Conservative media are freaking out after Jay Leno canceled an upcoming gig at the gun industry's 2015 trade show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) SHOT Show, calling the comedian a "coward" who has "no spine." The NSSF had responded to the deadly 2012 school shooting in the association's hometown of Newtown, CT, by opposing all proposed gun safety measures.
The National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media are attempting to downplay the significance of an "historic" victory for gun safety in Washington state, where voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales.
On November 4, Washington voters backed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members. In doing so, Washingtonians closed a loophole in federal law that allowed guns to be bought without a background check at gun shows, over the Internet, and through other venues from non-licensed sellers.
Voters also rejected I-591, a competing initiative that would have prohibited the enactment of any background check law that was stricter than the loophole-riddled federal law. The NRA stayed neutral on 591 and spent nearly $500,000 opposing 594.
Journalists labeled the successful ballot initiative approach to a background check law as "historic," while the head of Everytown for Gun Safety, a prominent backer of I-594, said the outcome "proved the polls right -- when Americans vote on public safety measures to prevent gun violence, gun safety wins."
Prior to Election Day, an NRA spokesperson expressed concern about the potential passage of I-594 stating, "If [gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg] is successful in this ballot initiative in Washington, we are very concerned that he will replicated this across the country and we will have ballot initiative like this one across the country. That is why we are so concerned."
In an attempt to spin the unfavorable outcome, conservative media and the NRA are offering weak arguments to downplay the significance of this major victory for gun safety advocates:
NRA News host Cam Edwards provided a platform for a guest to push a sexist attack against prominent gun safety advocate Shannon Watts in which the guest called Watts a "shrill harridan" and said she "stripped the most basic and threshold abilities of a man" from her husband.
On the October 9 edition of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, guest and conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter claimed that Watts, who founded gun safety group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, had stripped her husband "of the most basic and threshold abilities of a man; that is to defend his self, his family and his community, by being married to this shrill harridan." Schlichter was unfavorably comparing Watts to actress Annette Bening's American Beauty character Carolyn Burnham, provoking Edwards' laughter.
The National Rifle Association's media arm is defending a Maryland sheriff who warned that the enforcement of gun laws could lead to a civil war between his county and the federal government.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made national headlines in September after telling a local news station, "As long as I'm the sheriff in this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my citizens of their right to bear arms. I can tell you this, if they attempt to do that, it would be an all-out civil war, no question about it."
According to USA Today, Lewis made similar comments to a Delaware NBC affiliate, warning of a civil war with the federal government over the enforcement of a hypothetical ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In response to Lewis' comments, gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) launched a petition calling for the revocation of Lewis' Maryland Police Training Commission certification. According to CSGV, "It is difficult to see how a law enforcement officer who is threatening to wage war with the United States government meets any recognized standards of public service. In the wake of his threatening comments, Sheriff Lewis should not be given the responsibility of training law enforcement officers in Maryland."
The NRA's media arm, NRA News, responded to CSGV's petition, terming it "pathetic" and downplaying the inflammatory nature of Lewis' comments.
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that CSGV was trying to "silence" Lewis "because of the sheriff speaking up the way he has." Edwards also offered a two-fold defense of Lewis' civil war comments that sought to downplay their nature.
The National Rifle Association is commenting on NFL player Ray Rice's violent attack on his then-fiancée, speciously claiming that gun safety advocates are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football." This wild attack comes as the NRA is actively opposing legislation in the U.S. Senate to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
The NRA weighed in on controversy surrounding Rice in a September 17 video commentary narrated by NRA News commentator Colion Noir.
Noir sought to contrast how the New Jersey judicial system has treated Rice -- who was allowed to enter a pre-trial intervention program despite video evidence showing him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious -- and the case of Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen.
In 2013, Allen was arrested after being found in possession of a handgun during a traffic stop in New Jersey. Allen's weapon was legally registered in Pennsylvania, where she lived, but she was apparently unaware that New Jersey does not recognize Pennsylvania concealed carry permits.
Due to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that could put Allen in prison for years, critics on the right and left have brought attention to the case as an example of overzealous prosecution. In a recent development, prosecutors are reviewing the charge against Allen to determine if she can avoid jail time and enter a pre-trial intervention program; a seemingly equitable outcome for this inadvertent violation of the law.
While criticizing the manner in which Allen's case has been handled, Noir made a bizarre leap of logic to claim that "all anti-gunners around the world" are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football of course," because of the Ray Rice case. Noir also claimed that "anti-gun utopia" is a world where "a mother of two kids, is faced with three years in jail for trying to protect herself, but isn't afforded the same second chance that some knuckle-dragging hothead who 'Tiger Uppercuts' his fiancée into a momentary coma is given."
Amidst the National Rifle Association's ongoing outreach effort recruiting women, the gun group's radio show ran a segment that dismissed "so many" campus sexual assault cases as "two people being drunk at a party hooking up and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning."
Since the re-launch of the NRA Women's Network in 2013, the NRA has greatly increased its outreach to women, a demographic that is far less likely to own guns than men and more likely to support firearm regulations the NRA opposes. Women are also disproportionately targeted by men with gun violence, often in the domestic violence context.
The September 5 edition of the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, featured a discussion of campus sexual assault that misled on campus sexual assault statistics and suggested women bore some responsibility for being assaulted if they were drinking.
