Conservative media and the National Rifle Association's increasing insistence that victims of mass shootings should have been armed is beginning to sound a lot like blaming the victim.
The familiar right-wing talking point has emerged again, as America grapples with yet another instance of mass public violence. This time a man opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood health center with an AK-47-style assault weapon, killing three people -- including a police officer -- while leaving nine others wounded.
The pronouncements from gun advocates in the media were all too familiar. On Fox News, a network contributor asked, "What if more people had guns there, guys? What if people could've defended themselves?"
Similar commentary was heard from the NRA's media arm, NRA News, where a guest said during the first broadcast following the Planned Parenthood shooting, "I would have loved it if somebody who worked at Planned Parenthood, or one of the patients, or somebody who was waiting had a concealed carry permit and was able to stop this guy before he killed three people and injured nine or ten others," garnering agreement from NRA News host Cam Edwards.
These claims wrongly imply that it is the responsibility of mass shooting victims to stop their would-be killers as opposed to society's responsibility to stop would-be killers from accessing weapons that make mass murder possible.
The argument that victims of gun violence should have been armed entered the spotlight in December 2012 with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's commentary on the murder of Kasandra Perkins by her boyfriend, NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher. According to LaPierre, "The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer." (Perkins did actually own guns.)
Just weeks later, members of conservative media raised eyebrows by insisting armed teachers could have stopped the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. As high-profile mass shootings have continued unabated since then, the argument has become increasingly loud, and in some cases increasingly ugly.
After a mass shooting claimed the lives of nine worshipers at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June, a member of the NRA's board of directors and the head of the extremist Gun Owners of America group both criticized the victims for being unarmed, citing slain pastor Clementa Pinckney's advocacy for stronger gun laws.
And after a man killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, in October, NRA board member Ted Nugent claimed that unarmed victims of mass shootings are "losers," while presidential candidate Ben Carson remarked of the gunman, "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me."
The notion that victims bear the responsibility of preventing crimes committed against them has long lurked in the conservative media and NRA consciousness, and claims surrounding the victims of the Planned Parenthood attack indicate that this argument is not about to go away.
But even if this type of claim from conservative media and the NRA didn't wrongly shift the onus toward victims to stop their own murders, the argument is not based in reality.
According to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period, not a single one was stopped by a civilian with a firearm. Simulations of mass shootings also offer little hope that more concealed guns will prevent these attacks.
The United States has so many mass shootings and also so many guns and so many concealed carry permits, but the notion that victims of mass shootings will use guns to take out their attackers has not borne itself out as a reliable real-world solution to the problem of mass violence -- and the insistence that victims should have armed themselves wrongly shifts the burden toward those who are killed as opposed to the killers and the policies that arm them.
Fox & Friends presented emerging smart gun technology as "fascinating," reliable, and not vulnerable to hacking in a segment that highlighted a shotgun that can only be fired by an authorized user who wears a special ring.
The National Rifle Association claims that it does not oppose the development of smart gun technology, but in practice it often raises unfounded concerns that the technology is unreliable or could be disabled by hackers. The NRA has also promoted the conspiracy theory that the government could use the technology to take control of private firearms to implement a de facto ban on gun ownership.
A November 24 segment on Fox & Friends featured an interview with Jonathan Mossberg, the inventor of a "Magnetic Tag-enabled shotgun," that debunked these myths.
According to Mossberg's website, authorized users for the firearm wear a ring and "when the ring comes in close range to the normal ring-finger placement on the firearm's stock, the iGun compares a unique code from the ring to the gun to see if there is a match. If the code matches, the trigger unlocks" and the gun can be fired.
Proponents of smart guns promote the technology as a way to prevent unauthorized users -- such as children or someone trying to access a law enforcement officer's gun -- from accessing a weapon.
A segment on the November 24 broadcast of Fox & Friends opened by comparing smart gun technology with something that might be seen in a James Bond movie. Fox News "CyberGuy" Kurt Knutsson participated in a demonstration of the technology with Mossberg and concluded, "I tested it out, I can tell you right now that guns are about to become a lot like an iPhone where you could just simply use your fingerprint to open a gun, or even in this case you use a ring."
