The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog failed to disclose a writer's relationship with the National Rifle Association, whose piece offered a false attack on expanded background check legislation.
The Volokh Conspiracy is a blog operated by law professor Eugene Volokh that has been published on the Post website since January 2014. The blog is editorially independent from the Post and describes its contributors as "generally libertarian, conservative, centrist, or some mixture of these."
In a November 2 post, writer David Kopel attacked a common version of expanded background check legislation with the false claim that such legislation criminalizes benign activities such as merely handing a friend a gun to look at. He was identified by the site as "Research Director, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado; Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C; and Adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law, Denver University, Sturm College of Law" and "author of 15 books and 90 scholarly journal articles."
That description ignores Kopel's longstanding ties with the NRA, which include large grants given by the NRA to the Independence Institute and Kopel's frequent contribution as a writer to NRA publications. Kopel most recently contributed to the NRA's paranoid and inflammatory America's 1st Freedom magazine in the November 2015 issue.
According to an investigation of Kopel's relationship with the NRA by journalist Frank Smyth, "Kopel has managed to establish himself as an independent authority on gun policy issues even though he and his Independence Institute have received over $1.42 million including about $175,000 a year over eight years from the NRA."
Following the publication of Smyth's exposé, The New York Times added language to an opinion piece submitted by Kopel to indicate that the Independence Institute "has received grant money from the National Rifle Association's Civil Rights Defense Fund."
But the Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog made no such disclosure, even though his post helps advance the NRA's agenda in several ways. Kopel uses the Volokh Conspiracy to give credence to the NRA's go-to argument against expanded background check legislation, attacks by name NRA opponent Everytown for Gun Safety for favoring such legislation, and specifically attacks legislative language in an upcoming ballot initiative in Nevada that the NRA opposes.
Moreover, Kopel's claim about expanded background check legislation is baseless.
The NRA previously attacked the legislative language discussed in Kopel's post as it was enacted in Washington state in 2014 via a ballot initiative and in legislation in Oregon in 2015 by claiming that the language was drafted in way that -- either through nefarious design or drafting incompetence -- turned many routine activities involving a gun into crimes.
Law enforcement officials charged with enforcing background check laws have rejected these hysterical claims, calling them "semantics" arguments. And the NRA and other opponents of expanded background checks have been unable to provide reporters examples of gun owners being prosecuted over technicalities of the law.
Following the publication of this post, the Volokh Conspiracy blog added the following language to Kopel's biography: "Kopel is an NRA-certified safety instructor. The Independence Institute has received NRA contributions."
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.
On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
David Kopel, a gun activist who frequently writes for the National Rifle Association's publications, has been identified by Denver Fox affiliate KDVR/FOX31 as a source for a fake story about a gun executive who was supposedly detained after being misidentified as a terrorist.
Kopel, who is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver's law school, is currently representing a group of sheriffs who seek to overturn Colorado's newly enacted gun violence prevention laws. In January, Kopel testified against stronger gun laws before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to a May 22 article, Kopel put KDVR in touch with a woman who claimed that Daniele Perazzi, an executive for Italian shotgun company who actually died in 2012, had been taken in for questioning by police in Denver after a cab driver misidentified him as a terrorist. It later became apparent that the woman, identified as Korrine Aguirre, fabricated the account.
KDVR reported that Kopel "first told FOX31 Denver" about the incident and referred them to Aguirre, "who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story." The news outlet was also in touch with NRA board member Steve Schreiner, who claimed to be at the Colorado Gun Collectors Association show, where Perazzi was supposedly heading to when he was accused of being a terrorist:
Two trusted sources who told FOX31 Denver that an Italian gun company executive was questioned by local law enforcement after a Denver cab driver thought he might be a terrorist now say they were misled.
David Kopel, a nationally-recognized Second Amendment attorney with the Independence Institute in Denver, first told FOX31 Denver about the alleged incident Saturday. He referred us to Korrine Aguirre, who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story.
Steve Schreiner, a Colorado board member of the National Rifle Association, told us he was at the gun show. He said Aguirre told him about the alleged questioning of Perazzi by police.
FOX31 Denver News Director Ed Kosowski has acknowledged, "More steps should have been taken to corroborate Aguirre's story and verify information provided by Kopel and Schreiner."
The latest cover story from the National Rifle Association magazine America's 1st Freedom pushes a baseless conspiracy that a proposed United Nations treaty to prevent the diversion of weapons to human rights abusers will be used by "the minions of tyrannical and thieving governments" to achieve "total disarmament of freedom-loving people all over the world."
In reality, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) seeks to address the fact that as many as 500,000 people are killed in armed violence each year worldwide by implementing -- on an international scale -- arms trade standards that are already used in the United States.
The piece, titled "Siege," was authored by gun advocate David Kopel and shares pages in the February 2013 edition of America's 1st Freedom with an unhinged article by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that calls upon Americans to buy firearms to ensure their "survival."
Despite Kopel's claim that U.N. officials will deviously interpret the ATT to disarm civilian populations and ultimately "destroy much of what remains of lawful gun ownership," the treaty explicitly disallows such interference by the U.N. in the sovereign affairs of nations. The latest draft of the ATT expressly prohibits the imposition of domestic firearms regulations upon parties to the treaty by "[r]eaffirming the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems."
Volokh Conspiracy blogger and gun activist David Kopel denied that there is a link between firearm availability and homicide, while distorting statistics to downplay the effectiveness with which other industrialized nations prevent gun violence.
Kopel made his comments on the December 3 edition of CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, during a discussion of the murder-suicide involving NFL player Jovan Belcher. After NBC sportscaster Bob Costas favorably quoted a FoxSports.com column that noted "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and [his victim] Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today," on Sunday Night Football, conservatives in media responded in force with false claims denying the epidemic of gun violence in America.
This pattern continued on Piers Morgan, with Kopel claiming that "there is no relation, scientifically in social science, between the number of guns and the homicide rate." To the contrary, research conducted at the Harvard Injury ControlResearch Center found that "states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide."