this law.
Hammer, who in closing stated that the NRA "see[s] the law as protecting freedom," served as president of the National Rifle Association between 1995 and 1998 and remains the organization's top lobbyist in Florida. She is hardly the first member of National Rifle Association leadership to express full-throated support for "Kill At Will." In April, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox told attendees of the NRA's annual meeting that despite "post-media hysteria" in the weeks following Trayvon Martin's death the gun rights organization "will defend those laws." At the same annual gathering, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed controversy surrounding the law, called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents, on the national news media.
Hammer previously acknowledged in an interview with Media Matters that the NRA helped draft the law and "support[ed] it through the process." This account was confirmed by Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming who stated, "There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so."
If one scene defines last week's premiere of Ted Nugent's Gun Country, set in the survivalist-thick scrublands surrounding Waco, Texas, it is the show's unnervingly giddy and pony-tailed host standing behind a .50-caliber Browning armor-piercing machine gun and blowing a bunch of holes in the four-inch reinforced steel door used by a team of local "preppers" to protect their bunker armory against an attack of the undead. Neither the machine gun nor the vault hatch fills any conceivable civilian-defense need, but the show, like the gun culture it celebrates, is all about overkill. An excited Nugent declares his intent to upgrade the defenses around his own bunker gun closet, and after a commercial break appears on screen pumping off rounds from the preppers' Zombie Apocalypse chainsaw-shotgun.
It's the sort of weapon you'd expect to see wielded with glee in a Dawn of the Dead remake, not on the flagship network of a media behemoth claiming a science-educational mission. But such is the state of programming these days on the Discovery Channel, long overdue for an honest update of its tagline, "Science, History, Space, Tech, Sharks, News!"
It is admittedly quaint to say in 2012 that a billion-dollar cable corporation has failed to live up to its stated values, and we're at least several decades past debating whether television can become the productive social force some imagined during the medium's infancy. Indeed, Discovery's devolution was notable a full decade ago, when the science journalist Chris Mooney penned an op-ed for the Washington Post bemoaning its programming turn away from science documentaries and toward the paranormal, the sensational, and the idiotic. Discovery Communications, noted Mooney, touted its goal of helping young viewers "critically analyze" information even as its properties such as Animal Planet increasingly aired fare like The Pet Psychic. A spokeswoman for the company claimed at the time that such shows represented a "whimsical take" on the company's science mission.
The Pet Psychic is A Brief History of Time compared to many of the shows now airing on the channel. In recent years Discovery has joined other companies in its former documentary niche in largely abandoning in-depth science programming in favor of its antipode, what might best be called anti-science: shows that glorify stupidity and celebrate a giggling, Beavis and Butthead-style pleasure in blowing stuff up and killing things.
Discovery is not filling a munitions void here so much as chasing the lowest common ratings denominator; The Outdoor Network and The History Channel first pioneered programming for the demo Nugent calls "gun nuts." But Discovery has gone furthest down the rabbit-hunting hole. Among the channel's slew of reality shows are three and counting devoted to portraying the patriotic fun to be had with high-caliber automatic weapons: American Guns, Sons of Guns, and the special (or is it pilot?) that aired last week, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, which officially pushes the phenomenon beyond the reach of parody. It is as if ESPN began airing a show called Frog Baseball Tonight.