Right-wing media have seized on the robbery of a restaurant that does not allow patrons to bring guns to claim that places with such policies invite attacks, but research has found no evidence that places that do not allow guns attract crime.
According to local news reports, three gunmen broke through the back door of The Pit restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and demanded money. A manager gave the robbers a "small cash box," while employees at the front of the store shepherded 20 customers to safety. Two employees sustained minor injuries.
Conservative media have directed ridicule and scorn at the store's owner because The Pit has a sign in its front window letting guests know that firearms are not welcome. (No evidence has been presented that the sign played any role in the robbery.)
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards joked that it was "the weirdest thing" that The Pit had been robbed, considering the no guns sign, and added, "This sign on the door didn't stop those armed robbers from coming inside." Guest Dave Kopel of the NRA-funded Independence Institute said that if the robbers "paid any attention" to the sign at all, "it likely enticed them to pick that place to rob."
Conservative website Rare wrote, "Don't bring a gun to The Pit -- unless, of course, you plan on robbing the restaurant," while Western Journalism asked, "Did this restaurant just ask to be robbed?" The Washington Times reported that the robbers "ignored" the sign disallowing firearms -- although no evidence has been presented that the robbers were even aware of the sign.
In North Carolina, businesses that do not want guns carried on their premises must post a conspicuous sign disallowing the practice; otherwise individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons are free to enter the business with a firearm, even in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.
NRA News host Cam Edwards tied the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorist organization Boko Haram to the National Rifle Association's recent annual meeting. According to Edwards, the girls' would-be rescuers are not "Pajama Boy" or fans of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, but instead are men "who look like they just came from the NRA annual meeting."
The NRA frequently interjects itself into seemingly-unrelated situations involving heroism or sacrifice to enhance the NRA's brand. Just days after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, NRA board member Ted Nugent claimed that the heroism of first responders to the attack "represents what the NRA is." A January 2012 NRA fundraising email marked the anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and also featured an image of President John F. Kennedy with the assassinated president's quote, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it." The NRA also used the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks to solicit donations.
From the May 8 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company:
The National Rifle Association has used its media arm to dissuade gun owners from embracing "smart gun" technology through falsehoods and the promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government.
Advances in technology that uses RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other measures to ensure that a gun can only be fired by authorized users have been in the news following a Maryland gun store's failed attempt to bring a smart gun to market.
Engage Armament, a gun store in Rockville, MD, planned to begin sales of the Armatix iP1 handgun -- the first U.S. market-ready smart gun -- but later changed course and apologized for being involved with smart gun technology after receiving death threats from pro-gun activists. An earlier plan by a California gun store to offer the iP1 suffered a similar fate.
In a separate development, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has promised to repeal New Jersey's smart gun law -- which makes adoption of the technology mandatory once smart guns come to market -- if the NRA promises to not interfere with the retail sale of smart guns nor target manufacturers who develop smart gun technologies.
While Armatix produced the first smart gun ready for sale to the public, a 2013 Department of Justice report identified 13 entities -- including gun manufacturers, universities, and other research entities -- working to develop smart gun technology. In its 2015 budget request, DOJ asked for $2 million "to support the Administration's challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology." Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor, has also announced a $1 million competition for the development of "technology that reliably authorizes approved use -- and blocks the unauthorized use -- of firearms."
That the NRA is attacking smart gun technology -- and by doing so putting negative pressure on companies that would develop the technology with the hope of selling guns -- is ironic given the organization's philosophy on firearm sales. In an unhinged February 2013 op-ed that urged NRA members to "stand and fight" against gun safety measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged gun owners to "buy more guns than ever." And during a paranoid 2014 address at the NRA annual meeting LaPierre said, "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want."
Scott Bach, an NRA board member and head of the NRA's New Jersey affiliate, dismissed the family of a child who died during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as "a prop" in response to the family's support for a New Jersey bill that would limit gun magazine size.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. Supporters of the legislation have pointed to mass shootings where high-capacity magazines were used, including Sandy Hook, to argue that such magazines threaten public safety. On May 5, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing and possibly advance the bill to the full New Jersey Senate. The General Assembly version of the bill passed in March.
Bach, who is executive director of the official NRA affiliate group Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, made an April 30 appearance on the NRA News show Cam & Company in order to warn NRA members about the hearing, but while doing so he insulted Newtown families who have supported the legislation. In claiming that the real purpose of the legislation is to make Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "uncomfortable because of the emotional component," Bach claimed the bill's backers "brought out the Newtown victim's family and frankly used them as a prop or a show."
Continuing the National Rifle Association's smear of surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy as anti-gun, the NRA's media arm is now claiming that "doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners in this country" because of deaths caused by medical errors.
Even though Murthy holds views on firearms that are conventional within the medical community and supported by many Americans and has said that obesity, not gun safety, would be his top priority as surgeon general, the NRA has launched a smear campaign to portray him as a threat to the Second Amendment. Conservatives in media have taken the NRA's lead to attack Murthy as anti-gun and unqualified for the job.
