Fox Business host Staurt Varney concluded a softball interview with National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre by telling the NRA top executive the segment had been an "excellent commercial for the NRA."
LaPierre used his appearance as an opportunity to denigrate efforts to pass a new assault weapons ban. He falsely suggested that there are no differences between assault weapons and other guns, calling the term assault rifle "an invented term by the people who hate the Second Amendment in this country to confuse the American public."
Instead of engaging in a discussion about the merits of an assault weapons ban, which LaPierre's organization stridently opposes, Varney played footage of an Arizona gun dealer suggesting that Obama "is going to implement more than just an assault weapons ban" and asked LaPierre open-ended questions such as, "I'm not sure I exactly understand what is an assault weapon as defined by the gun control people. Can you tell me?"
LaPierre's claim that the term "assault weapon" was nefariously invented by proponents of gun violence prevention is disingenuous. The term has been frequently used by the gun industry -- which passes millions of dollars a year to the NRA -- as a way to promote the military features of assault weapons. The Violence Policy Center has demonstrated how gun advertisements and publications often used the "assault" terminology.
But in recent years the gun industry has moved to rehab the image of assault weapons by essentially denying the existence of such weapons, as Varney allowed LaPierre to do on Fox Business today. According to the VPC, a proponent of assault weapons bans, "The point of the campaign -- inspired by the pummeling the industry gets for selling killing machines -- is apparently that semiautomatic assault rifles are really just another sporting gun, no different from an older generation of bolt-action and low-capacity rifles."
While the NRA mantra is that there are only cosmetic differences between assault weapons and other firearms, the VPC has identified a number of design features that makes it easier to shoot a large number of people during a short period of time. These features include a firearm's ability to accept high-capacity magazines, and the inclusion of rear and forward pistol grips, which can help a shooter exercise greater control over the firearm.
How an assault weapon features can be used to devastating effect was tragically demonstrated on July 20 when a gunman using an assault weapon equipped with a 100 round drum opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado killing 12 and injuring scores more in one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
In fact, research indicates that weapons equipped with what are commonly termed assault weapons features do pose an increased risk to the public compared to other weapons. As the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research notes, assault weapons are disproportionally used in mass shootings, and when used result in a higher average number of casualties.
Even so, the NRA continues to stridently oppose a new assault weapons ban, even as a majority of the public supports regulating these dangerous weapons.