During the demonstration Knutsson attempted to fire Mossberg's shotgun, but was unable to do so. He then passed the firearm to Mossberg, who was able to fire the gun instantly because he was wearing a ring for an authorized user.
After the demonstration, Mossberg explained that people who oppose the technology are "people that jump to conclusions, that don't do homework, and don't do research are against it. You may not want to buy one. That's fine. But don't be against it."
Mossberg's explanation of the unfounded reasons people oppose smart gun technology sounds like a summation of the attacks on the technology from the NRA's media arm, NRA News. (Interestingly, Mossberg's family operates O.F. Mossberg & Sons, a sponsor of the NRA News web series Noir.)
In contrast to the successful demonstration of the technology on Fox News, the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company has spread false information about the failure rate of the technology, featured content suggesting smart guns are a "dumb idea" and that "gun owners won't trust an electronic firearm to save the day," and hosted guests to claim the technology doesn't work. The NRA's online magazine America's 1st Freedom has endlessly criticized smart gun technology, recently describing it as "floundering."
These attacks are baseless -- market-ready smart guns have a similar mechanical failure rate compared to firearms that do not have the technology.
The Fox & Friends segment also addressed claims that the technology could be hacked by criminals or by the government for nefarious purposes. Knutsson explained, "The fact is, this particular technology right here, 15 million combinations to that ring is what it would take to hack through it."
"The people who hate technology, smart guns, they think that big bad government can shut my guns down. Mine does not work on WiFi, mine does not work on any signal other than this far apart," added Mossberg, demonstrating the distance between his thumb and index finger.
NRA News has promoted the type of conspiratorial claims described by Mossberg. In April 2014, conservative media distorted comments made by then-Attorney General Eric Holder about smart gun technology similar to Mossberg's -- it would use a bracelet rather than a ring -- to claim that the government wanted to track gun owners using the technology. Conservative media falsely claimed Holder promoted "tracking" bracelets, when instead the purpose of the bracelet Holder discussed was to send a signal to the firearm authorizing its use.
Despite being a complete distortion of what Holder said, NRA News hosted multiple guests to push the conspiracy theory, with one guest claiming, "For some reason they feel like they need to keep an eye on where your gun is and where my gun is, and Eric Holder can do pretty much whatever he wants with government funds."
The NRA's publication American Rifleman also promoted the conspiracy theory that "a criminal, a hacker or even a government agency could turn your gun on or off anytime they wanted" if smart gun technology was adopted. The author of the article appeared on NRA News to claim the technology could be hijacked by "politicians, let's be frank, who would just as soon ban all handguns."
During the Fox & Friends segment, Mossberg and Kilmeade both expressed opposition to legislation that would mandate the adoption of the technology, which is in line with the NRA's position, but nonetheless Kilmeade concluded the segment by describing Mossberg's invention as "fascinating."
Fox & Friends' treatment of smart gun technology stands in sharp contrast to previous coverage of the technology on Fox & Friends; the show was one of many conservative media outlets to push the conspiracy theory about Holder and "gun tracking bracelets."
Several conservative media outlets cited a recent study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine to conclude that gun laws do not effectively deter criminals from obtaining firearms, even though the study actually found that gun laws in Chicago make it harder for criminals to acquire firearms by increasing opportunity costs. The study's authors are now speaking out against media misrepresentations of their work.
The host of the National Rifle Association's radio show reacted to the fatal shooting of two journalists in Virginia by attacking "anti-gun politicians" and "anti-gun activists" for using the tragedy to call for stronger gun laws, claiming they "politicized" it and demonstrated "a lack of shared humanity."
But not only is the NRA hypocritical for saying gun policy debates should be off-limits after a shooting -- it has used mass shootings to call for looser gun laws -- it's also self-serving, because its political agenda benefits when potential new laws that it opposes are not debated and discussed.
The NRA's declaration that this is not the time to discuss gun policy also stands in stark contrast to comments made just hours after the shooting by the father of one of the victims, who said publicly that he will make it his life's work to convince politicians to close loopholes in gun laws.
During the morning of August 26, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, of Roanoke, Virginia's ABC affiliate station WDBJ, were gunned down while doing a live report from a recreation area. The shooter, who later that day committed suicide, was a disgruntled former co-worker. The tragedy quickly made national headlines and prompted calls for stronger gun laws and action by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife (D).
Later that same day during an afternoon broadcast, Cam Edwards, host of the NRA radio show, Cam & Company, lashed out at people who consider this latest incident of shocking public gun violence as more evidence the nation needs stronger gun laws.
Edwards complained, "Before we know any of the details, we are seeing anti-gun politicians, anti-gun activists trying to turn this tragedy into some sort of political advantage," and went on to characterize calls for new gun laws as "the wrong response to take here. I think it shows a lack of shared humanity."
He went on to lament, "It has been really disheartening to see in a matter of minutes how this story became politicized," and said, "This is a community that is absolutely heartbroken right now and you've got people who are trying to turn this tragedy into some sort of political advantage for them[selves]. I just think it's gross."
That reaction typifies the gun group's strategy whenever a shooting captures national headlines. Hiding behind expressions of concern for the victims of the attack, the NRA condemns anyone who sees the violence as a reason to change or reform laws and accuses them of "politicizing" a tragedy.
This argument is nonsensical. As Ezra Klein explained for The Washington Post following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, saying that it's not appropriate to talk about new gun laws "is a form of politicization":
When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid "politicizing" the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for "don't talk about reforming our gun control laws."
Let's be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It's just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
With statements that attempt to police what can and can't be said following a shooting, the NRA not only seeks to shut down debate that could lead to tougher gun laws, it also purports to speak for the victims and their family members.
But no one who has been personally affected by gun violence needs the NRA to speak for them. Certainly not Parker's father, who appeared on Fox News the night his daughter was shot and made an impassioned plea for gun reform.
Noting that he had spoken by phone with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Andy Parker said: "I'm going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns," adding that McAullife told him, "I'm right there with you":
ANDY PARKER: And, you know, I'm not going to let this issue drop. We've got to do something about crazy people getting guns. And, you know, and the problem that you guys have is that -- and I know it's the news business and this is a big story. But next week it isn't going to be a story anymore and everybody is going to forget it. But you mark my words, my mission in life -- and I talked to the governor today. He called me and he said -- and I told him, I said, I'm going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns. And he said, you go, I'm right there with you. So, you know, this is not the last you've heard of me. This is something that is Alison's legacy that I want to make happen.
Breitbart.com's John Nolte attacked actress and comedian Amy Schumer's recent call for gun safety measures, claiming that the Trainwreck star doesn't actually care about a mass shooting that occurred during a screening of her film, but rather that she hoped to cynically use the shooting as "a great opportunity" to advance her career.
Two women were killed and nine other people were injured after a gunman opened fire during a screening of Trainwreck at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana on July 23. The gunman, who had a history of domestic violence and bizarre behavior, committed suicide.
Following up on her pledge to engage on the issue of gun violence following the shooting, Schumer appeared alongside her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), at a press conference to promote new legislation to ensure that disqualifying records are submitted by states into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bill includes other measures to address substance abuse and mental health issues.
During the Aug. 3 press conference, Amy Schumer said, "We're here today to say is enough is enough. To mass shootings in our schools, our college campuses, our military bases, and even in our movie theaters. These shootings have got to stop." She continued, "For me, the pain I share with so many other Americans on the issue of gun violence was made extremely personal to me on Thursday, July 23 when ... he sat down for my movie, Trainwreck, at the Grand Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two lives were tragically lost and others injured and I've thought about these victims each day since the tragedy."
A visibly emotional Schumer concluded her remarks by saying, "These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence, but I can promise you they will not be my last."
