The National Rifle Association's fearmongering over the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has reached a zenith, with its media representatives claiming that passing the treaty would result in "192 other countries to tell[ing] us what our gun control laws ought to be," while not passing the treaty would result in "even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment."
Negotiations are currently taking place on the treaty, which aims to prevent the diversion of weapons to human-rights abusers in order to reduce the estimated 500,000 deaths that occur worldwide each year as a result of armed violence.
While the NRA routinely trumpets - and fundraises off of - the baseless conspiracy that the treaty is actually an Obama administration plot to disarm Americans, the text of the treaty proposal plainly states that it seeks to regulate the international trade in arms and not nations' domestic gun policies. Far from meddling in America's domestic gun affairs as the NRA claims, the treaty actually seeks to implement on an international scale arms trade standards already in place in the United States.
The latest claims from the NRA on the treaty came during the March 19 edition of the NRA's Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel when NRA News investigative journalist Ginny Simone interviewed Fox News contributor and NRA advisor John Bolton. During that interview, Bolton and Simone suggested that while it would be a disaster for the Second Amendment if the treaty were enacted, it would be even worse if it wasn't.
SIMONE: But you know John, they claim this is the final conference. So here's a what if. What if it doesn't get by this conference? And what if it doesn't get by the General Assembly and the U.N. decides, or the countries, the member states at the U.N., decide to go outside? Is that even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment?
BOLTON: Well I think it is. And it actually allows more freedom for those who have an international control agenda to pursue.
A National Rifle Association-authored opinion piece in The Hill is rife with misleading claims about legislation that aims to expand background checks for gun sales and fix current deficiencies in the background check system.
Chris Cox, a regular columnist and top lobbyist for the NRA, claimed in an op-ed that proposed legislation to expand background checks would create a national gun registry and "criminalize" transfers of firearms between family members. In fact, expanded background check legislation reported to the Senate on March 12, known as the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013, contains an exception for transfers between family members and federal law already prohibits the establishment of a national gun registry. Cox also misled about the effectiveness of the current background check system as an argument against making improvements.
In his March 18 column titled, "A universally bad idea," Cox claimed, "A mandate for truly 'universal' background checks would put the federal government squarely in the middle of every sale, loan or gift of a firearm between private individuals. In other words, it would criminalize all private firearms transfers, even between family members or friends who have known each other all of their lives."
The Fix Gun Checks Act, the leading piece of background check legislation, would require a criminal background check for nearly every gun sale to occur with some important exceptions. The legislation exempts "bona fide gifts between spouses, between parents and their children, between siblings, or between grandparents and their grandchildren" from the background check requirement. Other exemptions waive the background check requirement for temporary transfers for hunting and other sporting purposes.
The exemptions laid out in the Fix Gun Checks Act mirror the Obama administration's policy proposal on reducing gun violence, which called for background check legislation with "common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."
In addition to expanding background checks, the Fix Gun Checks Act also aims to improve the background check system by using a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize states to submit disqualifying records into the background check system that are currently missing.
Fox News host Sean Hannity used prior comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about her past gun ownership to claim that her proposed assault weapons ban would deny Americans the same gun rights that Feinstein herself bragged about enjoying. In fact, the .38 caliber revolver Feinstein previously carried after being attacked by terrorists in the 1970s would not be banned under her proposal.
Feinstein turned her revolver over to police in 1982, citing the shooting deaths of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk as the impetus. [The Washington Post, 7/31/82 via Nexis] Feinstein, who was president of the Board of Supervisors at the time, discovered Moscone and Milk after they had been shot by ex-supervisor Dan White, and later described the incident as "a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy."
On the March 18 edition of his show, Hannity played a clip from a 1995 U.S. Senate hearing on terrorism where Feinstein described how she carried a gun in the 1970s and claimed she was "bragging" about her prior gun ownership:
HANNITY: Now the interesting part, with all this gun control talk. You, for example, in New York City, very few people have the right to carry a weapon. It's almost impossible to get a carry permit in New York City. So she's not affording her fellow Americans the same right that she was bragging about back then.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards complained about the arrest of New York linen mogul George Bardwil on illegal gun possession charges, even though Bardwil is currently under indictment for felony domestic abuse and is therefore prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
Edwards' defense of Bardwil demonstrates how the NRA claims that existing gun laws should be better enforced while simultaneously undermining the enforcement of the federal prohibition on firearm possession by domestic abusers.
On the March 15 edition of Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel, Edwards cited news reports in The Washington Times and The New York Post that described how Bardwil was arrested after police reviewed footage of Bardwil using a handgun that was not registered to him to scare off a would-be burglar at his Manhattan residence. New York City law requires that handgun owners register their weapons with the city.
During the segment, Edwards suggested that in New York, "you are still looking at three years in prison for acting in self-defense in your own home," even though the actual charge relates to Bardwil's alleged "criminal possession of a weapon" and not his conduct when confronting the would-be burglar.
