A profile of the gun industry's trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), published by The Hill credulously adopted false claims from the NSSF to discount the work of gun safety groups in improving the national background check system for firearms sales.
In a February 3, 2015, lobbyist profile of NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane, The Hill reported that, "Perhaps the NSSF's most surprising safety effort -- at least, to gun control advocates -- is its campaign to improve background checks," before describing an effort by NSSF to encourage states to submit more disqualifying records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an FBI-administered database used by federally licensed firearm dealers to process background checks on customers.
NICS has stopped more than 2 million prohibited purchasers from buying firearms over the past two decades, but the records contained within the system are incomplete, often due to failures by states to submit disqualifying records to NICS.
While the NSSF's efforts in improving NICS are laudable, The Hill credulously quoted false claims from Keane that suggested gun safety groups have played no role in improving NICS. According to Keane, gun safety groups funded by prominent gun safety supporter and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "don't actually do anything" to improve NICS while NSSF "put our money where our mouth is":
All gun dealers are required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to search for records that would make potential buyers ineligible to own a gun, such as those convicted of a crime. The system is notoriously unreliable, plagued by a lack of data and governed by a patchwork of state laws -- problems that all sides of the gun debate have long tried to fix.
Still, Keane argues that his organization is the only one with "boots on the ground."
"People will talk about it, most notably the Bloomberg-funded groups, but they don't actually do anything," he said. "We put our money where our mouth is."
A basic examination of the history of legislative efforts to improve NICS shows that Keane's claim is entirely untrue. Missing records in NICS came under major scrutiny following the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. The gunman in that incident passed a background check to purchase two firearms, even though he should have been flagged because of a disqualifying mental health record.
In a bi-partisan manner, Congress passed legislation called the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 that offered incentives for states to submit disqualifying records into NICS. In a 2008 letter, Bloomberg, writing on behalf of his gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which later became part of Everytown for Gun Safety), called on Congress to fully fund the legislation, which President George W. Bush signed into law.
Bloomberg's gun safety efforts have repeatedly made an issue of missing NICS records and have issued regular reports on progress to add missing records to NICS.
UPDATE: Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson expanded on Nugent's role during a January 28 appearance on WMAL's Mornings on the Mall. Carlson said Nugent will likely write a weekly column, adding: "I think he'll participate a lot. I really -- I like him. I mean, he's, you know, he's like a rock star with political views. So, you know, he doesn't hold back. And he says intemperate, sometimes borderline, demented things, but I think he's interesting, and I think he's a good guy, and I think he has actually some really informed, interesting opinions on the 2nd Amendment, and hunting, so I love the fact that he's working for us."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent says he has joined the opinion page of conservative website The Daily Caller. Nugent wrote in a January 27 Facebook post, "Proud to join Tucker Carlson & his DAILY CALLER team of truth, logic, commonsense, reality writers at this fine website," and linked to a column he wrote for that website that responded to recent criticism of the NRA.
It is unclear whether Nugent's piece was a one-time column or whether, as his Facebook comment suggests, he is now a paid regular contributor or staff columnist. Asked to clarify Nugent's role, Daily Caller executive editor Vince Coglianese responded sarcastically to Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp, saying only: "It was a common sense decision for us. We've long been associated with the political right, and we felt it was time to broaden our appeal with the sensible middle. We're paying him in venison." He did not respond to follow-up questions. A Daily Caller spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Daily Caller senior contributor Matt K. Lewis previously warned conservatives from associating with Nugent and other inflammatory conservative figures after Nugent was widely criticized for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
In a February 21, 2014, column -- headlined "The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Why conservatives are always defending the indefensible" -- Lewis wrote, "Like the girl who always falls for the guy who's bad for her, conservatives keep trusting the wrong people and making the same mistakes" before naming Nugent as an example.
A year after calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" at the gun industry's trade show, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent revisited the comment, claiming it was "probably much too delicate" before describing his rationale for using the term in an interview with Guns.com.
Nugent faced widespread criticism in 2014 after telling Guns.com at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, "I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America."
Fallout from the "subhuman mongrel" comment proved damaging for the high-profile member of NRA leadership. In February 2014, Nugent's mere appearance at a campaign event with then Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott caused a national media controversy. His appearance drew condemnation even from top Republicans. The following summer, several of Nugent's concerts were canceled by organizers who cited past comments made by Nugent. Music industry experts have suggested that Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric may hurt his ability to book concerts.