On the Aug. 3 broadcast of the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company, Breitbart News editor-at-large John Nolte attacked Schumer's motives, claiming that she did not care about the shooting but rather wished to use the tragedy to advance her career.
According to Nolte, Schumer sees the mass shooting as "a great opportunity, this occurred at my movie and now the focus is on me, and what can I do to enhance my career."
"If she had any moral courage and she actually cared about what happened she would come out and she would say, 'Listen putting a sign on a movie theater that says no one inside it is armed, that this is a gun-free zone, is stupid.' She has the power to do this. She could make jokes about how stupid these gun-free zones are," Nolte continued.
Instead, Schumer "is dressing up like she is a grown-up and she's just exploiting the situation because it's an opportunity for her to maybe increase her box office over the weekend," he said, calling her advocacy "cowardly."
Nolte continued to claim that Schumer was using the shooting to advance her career, saying, "She's not thinking, she's just trying to please the right people to enhance her career. And she also -- there is a lot Oscar talk around her movie and that probably has something to do with it, too. You go the Angelina Jolie route so everybody suddenly starts to take you seriously." Nolte said all he sees "is cynicism behind" Schumer's call for action.
Cam & Company host Cam Edwards said that he disagreed with Nolte's assessment and would not impugn Schumer with a cynical motive for her comments on gun violence. Nolte responded, "You're a nicer guy than I am, but I just see these unthinking Hollywood types and it just enrages me."
After a gunman killed nine people in a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, gun safety advocates responded with calls to expand the national background check system. Just as quickly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) reacted to those calls, slamming gun safety groups for "exploiting" the tragedy for "political purposes."
One month later, another gunman killed five members of the military at a naval facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The NRA was again quick to respond, but this time claimed the incident provided proof that firearm policies on military bases must be changed to loosen the rules about service members carrying guns.
So which is it? The NRA apparently thinks it is exploitative to discuss gun violence following mass shootings -- unless, of course, the discussion is about why we should loosen gun laws. Their stance on the issue changes based on how to best advance the organization's interests.
Following the mass murder at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, the NRA went into its post-mass shooting standard operating procedure -- shutting down its social media accounts and refusing to speak to the press. Two days later, the NRA's media arm addressed the shooting, with NRA News host Cam Edwards opining that it was "completely inappropriate" to discuss gun policies the day after the incident, adding, "I did not receive a single email communication chastising me or complaining that we should have been talking about policy and politics as opposed to remembering the victims in Charleston."
Soon, though, the NRA was forced to issue an official statement after one of its board members created controversy by blaming the shooting on the church's slain pastor, who was a supporter of gun safety policies.
While distancing itself from the board member's comments, the NRA claimed on June 20 that out of "respect" for the victims, "we do not feel that this is [a] appropriate time for a political debate," adding, "We will have no further comment until all the facts are known."
Three weeks later, the NRA did offer an additional comment on the Charleston shooting, following a push by gun safety advocates for expanded background checks. (It would later be revealed that the gunman was able to purchase a weapon despite being legally prohibited because of an NRA-backed loophole in federal law.) In a July 8 statement attacking gun safety groups, the NRA said, "gun control advocates are offering a solution that won't solve the problem. Even they admit that the legislation they are pushing wouldn't have prevented the tragic crimes they are exploiting for political purposes."
The NRA has continued to advance this narrative on the Charleston shooting and proposed gun law reforms. In a July 17 post on the website of its lobbying arm, the NRA lashed out at Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) after the South Carolina congressman proposed eliminating the NRA-backed loophole that helped arm the Charleston gunman.
Clyburn was "exploiting a recent tragedy" according to the NRA, which also said, "Gun control advocates are shameless in their willingness to exploit tragedy to achieve their agenda." The NRA re-published its attack on Clyburn at the conservative news website Daily Caller on July 19.
The very next day, the NRA's top lobbyist used the July 16 Chattanooga mass shooting to call for changes to gun laws, telling Military Times, "It's outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace. Congress should pursue a legislative fix to ensure that our service men and women are allowed to defend themselves on U.S. soil."
So when the NRA called for a policy change it claimed was justified by the Chattanooga shooting, was it exploiting those victims?
The fact is that after pretty much any high-profile national event, mass shooting or otherwise, policy debates are often triggered. In the NRA's hypocritical world view, however, calls for stronger gun laws are disrespectful, exploitative, and shameless -- while calls for less restrictions are sensible, timely, and relevant. Even worse, the gun group's post-shooting strategy operates from behind a façade of "respect" for the victims.
The NRA's doublespeak on Charleston and Chattanooga, however, reveals that its real concern is its own agenda.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation has found no evidence that the anti-fraud program "Operation Choke Point" targeted gun retailers, contrary to what conservative media outlets and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have long claimed.
Operation Choke Point was conceived as an anti-fraud program by the DOJ's Consumer Protection Branch in November 2012 based on the suspicion that some banks -- acting with knowledge or willful blindness -- entered into businesses relationships with individuals engaged in fraud. As an early memo explained, Choke Point was designed as "a strategy to attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters' access to the banking system."
Conservative media and the NRA have repeatedly insisted that Choke Point was part of a government conspiracy to target gun retailers -- based on the belief that the Obama administration is "anti-gun." But a new report from the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) -- the office responsible for "investigating allegations of misconduct involving Department attorneys" -- has decisively concluded "that the evidence did not demonstrate that Operation Choke Point" was used to target firearm sellers.
In January 2014, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into Choke Point to determine whether the program may have "inappropriately target[ed] two lawful financial services: third-party payment processing and online lending."
Although no mention of gun retailers was made during the first congressional inquiries, NRA News host Cam Edwards began connecting Choke Point to claims by some firearm retailers that banks were refusing to do business with them.
With no evidence to bear that claim out, Choke Point then became a regular topic of discussion by the NRA and conservative media, which characterized it as another Obama administration scandal. The anti-fraud program was discussed dozens of times on the NRA's radio and (since-cancelled) television show, and the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislation Action, offered frequent updates on the so-called scandal.
Choke Point was also widely reported on by the conservative Washington Times, which interviewed gun retailers who claimed their business relationships with banks had been terminated because of the program. (At the time, Media Matters exposed the dubiousness of these claims. For example, one gun retailer had his account terminated by his bank months before Choke Point was even proposed by DOJ.) The Washington Times editorial board declared, "Obama wants to use the banks to void the Second Amendment."
False claims about Choke Point's targets were also picked up by Fox News, with network contributor Katie Pavlich claiming that DOJ was "discriminating" against gun owners. As recently as April 13, Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher falsely reported on The Kelly File that "Operation Choke Point was created by the Obama administration to choke out businesses it finds objectionable, like gun shops, casinos, and tobacco sellers."
None of this is true, according to the DOJ OPR investigation, which examined "memoranda, subpoenas, and contemporaneous emails" related to the operation. The July 7 report found no evidence that Choke Point had "compelled banks to terminate business relationships" with firearm sellers (emphasis added):
OPR also concluded that the evidence did not demonstrate that Operation Choke Point compelled banks to terminate business relationships with other lawful businesses, a concern raised in your letter and the Staff Report. Indeed, OPR found no evidence establishing that any CPB attorney intentionally targeted any of the industries listed in the Staff Report (including credit repair companies, debt consolidation and forgiveness programs, online gambling-related operations, government grant or will-writing kits, pornography, online tobacco or firearms sales, pharmaceutical sales, sweepstakes, magazine subscriptions, etc.). None of the subpoenas or memoranda issued or drafted in connection with Operation Choke Point focused on specific categories of purportedly fraudulent businesses, except for fraudulent Internet payday lending, to the limited extent discussed above. Moreover, the CPB attorneys' e-mail records contained no discussion or even mention of targeting any such specific industries.
As the report noted, there was no evidence that attorneys involved in Choke Point ever discussed firearm businesses at any time during Choke Point.