NRA News host Cam Edwards hosted the Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow to discuss a National Public Radio story about men accused of sexual assault on campus who say they did not receive adequate due process during disciplinary proceedings.
While the National Rifle Association has been conspicuously silent on a gun accident at an Arizona shooting range that left an instructor dead, the NRA's media arm -- NRA News -- criticized the "great deal of exploitative coverage" and dismissed those who believe a "larger lesson" can be drawn from the tragedy.
On August 25 a 9-year-old girl firing a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun at an Arizona gun range lost control of the weapon, leading to the fatal shooting of a range instructor. The accident quickly became national news and touched off debate over the appropriateness of letting children handle automatic weapons. The latest developments indicate that the child complained about the Uzi's recoil and indicated the weapon was "too much" for her moments after the fatal accident.
On the August 29 edition of the NRA News show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards acknowledged that "as a media person" he understands why the accident has garnered so much attention, but also claimed "anti-gun advocates in the media" were using the story to try to prevent children from learning about firearms.
The NRA does not like it when high-profile incidents of gun violence make national headlines. The group recently warned supporters of the media "trick" of using the word "shooting" to describe mass shooting incidents, following a mass killing in Isla Vista, California. After a 2013 incident where a 2-year-old girl was accidentally killed by her 5-year-old brother with a child-sized rifle made national headlines, Edwards criticized the "mass media," claiming they were covering the story as part of a "campaign of shame" and "wanted to make a point that this is what happens in Bumpkinville."
Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association's media outlets are undermining the organization's political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker's Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts "as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!" The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women -- in a series titled "Good Guys" -- promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of "Mom and Dad"; one stars a woman emphasizing the "courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to "keep your hands off our guns."
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that "guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women," falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN's S.E. Cupp, The Blaze's Dana Loesch, and Fox News' Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA's annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Cam Edwards, host of the National Rifle Association's news show, claimed that after Hurricane Katrina residents of the New Orleans neighborhood Algiers "were looking out for each other by walking the streets armed with firearms." But according to a federal hate crimes indictment and numerous media reports, after Katrina white gun-toting vigilantes in Algiers targeted African-Americans with racially motivated violence.
Edwards made the comments about Algiers during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment on his news show Cam & Company that uses anecdotal accounts of self-defense with a gun to create the false impression that guns are used more often to prevent rather than commit crimes. The Katrina comparison came during a discussion of a recent self-defense shooting in Algiers. Edwards praised locals' "attitude of being able to protect yourself and the ones you love," and claimed that individuals used firearms after Katrina to make sure "there was no looting, no robbing, no burglaries."
According to an expose published in The Nation, after Katrina some residents of the largely undamaged Algiers Point -- an affluent "white enclave" in the "predominately black" Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans -- shot African-Americans who passed through the neighborhood while fleeing the historic storm's destruction:
The National Rifle Association is trying to smooth over the extreme ideas presented in a recent video suggesting children should have to receive mandatory gun training "to advance to the next grade" by mischaracterizing the video and airing a deceptively cropped version of it on NRA News.
In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" as a requirement to advance in school:
JOHNSON: Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.
Johnson's suggestion children would have to become proficient with a gun to move on in school was widely ridiculed. Now the NRA is responding to critics with the misleading suggestion that Johnson was merely talking about the importance of teaching children gun safety.
Johnson appeared on the July 24 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel to defend his video. Host Cam Edwards started the conversation by saying, "One of the things that specifically the anti-gunners are flipping out about is [Johnson's] suggestion that if we had a national gun policy, that again, embraced our right to keep and bear arms, one of the things we might be talking about is educating kids about how to be safe and responsible with a firearm, regardless of whether or not their parents were gun owners. That thought ... has really got people on the anti-gun side of the equation freaked out. They're saying that you're demanding compulsory education of firearms training for kids, they are wondering why on earth any child would need to know how to be safe and responsible with a firearm and I find it fascinating because they're ignoring the fact that there are already hundreds of thousands of kids across this country who are safely and responsibly learning about firearms."
National Rifle Association board member John Cushman alleged that the number of shooting victims in New York City is up over the past month because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "wanted them up."
Cushman appeared on NRA News program Cam & Company on June 10 to discuss a recent New York Post article that reported the number of shooting victims in New York City is up 43 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Overall the Post reports that shootings are up in New York City 13 percent this year. A Reuters article further noted that in New York City, "the murder rate is on track to hit a 50-year low, a statistical paradox that experts said reflects quick medical response." While any increase in shootings is a serious issue that should be addressed, the uptick will not threaten New York City's status as "the safest big city in America." In 2013 PolitiFact found New York City to be the safest among the 25 most populous cities in the United States.
New York City has some of the most rigorous gun laws nationwide, which were championed by former mayor and prominent gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg and continue to receive support from de Blasio. In 2013 the number of shootings and gun homicides in New York City reached "historic lows."
During Cam & Company host Cam Edwards and John Cushman both blamed the increase in shootings on what Edwards termed "New York City's gun laws that make it prohibitive in a lot of cases, and outright impossible in some cases, for law abiding folks to own a firearm for self-defense." (Actually Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010 held law-abiding people have a right to keep a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.)
Cushman charged that the number of reported shooting victims went up because de Blasio "wanted them up." Referencing de Blasio and Bloomberg, he added, "They are all out for some reason to disarm everybody with this screwboy notion that if we take guns away from everybody, we will cut crime."
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."
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.