NRA News host Cam Edwards furthered the NRA's attack, claiming that the "Institutes [sic] of Medicine" had issued a study finding that there are as many as 440,000 deaths per year due to preventable medical errors and commenting, "[m]aybe there's an issue for the Surgeon General to take up instead of your gun ownership and my gun ownership, because it sure that appears doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners are in this country."
In fact, the study Edwards cited was actually authored by a medical error-focused non-profit organization that asserts "we are patients looking after each other in a health care system that could easily kill us." According to the Institute of Medicine's "widely accepted" finding, 98,000 people a year die due to hospital errors.
Facebook has announced new policies that aim to prevent illegal gun sales through the social media website, following a petition campaign by gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In a March 5 posting, Facebook says it will post language where firearms transactions are set up that "clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations." Facebook will also limit postings about gun sales to users over the age of 18. Moms Demand Action reportedly entered into "formal discussions" with Facebook in February.
During the petition campaign, the National Rifle Association's media arm attempted to discredit Moms Demand Action by falsely claiming that the group's campaign sought to ban any gun-related speech on Facebook.
On the March 4 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company host Cam Edwards said it was "true" that Moms Demand Action was moving to "ban" pro-Second Amendment speech on Facebook. Edwards claimed that Moms Demand Action wanted to ban "a conversation" and suggested that the group sought to "ban fan pages or pages related to guns and the Second Amendment." Edwards concluded by claiming that Moms Demand Action are "not just anti-Second Amendment, oh no. Apparently they have issues with the First Amendment too."
On his radio show, also called Cam & Company, Edwards claimed on March 4 that there's a "real push" on "the left right now" for "a war on the idea of freedom of speech." He added, "For the left -- supposedly espouses tolerance and acceptance of others -- man there's a lot of oppression and intolerance I'm seeing these days."
Edwards' claims greatly mischaracterized the goals of the Moms Demand Action campaign. Furthermore the First Amendment constrains the government's restriction of speech, not a private company like Facebook. The social media network is free to create policies that seek to limit behavior it finds unacceptable, as it has already done through other community standards. (Right-wing media frequently misinterpret the First Amendment to accuse businesses of victimizing conservatives.)
The National Rifle Association's Connecticut lobbyist detailed a plan to remove from office lawmakers who voted for bipartisan gun safety legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and boastfully suggested that the NRA was responsible for the decision of two pro-gun safety legislators not to run for reelection this year.
The NRA's claims about being able to influence the outcome of elections -- often advanced by a lazy media conventional wisdom -- are overstated. In fact research has shown that the NRA's endorsement and campaign contributions have little impact on the outcomes of elections, clearly evidenced by the NRA's disastrous 2012 federal election spending where more than 95 percent of $18 million spent by the NRA went to elections where the NRA-backed candidate lost.
Appearing on an NRA News program, the NRA's Connecticut state liaison Anna Kopperud said that 2014 will be "the year where we pick up our baggage and move forward" and spoke of a need to "correct some of the wrongs that we saw last year" following the enactment of gun safety legislation in the state.
National Rifle Association board member R. Lee Ermey, best known for his drill sergeant role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, criticized "neutered" boys who commit suicide because of bullying for not standing up to their tormenters.
Ermey made the comment during a February 7 appearance on an NRA News show to preview his upcoming show on The Sportsman Channel Saving Private K-9. Claiming that "we've neutered all the young boys in this country," Ermey said, "We've got little kids committing suicide because somebody bullied them in the school yard. Well, you know what, I was bullied when I was a kid, but I tried diplomatically to get out of the situation. If that didn't work, then I would resort to force, I would pop the guy in the snot locker, drop him down on the deck, and he would think twice before he came and bullied me again."
The National Rifle Association's radio show and other conservative media are baselessly attacking an ABC News special that highlighted how gun accidents can occur when children access unsecured firearms.
The ABC News 20/20 special, hosted by Diane Sawyer and titled Young Guns, reported that 1.7 million children live in a home with an unsecured and loaded firearm, 98 children under the age of 18 died in accidental shootings in 2010, and 80 percent of accidental shooting victims are boys.
The January 31 Young Guns special centered on a psychologist-designed experiment that placed children in an empty classroom that contained an unsecured firearm. According to 20/20 "nearly all" of the 44 children in the experiment had been taught not to touch a gun and half of those children were shown the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program to reinforce the lesson. But when an unloaded firearm was left in the classroom, many of the children still touched and played with it. Some even pointed the weapons at themselves or other children and pulled the trigger. The NRA declined repeated requests by ABC to participate in an interview for the special.
Chuck Michel, one of the National Rifle Association's top lawyers, urged California NRA members not to cooperate with police if their guns turn up at crime scenes, warning that prosecutors would use a non-existent California law to engage in malicious prosecution against gun owners.
A recipient of the NRA's 2013 Defender of Justice Award and representative of the NRA in California, Michel appeared on the January 28 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company to criticize California's Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS). APPS is a unique crime fighting tool aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who, because of their criminal record or mental health issues, are banned by law from owning them. The system cross references California's gun ownership databases with databases of individuals prohibited from owning a gun in order to identify gun owners who are no longer allowed to own their weapons, who are then instructed to turn in their firearms. If notices to prohibited owners to turn in guns do not receive a response, law enforcement officers may visit the prohibited owners at home to take the guns and in some cases make arrests.