The Sportsman Channel has decided to not renew the National Rifle Association's (NRA) weekday news show, Cam & Company, ending the program's two-and-a-half year run on the outdoor-themed network.
The hour-long show served as a vehicle for the NRA's frequent misinformation and extremism on the issue of gun violence. During the June 26 broadcast, host Cam Edwards announced the end of the series, effective that day.
Edwards said, "Beginning next Monday, you will be seeing a different program here at 5 p.m. Eastern on Sportsman Channel. We do want to thank all the folks at Sportsman Channel for our time here on the program. I wish I -- there's no drama, there's no dramatic backstory to this. It's just one of those decisions that has happened."
The NRA's three-hour weekday radio show, also called Cam & Company, will continue to air at NRANews.com and on SiriusXM.
Cam & Company debuted on Sportsman Channel on January 15, 2013. In a press release, the network claimed the show would be "the one and only news-talk series on television that can authoritatively address the issues that are vital to America's more than 80 million sportsmen and sportswomen."
In a nod to the fact that the show debuted just one month after the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, the release stated, "With national passions running high on the issue of firearms ownership and rights in America, the series launch is especially timely."
The NRA's executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre added, "The partnership expansion of these two great American brands, the Sportsman Channel and the NRA, comes at a critical time in the history of preserving our Second Amendment freedom."
The launch of the show kicked off a growing partnership between Sportsman Channel and the NRA, with the network participating in both the 2014 and 2015 NRA annual meetings. In January 2015, Sportsman Channel was acquired by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, a media company that has a "strategic partnership" with the NRA through its Outdoor Channel.
In a June 24 press release, Sportsman Channel announced several changes to its lineup for the third quarter, including 13 new series, beginning on June 29.
Sportsman Channel issued the following statement to Media Matters about the end of the Cam & Company television show:
We have enjoyed our relationship with Cam & Company and appreciate their efforts over the 2 1/2 years they were on our air. Sportsman Channel was proud to be the first network to take the forward step to air a daily show focused on our second amendment rights. Unfortunately, we are not able to continue with the program. We continue to support Cam & Company and the NRA, as well as to air a robust schedule of the best in class firearms programming.
Viewers can continue to watch the Cam & Company show on NRANews.com from 2-5 p.m. each weekday. Also, previously aired shows and interviews are available at http://www.nranews.com/cam/list/cam-company and podcasts can be found on iHeartRadio and iTunes. In addition, Cam & Company is simulcast on SiriusXM.
The complete schedule can be viewed at www.nranews.com/cam/list/cam-and-co-schedule.
Conservative media used the Supreme Court decision affirming that marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans to argue that the Constitution also requires states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states. But the Supreme Court has never held that carrying a gun in public is a fundamental right.
Conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly seized on the decision to draw a parallel with concealed carry reciprocity, a top federal legislative priority of the NRA. Reciprocity legislation, also known as federally mandated concealed carry, would force states to recognize permits to carry concealed guns issued by other states, regardless of what the issuing state's standards are for issuing permits.
Reciprocity legislation has been introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, but conservative media and the NRA view Obergefell as an opportunity to argue that the Constitution extends at least some right to reciprocal permit recognition regardless of whether Congress acts. The problem with that argument, however, is that the 2008 landmark Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller limited the scope of the Second Amendment right to gun possession to people's homes.
Despite this, on the June 26 broadcast of the NRA's news show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards made the argument that the marriage ruling "might present an additional argument to make at the legal level for extending reciprocity nationwide," remarking, "Since we're talking about licenses, a lot of gun owners are wondering, ok, does this, could this have an impact on the debate for instance over right-to-carry reciprocity?"
During an appearance on the National Rifle Association's radio show, conservative radio host Tony Katz said relatives of the victims of the Charleston church shooting showed "serious weakness" in forgiving the accused gunman and suggested that it would be justifiable to kill members of the gunman's family out of retribution.
On June 19 several family members of victims killed in a June 17 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, attended the first court appearance of the alleged gunman and forgave the man for killing members of their family.