Nugent returned to the SHOT show this year, once again appearing as a representative of Outdoor Channel, where he is a spokesman and host. Outdoor Channel is one of the top sponsors of SHOT Show, which is hosted annually by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Speaking to Guns.com, Nugent described his "subhuman mongrel" comment as "precious" and "probably much too delicate." In remarks that echoed the NRA's anti-federal law enforcement commentary of the 1990s, Nugent also said his "subhuman mongrel" phrase was inspired by "jackbooted thuggery" committed by "out of control government agents."
PBS' Frontline is responding to criticism of its recent documentary about the National Rifle Association by misrepresenting the arguments made by progressives in order to dismiss them.
On January 6, Frontline aired Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA, a documentary that covered the history of the NRA from when the group began to become politicized in the 1960s through legislative efforts in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In a January 8 blog post, Media Matters leveled several critiques against the documentary, namely that it overstated the ability of the NRA to influence election outcomes, that it credited the NRA with Al Gore's defeat in the 2000 presidential elections, and that it created the perception of NRA invincibility by only including recent NRA victories, but not defeats.
In its response, Frontline wrote, "As for the assertion by Media Matters writer Timothy Johnson that the film overstated the influence of the NRA, we stand by our reporting." According to the documentary's producers, "The many interviews we conducted support the notion that since 1999 Washington has failed to enact tougher national gun legislation and the NRA has been the key reason why."
This is a straw man argument. Media Matters never argued that Frontline had overstated the influence of the NRA on federal legislation since 1999. That the NRA is a powerful lobbying force on Capitol Hill is obvious and has been discussed by Media Matters previously.
Instead, Media Matters criticized Frontline -- as it has criticized quite a few media outlets -- for overstating the ability of the NRA to determine the outcomes of elections. In part, politicians' misguided fears about the NRA punishing them on Election Day plays into the NRA's ability to effectively lobby.
Frontline's response doesn't take into account the distinction between the ability to influence election results and the ability to influence legislation. In addition to crediting the NRA with Gore's defeat in the 2000, Gunned Down credulously promoted the NRA's supposed electoral prowess by quoting a former NRA spokesperson saying, "You are a politician, you want to get elected, you want votes, NRA has votes" while offering no countervailing perspective.
Although that type of conjecture is often pushed by the NRA and its allies, a regression analysis of actual House and Senate races that involved NRA spending and endorsements has disproven the notion that the NRA is effective in determining the outcomes of elections.
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, told the crowd at a January 19 gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia that the District "is not part of America" and told gun advocates in attendance that she is part of "this fight that we're all in."
Miller was one of several speakers at a rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), an extremist gun rights organization. VCDL participates in an annual Lobby Day event held each year at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many of VCDL's supporters attend the event with openly carried handguns and assault weapons, which is legal in Virginia. Advocates for gun safety also hold a separate rally each year.
While flanked by a man armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon and an openly carried handgun, Miller told the crowd, "It's great to be in Virginia, which is part of America where you recognize the Second Amendment. I came from D.C. this morning, which is not part of America, because they don't recognize the Second Amendment."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent made a rare appearance on the NRA's radio show to call his critics "subhuman mongrels" and to claim people who "attack" the NRA are "not the same species as we are."
During his January 15 appearance on the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, Nugent discussed his upcoming appearance on Sarah Palin's Sportsman Channel reality show Amazing America with Sarah Palin. No mention was made by Nugent or host Cam Edwards of how the musician and conservative commentator recently mocked people with mental disabilities on Facebook while using the word "retard." Palin has previously called for people who use that word to be fired (while making an exception for Rush Limbaugh). The topic also did not come up during a January 15 appearance by Palin on the NRA's television show on Sportsman Channel, which is also called Cam & Company. Instead, Palin called Nugent her "blood brother."
Nugent turned from hyping his appearance on Palin's show to offering a rant against critics of him and the NRA, reviving his infamous "subhuman mongrel" slur. As Nugent's rant reached a crescendo, NRA News apparently muted him for several seconds:
NUGENT: So Cam [Edwards], don't ever question what you're doing because I know you get attacked like I do and remember that those that attack us are such subhuman mongrels, and if that offends anyone, tough. The people who attack us and freedom and gun owners and the NRA, they're not the same species as we are. They are some strange inbred Martian -- [audio cuts out] -- individuality, doesn't believe in independence, doesn't believe in freedom and you and I can be very proud that those kind of punks hate us.
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, is scheduled to speak at a rally organized by Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a far-right pro-gun group. VCDL has previously published racially charged content in its newsletter and suggested violent action against the government may be an "option" for gun advocates.
