"Gunny" Bob misrepresented column on Capitol shooting by Rocky's Littwin

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Discussing Mike Littwin's Rocky Mountain News column about the July 16 state Capitol shooting, Newsradio 850 KOA host "Gunny" Bob Newman on his July 17 broadcast made the false claim that Littwin "blame[d] the gun and the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights" for the incident. In fact, Littwin, whom Newman labeled a "hard-core leftist radical," did not mention the Second Amendment in his column and assigned no blame for the fatal shooting outside Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's office.

Following the July 16 shooting outside Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) office at the state Capitol, Newsradio 850 KOA host "Gunny" Bob Newman on his July 17 broadcast asserted that "the liberals are now going to ramp up, and I mean in a very big way, their efforts to attack your Second Amendment rights." He went on to state falsely that "hard-core leftist radical columnist Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News," in his July 17 column, "blame[d] the gun and the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights" for the fatal shooting. In fact, Littwin, while noting that an "apparently disturbed man -- with a gun and maybe with a knife, too -- enter[ed] the Capitol building," did not assign blame for the incident or even reference the Second Amendment in his column.

From the July 17 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show:

NEWMAN: Now the liberals are now going to ramp up, and I mean in a very big way, their efforts to attack your Second Amendment rights. They're gonna say that the guns are to blame. And they will again attempt to strip law-abiding citizens such as yourself of your right to own guns. When I said that this was going to happen on last night's show, mere hours later, hard-core leftist radical columnist Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News was the first one out of the gate to blame not the gunman, but to blame the gun and the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights that houses that Second Amendment. He blamed the gun. And I, I figured he would be first, and I was correct. There is a link on the "Gunny" Bob pages on 850KOA.com that, that you can read -- it'll take you right to the Rocky Mountain News and Mike Littwin's comment.

As the Associated Press reported on July 16, around 2 p.m. that day a man whom witnesses said called himself "the emperor" walked into the reception area of Ritter's office and declared his intention to "take over state government." The AP article further reported that a state patrolman shot and killed the man outside the office after "he produced a gun and refused orders to put it down," according to Denver Police Department spokesman Sonny Jackson.

Newman did not cite or read any passages from Littwin's column to support his assertions. However, at no point did Littwin "blame the gun" or the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (contained in the Bill of Rights), which protects "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." Rather, Littwin noted some of the reported details of the incident and discussed security provisions at the Capitol.

From Mike Littwin's column "Blood of slain 'emperor' stains the people's house" in the July 17 edition of the Rocky Mountain News:

An apparently disturbed man, with a gun and a knife, walks into a Northglenn shop to rent a tuxedo. He tells the person waiting on him at Mister Neat's Formalwear that it's a special day. "The emperor," he announces, "is coming."

[...]

A few hours later, though, this same apparently disturbed man -- with a gun and maybe with a knife, too -- enters the Capitol building. Anyone can walk into the Capitol building. If an apparently disturbed man has a gun or a knife or both, there is nothing to stop him.

There's no metal detector. There's no guard. There's no barrier of any kind.

Later, Littwin drew attention to the introduction of metal detectors at the Capitol following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and stated that lawmakers later voted to remove them amid legislative debate on concealed-carry gun laws:

They used to have metal detectors for a while after 9/11, but eventually the legislators voted to remove them. They had no choice, I guess. The legislature was in the process of passing concealed-carry laws, and how do you explain that guns aren't the problem if you insist on putting a metal detector on your own door?

When they removed the metal detectors, we were told that the Capitol was the people's building and nothing should stand between the people and this special place. There's something to that. It may sound a little corny, but there's something reassuring about it. [emphasis added]

According to a May 9, 2002, News article (accessed through the Nexis database), state lawmakers near the end of their 2002 session killed a bill that would have "required sheriffs to issue conceal-carry permits to Coloradans 21 and older who could pass a criminal background check, who had taken a gun safety course and are not a provable risk to themselves or others." The article reported that the measure's defeat came amid criticism that "the bill meant local governments could no longer ban concealed weapons from places like sports stadiums and college campuses."

Two months later, a joint legislative committee voted 3-2 to remove the Capitol's metal detectors, according to a July 17 article in The Denver Post, which reported that supporters of the move, such as former House Speaker Doug Dean (R-Colorado Springs), said the detectors limited the public's access to state government.

Littwin's column, noting the April 16 mass murder at Virginia Tech, also suggested that the possession of guns by mentally disturbed people represents a threat to society. He then went on to raise "even more fundamental questions" about societal tradeoffs between safety and freedom:

There are questions that will have to be answered over the next few days. How did the apparently disturbed man get a gun? It's the same question asked about the Virginia Tech killer. It was asked, though, only briefly. We don't ask hard questions about guns anymore, and certainly not in a political season.

But there are even more fundamental questions that you can't help but ask now: How safe do we want to be? How safe can we be? And, in either case, at what cost?

These are the same questions you ask every time you go through airport security and take off your shoes and, if you're ever feeling annoyed, you look up to see the 80-year-old woman in the wheelchair, the one who looks just like your grandmother, taking off her shoes.

They're the same questions you ask when you see the stories about the Patriot Act and whether government should be able to access certain e-mails or monitor certain phone calls.

In London, where they lived through decades of IRA terror, there are cameras everywhere. The cameras could be used to spy on citizens. Or they could be used to, say, identify the 7/7 bombers. It depends how you tell the story.

[...]

I talked to some legislators who said a single incident shouldn't change Capitol security. I talked to others who think security must be upgraded.

It's an old argument. Across the street, at City Hall, they've got metal detectors that are just a routine fact of life in a world full of guns. You can be sure something will change at the Capitol.

Of course, the governor has security, which apparently did its job. But there are probably other disturbed people out there, and maybe some who would be emperor. And take away a little more of our freedoms. [emphasis added]

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