Michel characterized APPS -- which has recovered more than 10,000 guns since its inception -- as a "campaign of shame against gun owners." Stating that "laws out here are now turning the tide so that gun owners cannot trust the police," Michel also claimed that gun owners could be prosecuted if their firearms innocuously end up at the scene of the crime under California law.
A man who is facing charges he raped a minor was recently honored during a daily NRA News feature that highlights instances of self-defense with a gun. The segments promote the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime.
The January 17 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel celebrated the actions of Marlo Ellis during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment sponsored by firearms retailer CheaperThanDirt.com. Ellis broke up the armed robbery of an Orrville, Alabama Dollar General by fatally shooting the alleged robber with his concealed handgun.
During the segment Cam Edwards described Ellis' actions in detail and asked, "I wonder how many other media outlets will be reporting on this story?" Curiously Edwards never said Ellis' name, although he mentioned the name of the alleged robber and several witnesses. A web search for Ellis' name reveals he was arrested in 2013 for allegedly raping a victim "between the age of 12 and 16." Dallas County's district attorney reportedly confirmed that Ellis is facing charges related to the 2013 investigation. A local news outlet covering the Dollar General shooting updated its account to include this fact, which was also appeared in an account on Guns.com.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared film executive Harvey Weinstein, who is Jewish, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels over Weinstein's plan to make an anti-NRA film.
Weinstein recently appeared on Howard Stern's radio show and announced he was planning to take the NRA "head on" with a new film project involving Meryl Streep.
Appearing on the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company on January 16, Nugent said viewers of Weinstein's film "will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky is alive in the form a fat punk named Harvey Weinstein and as he tries to destroy the NRA it will backfire on him."
Nugent also called Weinstein a "subhuman punk," a "brain-dead idiot," "a descendant of the ultimate putz," and added, "I don't know if Harvey Weinstein has had a lifetime of drug and substance abuse, but he certainly sounds like it. You have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nuremberg [Germany] in 1938 are a desirable condition." He concluded, "Harvey Weinstein is on the side of criminals. The NRA is on the side of innocent victims protecting themselves from criminals."
Daily segments on NRA News that push the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime recently celebrated the actions of a shooter who police want charged with a felony and the case of a man whose murder conviction for shooting his tenant under disputed circumstances was recently overturned.
"The Armed Citizen File" and "Hero of the Day" are daily features on NRA News' televised show on The Sportsman Channel and radio show on SiriusXM, respectively. In both segments, host Cam Edwards shares media accounts of defensive gun use, which often conclude with the demise of alleged criminals. Online gun retailer ChaperThanDirt.com sponsors "The Armed Citizen File" segment.
NRA News host Cam Edwards attacked laws to prevent children from accessing guns by positing that there should be no criminal penalty even when an admittedly careless adult allows a child access to a gun that the child then uses to kill themselves.
On the January 6 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards attacked Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts for advocating for state laws that create a criminal penalty for adults that negligently allow children access to firearms. In an interview with USA Today, Watts cited the fact that only 15 states have child access prevention laws and contended, "This idea that a shooting that involves a toddler is accidental is asinine. If I was drinking and driving and hit my son, I would immediately go to jail. But if I left my firearm on the top of the refrigerator and he found it and shot himself, everyone says, what a horrible accident."
Edwards responded to Watts' USA Today interview by suggesting that if "you are careless with a firearm and one of your own children accidentally kills themself" that the "horror" of the incident alone would be sufficient punishment for the adult. But in arguing against laws that criminalize negligently allowing children to access guns, Edwards ignores that research has shown that these laws are associated with a reduction in gun deaths among children resulting from accidents and suicide.
Viewing gun rights as under attack after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its backers in conservative media spent 2013 using inflammatory rhetoric to attack critics and promote an uncompromising pro-gun agenda.
Both the NRA and its conservative media allies frequently attempted to draw modern-day parallels between Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during the Holocaust and the Obama administration's post-Newtown proposal to advance gun safety. One ugly event at the NRA's annual meeting saw the NRA's main political opponent illustrated as a Nazi, leading to condemnation from Jewish organizations.
Even victims of gun violence and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook could not escape the wrath of right-wing media, who insultingly called them "props" of the Obama administration, as if they were unable to think for themselves. The NRA similarly politicized the armed protection of President Obama's daughters in a widely criticized TV spot.
Ted Nugent, perhaps the best known member of NRA leadership, turned heads when he dubbed Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" after the deceased Florida teenager's killer was acquitted. Even given his past racially inflammatory rhetoric, Nugent shocked many by piling on his Martin comment with a weeks-long tirade in which he endorsed racial profiling and claimed that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence." The NRA declined to comment.
The year also featured a number of bizarre claims from the NRA, including the host of an NRA-produced television show comparing critics of his elephant hunting to Hitler, NRA head Wayne LaPierre's claim that gun ownership was essential to "survival," and NRA past-president Marion Hammer's comparison of an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination.
What follows are 12 lowlights from a year punctuated by extreme NRA rhetoric: