The National Rifle Association has been silent on the killing of Trayvon Martin and the laws it has helped pass that may prevent the successful prosecution of the man who shot him. Until now.
During his speech this morning at the group's annual meeting, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre finally addressed the controversy -- by attacking the media for covering the case, claiming they are "manufactur[ing] controversy for ratings."
LAPIERRE: But the media, they don't care. Everyday victims aren't celebrities. They don't draw ratings, don't draw sponsors. But sensational reporting from Florida does. In the aftermath of one of Florida's many daily tragedies, my phone has been ringing off the hook. Now, the National Rifle Association will not comment on any story without a full understanding and a thorough understanding of all the facts. But if I were to answer a call from Diane Sawyer or Chris Matthews or Brian Williams or Rachel Maddow, let me tell you right now what I'd ask them.
Where's your outrage? Where's your outrage about Willie Brewer III from Akron, Ohio? OrDerrick Linkhorn from Decatur, Georgia? Or Daryl Adams from New York City? Or what about Antonio Duff? Just this past Monday afternoon, about the same time I got here into town, he was killed and murdered. And he's not the only young man murdered in this city this past week. You reporters, you don't know their names. You don't care about those people. You manufacture controversy for ratings. You don't care about the truth, and the truth is the national news media in this country is a national disgrace, and you all know it. And so do Americans throughout the country, and it's getting worse every single day, and your dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.
Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, in which an armed student shot to death 32 students and faculty of the school and wounded 17 more before killing himself. It subsequently came to light that under federal law, the shooter "should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment," but was nonetheless able to pass a federal background check and purchase firearms due to a loophole in the law.
In response to the shooting, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law "the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years" in order to close that loophole and provide additional funding for states to update mental health records in the gun background check database. Despite this law, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has pointed out that millions of such records are still missing from the system.
The Washington Times, on the other hand, has a different response to the tragedy. In an editorial this morning, they call for allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto college campuses:
Five years ago Monday, 32 students and teachers lost their lives in a shooting at Virginia Tech. Earlier this month, seven students were killed and three wounded at a small California Christian university. These tragedies exemplify the failure of "gun-free" school zones and are evidence for the need to overturn concealed carry bans on campuses so law-abiding citizens can defend themselves against maniacs. [...]
In Virginia, where emotions are still raw following the Blacksburg massacre, concealed carry is permitted, but college restrictions still exist. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in January that while hidden firearms are allowed on campus grounds, authorities can prohibit them inside school buildings and at public gatherings. Virginia Tech adopted the regulation in March.
The Second Amendment grants Americans the right to keep and bear arms. Where that right is respected, security prevails. Gun-free colleges risk becoming free-fire zones for troubled individuals. Common sense dictates that responsible gun bearers should be allowed on campus.
The Times' commentary mirrors that of the National Rifle Association, which has since the Virginia Tech shootings worked with their partners at the American Legislative Exchange Council to promote such laws across the country.
Starting in 2008 seven states -- Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas -- passed measures or promoted policies that would change the education curriculums in their states to begin teaching "different perspectives" in environmental science instruction. The major newspapers in each of these states gave varying coverage to the issue with some not even covering the issue at all. In addition a Media Matters investigation shows that, despite the appearance that these state proposals and model legislation by the conservative organization the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), not once did these newspapers mention ALEC or their model legislation in their coverage.
From the April 5 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Coca-Cola, one of its corporate sponsors, has cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after advocacy group Color of Change had called for a boycott of Coca-Cola due to its ties with ALEC. And Fox hasn't wasted much time coming to ALEC's defense.
As the Huffington Post reported:
The soft-drink company has severed its tieswith the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative lobbying group that drafts legislation and sends it out to lawmakers. ALEC's fingerprints have been found on bills and laws in a number of states, and the group's opponents have grown resistant to what they call ALEC's efforts to shape the legislative agenda in a way that harms minority and low-income voters.
On Wednesday, the advocacy group Color of Change called for a boycott of Coca-Cola, one of the companies that sits on ALEC's elite Private Enterprise Board, citing ALEC's efforts to get voter ID laws passed.
In response, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed ALEC communications director Kaityln Buss to discuss Coca-Cola's departure. Did Kelly ask about funding ALEC receives from the controversial Koch brothers? Did Kelly ask why ALEC was pushing for voter ID laws in the absence of evidence of voter fraud? Did Kelly ask about ALEC pushing the "Stand Your Ground" laws that have become infamous in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case?
No. She just provided a platform for ALEC to paint itself as innocuous.
After law enforcement disarmed New Orleans residents as part of their effort to evacuate the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the National Rifle Association (NRA) teamed up with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for a nationwide campaign to promote legislation in dozens of states banning governors and local officials from seizing firearms during emergencies.
The two groups similarly have worked in tandem to spread across the nation Florida-style "Kill at Will" self-defense laws as well as legislation allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns on college campuses.
In September 2005, less than a month after Katrina made landfall, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre devoted his column to gun confiscation in the wake of the hurricane, describing it as "a tyranny that must be stopped -- never to happen again." He promised that the NRA would be "enacting laws to prohibit state and federal authorities from seizing firearms from innocent citizens under a state of emergency due to a natural disaster or terrorist attack."
On March 24, 2006, the NRA announced that several pieces of "NRA-Backed" legislation had been filed in advance of the start of the Louisiana legislature's session in order to "prevent the seizure and confiscation of legally-possessed firearms during a state of emergency." Five days later they trumpeted the introduction by then-Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) of federal legislation "amending federal emergency statute laws to stop local authorities from confiscating lawfully owned firearms during times of disaster."
In the months that followed the NRA repeatedly touted both the federal and Louisiana legislation and urged their members to take action to ensure the passage of both. On June 12, 2006, the group celebrated and took credit when the Louisiana legislationwas signed into law.
From the March 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
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Last week we noted that the National Rifle Association's (NRA) effort to push the Florida-style "Kill at Will" laws that protected Trayvon Martin's killer from prosecution had continued unabated in the wake of Martin's death.
The gun lobby has given no indication of backing down in the face of the revelation of their role in promoting these laws. In fact, BloombergBusinessweek reports that the group spent the one-month anniversary of Martin's death trying to pass "Kill at Will" legislation in Alaska:
On the one-month anniversary of Trayvon Martin's killing this week, the National Rifle Association was in Alaska lobbying for a law like the one at the center of the Florida shooting.
The gun rights group urged supporters to contact senators on the "stand your ground" bill, calling it "vital self- defense legislation." A lobbyist worked the halls in gun-friendly Juneau, telling at least one senator that the highly publicized slaying of the unarmed black teen in Sanford, Florida, is "irrelevant" to the debate in Alaska, according to Senator Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat.
Former NRA president and Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has acknowledged that the NRA helped draft that state's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, and the group was instrumental in its 2005 passage. Shortly after, Hammer appeared before the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and successfully urged them to adopt Florida's law as model legislation. Together, NRA and ALEC pushed for the adoption of similar laws in dozens of states.
The tragic circumstances of Martin's killing have forced these laws into the spotlight. As BloombergBusinessweek notes, this has led to several setbacks for the gun lobby:
As the 4-million-member NRA continued its push in Alaska, it faced mounting challenges in other states. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick pledged yesterday to veto a similar bill if it made it to his desk. Legislation in New York and Iowa stalled in committees as lawmakers in Georgia, Texas and other states said they would try to repeal laws already on the books. A Florida-like measure in Minnesota was vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton on March 5, before the Martin case was widely covered in the national media.
From the March 29 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown:
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In 2008, in the wake of mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted model legislation proposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that would have allowed any concealed carry permit holder to bring guns on college campuses.
The model legislation not only expressly permitted the carrying of concealed handguns on college campuses, but banned colleges and universities from restricting such activity. At the time, Utah was the only state in the nation that either expressly permitted guns on campus or banned public institutions from making their own restrictions.
In recent days, the media has shined a spotlight on ALEC's efforts to help the NRA promote Florida's "Kill at Will" self-defense law across the country. The NRA, reportedly a "longtime funder" of ALEC, presented the shadowy group with "proposed model legislation based on" Florida's law in August 2005. That model bill was endorsed by ALEC and distributed to its network of conservative legislative members, and similar measures were subsequently passed in more than 20 states.
Similarly, in May 2008, ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force "unanimously adopted a model "Campus Personal Protection Act," which the NRA says was "[b]rought forth" by their lobbying arm. The model bill was adopted by ALEC 30 days later with no objection from its Board of Directors.
The model bill contains sections to repeal state laws banning valid permit holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus, and further states:
Section 3. No governing body of a college or university or postsecondary vocational technical school shall have the authority to establish rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a person issued a valid concealed handgun permit recognized by this state to lawfully carry a concealed handgun on its campus. However, governing bodies of educational institutions may establish rules or regulations relating to the storage of firearms in campus dormitories.
According to a November 2008 report from the American Associate of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), "17 states attempted major reforms to campus weapon laws in 2008"; many of those efforts predated ALEC's endorsement of model legislation. According to the advocacy group Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, bills to increase access to firearms on college campuses were introduced "in at least 23 states" during the 2011 legislative session, passing in two.
AASCU "discourages the passage of new state legislation that would overturn or weaken concealed weapons bans on campus," stating that the "the safety and security of all members of the campus community must remain paramount." Likewise, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators says that there is "no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of students carrying concealed weapons would reduce violence on our college campuses" and that "concealed carry laws have the potential to dramatically increase violence on college and university campuses."
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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In recent days, a growing number of national pundits, columnists, and politicians have weighed in on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watchdog vigilante. Much of the commentary has centered around the controversial legislation that has kept George Zimmerman from being arrested: Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, known by its critics as "Shoot First," which has the effect of laying a heavy burden of proof not on the perpetrators of gun violence, but on prosecutors seeking justice for its (sometimes dead) victims.
Among the voices absent from the national debate over Florida's law are those of the major corporations and industry groups who provide the bulk of the funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy right-wing organization that adopted Florida's statute as a model for states around the country.
As Media Matters has reported, after Florida passed its law in April 2005, ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force and Board of Directors ratified nearly identical Castle Doctrine Act model legislation as their new gold standard and began promoting it through their nationwide network of conservative state legislators. The National Rifle Association (NRA) played a key role in both the bill's passage in Florida and its subsequent acceptance by ALEC, of which NRA is reportedly "a longtime funder."
Media Matters reached out to the corporations and groups like PhRMA and Verizon that were reportedly represented on ALEC's Private Enterprise Board at the time the organization adopted the model legislation, asking if they regretted their association with the bill. Every one denied responsibility, declined comment, or did not respond to repeated inquiries.
In the nearly seven years since the model legislation was adopted, at least 23 states have reportedly passed Florida-style "Shoot First" laws.
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchel Reports:
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From the March 23 edition of NOW with Alex Wagner:
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