For years, gun safety advocates and VCDL have held opposing Lobby Day events at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Carrying guns is permitted inside the Capitol and the General Assembly Building -- many VCDL supporters show up to Lobby Day armed. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, during Lobby Day 2014, "The gun-rights advocates of the VCDL occupied the area of the Capitol Bell Tower in the morning, carrying a variety of weapons ranging from handguns to AR-15 rifles and wearing blaze orange stickers proclaiming 'Guns Save Lives.'"
Miller, who is a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence, is scheduled to speak at a VCDL capitol grounds rally, according to the group's press release. Miller will share the stage with gun extremist Larry Pratt, who leads the far-right Gun Owners of America organization. Pratt is one of the founders of the militia movement of the 1990s and was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign after it was revealed he had spoken before white supremacist groups. Pratt has made headlines for his repeated insistence that politicians should have a "healthy fear" of being shot by one of GOA's supporters.
VCDL has also expressed extreme positions on gun regulation. During an April 2013 appearance on The Daily Show, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave said of background checks on gun sales, "We don't do background checks for the First Amendment."
The National Rifle Association reacted to the terror attacks at Charlie Hebdo by releasing a commentary video that blamed France's gun laws for the attack and warned "anti-gunners" that only the Second Amendment can stop terrorists from "killing you."
In a January 15 video, Colion Noir, an NRA News commentator and host of the NRA web series Noir, reacted to recent terror attacks in France with a message to "anti-gunners" to "stop trying to sell us on this gun control crap."
According to Noir, people who use their right to free speech to "insidiously attack" the Second Amendment should consider "the next time a bunch of terrorists decide they don't like what you have to say, better believe the only thing stopping them from killing you won't be your words, but the sound of someone exercising their Second Amendment right."
Like members of conservative media, the NRA commentary video also blames firearm policies in "gun control utopia" France for the attack.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent shared an open letter "to all the braindead hippie logic-challenged dipshits in the media" that mocked individuals with mental disabilities with the line, "Not every retard can read, but look at you go, little buddy."
In two weeks, Nugent will appear on Sarah Palin's Sportsman Channel show. Palin, who has a child with Down syndrome, has compared the use of the word "retard" to using racial slurs.
The National Down Syndrome Society "strongly condemns the use of the word 'retarded' in any derogatory context" because the term "is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent."
An image posted to Facebook by Nugent on January 14 contained other offensive comments, including, "Look at you smiling at your phone, you crayon eating motherfucker," and suggested that a "retard" "lick[ed] windows" or "screw[ed] farm animals":
Fox News and other conservative media outlets are attacking gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) by falsely claiming that the group insulted slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. But CSGV did nothing of the sort. The attacks rely on blaming CSGV for statements made by commenters to its public Facebook page.
Kyle was a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who was well known for having 160 confirmed kills. In January 2013, Kyle published a book about his experiences, but was murdered just days later at a shooting range by a veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD. Kyle's life story has been turned into a movie, American Sniper.
During the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert falsely claimed, "This morning the anti-gun group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is blasting Kyle, inviting its Facebook users to trash the American hero." On-screen text included "Dishonoring A Hero" and "Anti-Gun Group Trashes Chris Kyle."
The January 13 edition of Fox & Friends First similarly claimed CSGV was "trashing Chris Kyle" and "taking swipes at the U.S. military's most lethal sniper," and later displayed a graphic asking, "Should This Group Be Trashing One Of Our Military Heroes Who Defended Our Freedom?"
The smear likely originated from a January 12 article at the conservative Washington Examiner that claims CSGV "is targeting Clint Eastwood's potential Oscar nominee 'American Sniper." As evidence, the Examiner links to an October 2, 2014, post by CSGV on its Facebook page that calls the upcoming movie an "Interesting project," while linking to a USAToday.com article about the film:
Reporter Emily Miller has claimed during recent appearances on Fox News that the United States has not been subject to terrorist shootings like the one at the office of French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo because private gun ownership in the United States dissuades terrorists from launching attacks.
Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, also pushed false information about gun violence, including the claim that "gun-free zones" attract mass killers and that civilians with concealed weapons have stopped mass shootings.
During the January 11 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, Miller (the former senior opinion editor of the conservative Washington Times who also contributes columns to FoxNews.com) claimed the reason "terrorists don't come here is because of civilian's ownership" of firearms. Miller continued with the confounding argument that terrorists use bombs but not guns in the United States because of civilian gun ownership:
MILLER: They come here and they bomb us, unfortunately, which is horrible, but they're not coming here with guns because Americans can shoot back.
During a January 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, Miller added, "The Second Amendment is what keeps us safer from terrorist attacks because foreigners know we have guns." (Al Qaeda has actually encouraged its followers to exploit loose gun laws in the United States to get weapons without a background check.)