Hours later Katz, who makes regular Friday appearances on the NRA program Cam & Company, reacted to the court appearance by calling the move to forgive not "a moment of strength" but rather "a moment of serious weakness that we do not respond with a 'you don't get to kill us, we kill you.'"
Katz continued, "As a matter of fact, we kill you tenfold, who's in your family today?" -- putting forward the suggestion that the family members of accused murderers should be murdered themselves in retribution.
He concluded by calling his reaction -- which included advocacy for the killing of innocent people -- "far more natural and in many ways far more decent than sometimes the reactions I see." Host Cam Edwards responded, "All right, far more natural I might agree with, far more decent, I don't -- I'm going to have to disagree with you there."
KATZ: Now we know me and we know you and others who may think about being attacked and put ourselves in positions not to be or at least be able to fight back, but that's what I come to and I get the fact, I get it, not everybody is going to agree with me, but I think that my reaction is far more natural and in many ways far more decent than sometimes the reactions I see.
EDWARDS: All right, far more natural I might agree with, far more decent, I don't -- I'm going to have to disagree with you there.
Katz previously appeared on NRA News to criticize the victims of several calamities, including Hurricane Katrina, for not doing enough to save themselves from death or injury.
Katz is not the first conservative figure to criticize those affected by the Charleston shooting. In a June 18 post on a pro-gun web forum, NRA board member Charles L. Cotton wrote that the victims "died because of" Reverend Clementa Pinckney's advocacy for gun safety laws. Pinckney was also killed in the attack.
During the June 24 broadcast of Tony Katz and the Morning News on 93.1 WIBC, Katz addressed his June 19 comments he made on NRA News about the Charleston shooting victims' family members forgiving the gunman. Katz said that he was "sickened," "disgusted," and "very bothered" by the forgiveness shown to the alleged perpetrator, but also said it was "probably wrong" of him to characterize the forgiveness given by victims' family members as "weakness" and that he was not "entitled" to say so.
He also said, "I think I did a poor job of pivoting, which has happened to me before, and I don't believe in hiding these things. I don't believe in saying, 'Oh, it's just one conversation, it's no big deal.' And some people will tell me, 'Tony, you dwell on this stuff too much.' I believe that if we're going to be honest with each other the only way to do that is to when you think you don't do it right, or you don't do it clearly, you go back and do it clearly. Let me say it again, and I don't apologize for what I said, I'm going to go for clarity. I look at forgiveness of somebody who murders your family not as a virtue. I look at it and I say, 'I don't get it.'"
Katz also talked about his suggestion that it would be acceptable to murder members of the gunman's family out of retribution. During his June 19 appearance on NRA News, Katz said, "We do not respond with a 'you don't get to kill us, we kill you.' As a matter of fact, we kill you tenfold, who's in your family today?" During his June 24 WIBC broadcast, Katz said, "One of the non-journalistic organizations of the world, Media Matters for America, picked it up they called me bloodthirsty because they were discussing how I'm proactively wishing that these family members would go out and kill the family members of this murderer, Dylann Roof. Which is not-- it, it goes to a much larger conversation that I have, and that conversation is about being prepared for moments and being a society in which those who wish to do harm, because you can't stop people from doing harm if they really want to, you can't stop the sick, you can't stop the demented, but those who want to do harm, they should at least have to question whether or not they should do it to you."
Katz's full discussion of his comments:
The National Rifle Association is falsely characterizing a legislative proposal from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) that would allow felons to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for restoration of their gun ownership rights, saying the option would only be available to "non-violent felons."
In fact, any felon could apply to have their right to own a firearm restored under Buck's proposal, which is why the ATF program that used to provide that option was defunded in the early 1990s -- research showed that even violent felons had won their appeals, and in some cases went on to commit new violent crimes.
For the past 23 years, standard language in appropriations legislation -- first inserted by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- has prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. That longtime prohibition was challenged on June 2, however, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives adopted by voice vote a rider introduced by Buck that would re-fund the program.
During a floor speech, Buck argued for support by citing an example of a man who is prohibited from owning a gun because he wrote a bad check 40 years ago. He declared, "This bill does not intend in any way shape or form to allow a violent criminal to possess a firearm, only those non-violent criminals that ATF deems are not a danger."
But in fact, there is no language in the proposal that limits the right to appeal to non-violent felons. Buck's rider merely reverses the prohibition on funding, changing the words "none of the" funds to "such" funds in the following line: "Provided, That such funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code."
Despite this, the NRA and some conservative media outlets have run with the blatantly false talking point that the program would only apply to "non-violent felons" in coverage trumpeting Buck's proposal.
Following Loretta Lynch's historic confirmation as U.S. Attorney General, media have been silent about the implications for the National Rifle Association losing in a second consecutive high-profile nomination fight.
On April 23, Lynch was confirmed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 56 to 43 following a protracted effort by many Republicans in the Senate to stall or sink her confirmation. She will be the first African-American female attorney general in United States history.
A Media Matters review of major U.S. newspapers and television transcripts in Nexis and internal video archives following her confirmation did not identify any instance where the NRA was discussed in relation to Lynch.
But Lynch's confirmation provides more evidence that the NRA does not win every time. According to a tired -- and incorrect -- media narrative, the NRA is always successful in its federal lobbying efforts and also has the ability to punish legislators who refuse to support the gun group's agenda. Research on election outcomes has long-indicated, however, that the NRA in fact has little effect on politicians' Election Day results through endorsements or campaign spending.
Now the failure of the NRA to stop the confirmation of two high-profile Obama nominees -- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in December 2014 and now Lynch -- offers evidence that the NRA also does not always get its way in Congress
A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards lashed out at a Daily Tar Heel editorial that argued guns are not the solution to campus sexual assault by claiming that the "burden" of stopping sexual assaults and other violent crimes as they occur "is on the victim."
According to Edwards, "it is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
In a March 22 editorial, independent student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel criticized national group Students for Concealed Carry for raising the issue of campus sexual assault in a gambit to loosen rules on carrying guns on public campuses in North Carolina.
The Daily Tar Heel wrote, "Concealed weapons would not significantly reduce sexual assault and would create inadvertent risks within other forms of interpersonal violence," and added that proponents of guns on campus "could reinforce rape culture because the burden of stopping assault would be further placed upon women." Noting that guns increase the risk of homicide in domestic violence situations, the Tar Heel concluded that "[t]o reduce sexual assault, focus should be maintained on preventative programs that challenge rigid gender roles and promote healthy relationships as well as intervention trainings that teach peers to be active bystanders rather than on measures that will not solve the problem."
On the March 27 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards said the editorial "could only be written by somebody on that college campus without a lot of thought and experience in the real world" and that he was "dumber [for] having read" the editorial.
In particular, Edwards took issue with the Tar Heel's argument that telling women that they should carry guns to prevent sexual assault places the "burden" of preventing such attacks on those women. Edwards repeatedly argued that the "burden" of stopping all violent crimes -- including sexual assault -- was in fact on the victim.
Cam Edwards, the host of the National Rifle Association's television and radio shows, is backtracking on a claim in his biography that he is the recipient of a Heartland Emmy Award.
After being contacted by Media Matters about multiple biographies listing Edwards' Emmy claim, Edwards updated his bio to say he "shared in" an Emmy Award as part of a documentary crew. According to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Heartland Chapter, "only our official award-winners may" call themselves Emmy winners. Edwards is not listed as any of the five named crew members in the award citation.
The Heartland Chapter is one of 20 regional groups under the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences that annually gives out Emmy Awards for accomplishments in television. Prior to joining NRA News in 2004, Edwards worked in television and radio in Oklahoma, one of several regions covered by the Heartland Chapter.
Although it has since been changed, Edwards biography page at NRA listed him as the recipient of "the Heartland Chapter Emmy Ward [sic]." A similar biography on the website of NRA advertising agency Ackerman McQueen also lists Edwards as an Emmy winner.