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.
National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses "are OK with" sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol.
During the February 24 edition of the NRA News radio program Cam & Company, Edwards asserted that opponents of guns on campus believe that in "almost every sexual assault, there is alcohol involved," so a "gun wouldn't help." Because of this, Edwards said, opponents of guns on campus are "OK with some sexual assaults occurring when they could be prevented."
Edwards went on to describe the position of those who say that guns on campus are not a solution to sexual assault: "So what they're saying is, they are OK with real sexual assaults happening -- whether they acknowledge that they are saying this or not, ultimately their position is that they are OK with real sexual assaults happening because they are afraid of accidents that might take place if campus carry were allowed."
In fact, Edwards is mischaracterizing recent arguments against guns as a solution to campus sexual assault, which have pointed out that guns will not actually make women on campus safer.
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.