Miller offered a number of untrue claims about gun violence built upon her false premise that there is no civilian gun ownership in France during her Fox appearances.
Right-wing media figures illogically rushed to blame France's strict gun policies after three gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a terrorist attack. In the United States, where gun laws are comparatively less restrictive, there is far more gun violence and public mass shootings happen with greater frequency.
On the January 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that one thing that stood out to her about the attack is "that in France they have a very strict gun control policy." Later on Fox's The Five, host Greg Gutfeld said the victims of the attack were "sitting ducks" because the country "has the most powerful gun control in the world, and nobody's armed." On Fox Business Network, Fox's senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said, "One of the reasons these people are dead is because they were sitting ducks. One of the reasons they're sitting ducks is you can't carry a gun in Paris. This would not happen in New York City." On Twitter, frequent Fox guest Donald Trump wrote that the attack occurred "in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world."
Contrary to the impression given by conservative commentators, gun ownership is allowed in France, including the carrying of guns in public under extremely limited circumstances. Compared to the United States however, gun owners in France undergo a far more comprehensive licensing and screening process and are largely prohibited from owning semi-automatic weapons that are common in the United States.
PBS' Frontline documentary on the history of the National Rifle Association pushed the common media myth that the gun organization always wins and told the debunked story of how the NRA was supposedly responsible for the defeat of Al Gore in 2000.
On January 6, Frontline aired the hour-long feature Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA, which was directed by filmmaker Michael Kirk. The documentary covered the history of the NRA from when the group began to become politicized in the 1960s through legislative efforts in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Gunned Down overstates the ability of the NRA to influence election outcomes. The gun group's influence on federal gun legislation is often credited to the theory that politicians who oppose the NRA will be defeated when running for reelection. A statistical analysis of recent House and Senate races has disproven this notion. Still, mainstream news outlets often advance the myth of NRA electoral dominance.
Gunned Down repeatedly inflates the supposed strength of the gun group based on commentary from former NRA officials -- no current official would talk to Frontline -- and by citing what is considered conventional wisdom in Washington D.C.
While explaining the NRA's successful lobbying to defeat federal legislation to close the gun show loophole following the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, Gunned Down turned to a former NRA spokesperson who said of the NRA's membership "if it had one political trait, they vote, it's that simple. You are a politician, you want to get elected, you want votes, NRA has votes."
The NRA has often attempted to take credit for Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. At the gun group's annual meeting in 2002, executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre told the crowd, "You are why Al Gore isn't in the White House."
Gunned Down gave baseless credence to these claims.
The Washington Times attacked a program started by the Bush administration, which offers free gun locks to veterans, by conspiratorially suggesting that the program could be used to create a gun registry.
In a January 6 article, Times White House correspondent Dave Boyer wrote that the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) offer of free gun locks is "raising concerns about a government-run gun registry" because a letter received by veterans asks them to return "their name, address and number of guns in the home" if they would like gun locks.
The article quoted an anonymous veteran who suggested that the letter could represent evidence of "a gun registry in disguise." The source also told the Times that he feared the letter would spark "rumors" that "Big Brother is going to take [veterans'] guns away."
The free gun lock program that the Times is fearmongering about started in 2008, during the administration of President George W. Bush, according to NPR. The program was modeled after Project ChildSafe, which is a project of the gun industry trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). In 2009, the VA began to provide funding to NSSF, an ardent opponent of gun registries, to provide free gun locks to veterans.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "At least two studies have found that the risk of suicide increases in homes where guns are kept loaded and/or unlocked."
The research group whose misleading poll question was heavily touted by the media to suggest "growing public support for gun rights" has acknowledged that the question was flawed.
Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey that asked respondents whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." The poll showed increased support for the gun rights answer and a drop in support for regulating guns. The results were reported by numerous media outlets, especially by the conservative press.
But academics from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research criticized the poll question in statements to Media Matters, saying that the query forces respondents to choose between two options that are not mutually exclusive and pointing out that polls consistently show broad public backing for specific gun regulations, such as expanding the background check system to make it more difficult for felons and the mentally ill to obtain weapons.
"Pew's question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns," the Center's director Daniel Webster explained. "The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research, has now reportedly "acknowledged the flaw" in the question. Mother Jones reported:
Carroll Doherty, PEW's director of political research, acknowledged the flaw. "Is it a perfect question? Probably not," he told Mother Jones. "This is in no way intended to say there's not support for background checks and some measures aimed at specific policies either [in Congress] or in the states. Mr. Webster is right to put it in context."
Doherty told Mother Jones that Pew "has asked that same question in surveys since 1993, with the aim of tracking general public sentiment on gun policy over time."