Edwards also described the situation as "pretty awful" and said, "I thought we lived in the United States of America." He concluded by suggesting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could prove that he was not "anti-gun" by convincing the district attorney to not pursue charges against Bardwil:
EDWARDS: Mayor Bloomberg still has the, well I'll use the word tenacity, this is a family friendly show. Still has the tenacity and the gall to say he is not anti-gun. If that is the case, why don't you call up your buddy the DA, chew him out, and get those charges dropped against George Bardwil?
Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
A top executive at a Colorado newspaper has sparked controversy after he sent an email to a state senator opposing legislative efforts to strengthen gun laws that the legislator took as a threat of retaliation by the paper.
Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain, sent a March 3 email to State Sen. Angela Giron (D) in which he highlighted his position with the paper and said he opposed legislation to strengthen the state's gun laws. Giron had been undecided on the legislative package under discussion, but ultimately voted for the five bills which passed the state Senate on March 11.
The email from Stafford, sent on his official Chieftain email account, stated: "I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom ... I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines and ownership transfers because I think they're poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment."
Stafford denies that his email was intended to intimidate Giron. But Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of the Chieftain, criticized Stafford for failing to clearly indicate his complaints were his own opinion in the email in which he emphasized his role at the paper.
"A person who works for us should identify this as their personal opinion and he did not state those words in his email, 'this is my personal opinion' and he probably should have," Rawlings told Media Matters.
Giron told KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, "You don't use work e-mails to send personal stuff out and you certainly don't send and he's literally typed in his name, general manager of The Chieftain and a gun owner. I didn't even know his name so if he didn't send it from The Chieftain, if he didn't say he was the general manager, if he didn't say he was in charge of the newsroom, it probably wouldn't have even been noted."
Stafford's email also did not sit well with Colorado Senate President John Morse, who raised concerns during an appearance on Friday with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, stating, "He threatened her with how he's going to cover her and then followed through, really, she was on the paper and the front page for practically a week straight."
The dispute comes during a highly charged gun debate in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, during which state legislators who support stronger firearms laws have been subjected to intimidation and threats.
Gun researcher John Lott's chapter on firearms in his new book titled, At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over The Edge?, is filled with inaccurate claims about guns and firearm policy. Lott makes a range of misleading or blatantly false statements, including that the worst school shootings in the world have not occurred in the United States and that concealed carry laws help prevent mass shootings.
A floundering attempt to smear a Colorado state lawmaker who recently sponsored gun safety legislation demonstrates that the nationwide network of state-based conservative media outlets that the right wing has founded in recent years have the same problems with journalistic rigor as their larger, better-known cohorts.
The Colorado branch of the right-wing news outlet Media Trackers published a March 6 report claiming to offer new information which "exposed" the "criminal record" of State Representative Rhonda Fields. Fields has sponsored gun safety legislation currently under the debate in the legislature, including a bill extending the background check system. Alongside her mug shot, the group explained that Fields was arrested for larceny and shoplifting decades ago, commenting, "Despite her own criminal record, Rep. Fields has sought to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
The Media Trackers piece quickly spread through the right-wing blogosphere, with Instapundit Glenn Reynolds commenting, "criminals prefer unarmed victims." But contrary to Media Trackers' "BREAKING" headline, Fields has long been open about her past. Declaring the report "old news," Fox's Denver affiliate reported:
Fields was arrested in 1976 for larceny, and then again in 1991 for shoplifting. In 2010, FOX31 Denver reported on Fields' arrest record when she was campaigning for a position in the state House. The Denver Post dug into the politician's past, as well.
"It's something I'm not proud of," Fields said of her arrests during her campaign. "It happened over 20 years ago. I had to leave a husband who was addicted to drugs. I stole food to feed my kids. I'm so glad I'm not the woman I was back then."
With the story dissolving, Media Trackers followed the right-wing media's time-tested maneuver of doubling down. They produced a follow-up report breathlessly claiming Fields' "disregard for the state's laws continued well into her tenure as an elected lawmaker." They cited as evidence minor traffic violations such as Fields being "fined $130 for a lane assignment infraction."
The Media Trackers attacks on Fields come just days after the well-publicized arrest of Franklin Sain, a gun rights proponent who allegedly threatened Fields for sponsoring gun legislation. In an email to Fields, Sain said the legislator was a "pathetic N***** C*** alnog with MCCANN, two c**** who are way overdue a good f***ing." Fields, whose son was shot and killed alongside his fiancée because he planned to testify about drug dealers who had murdered his friend, is not the only state legislator who favors strengthening the state's gun laws to receive threats in recent days.
National Rifle Association president David Keene excused pro-gun activists at a New York rally last week whose signs depicted New York governor Andrew Cuomo as Adolf Hitler, saying that the attendees were "cognizant of the history" of supposedly anti-gun Nazi Germany and did not wish to see it repeated in the United States.
Keene was the featured speaker at the February 28 rally in Albany, New York against newly enacted gun violence prevention laws in that state. The rally drew controversy because some attendees brought signs portraying Cuomo as Hitler. In a March 1 interview with conservative radio host Fred Dicker, Keene agreed that the attendees were making a reference to "a 1935 law passed by the Reichstag [The Third Reich parliament] that took away people's rights to own firearms." Keene added that "Folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here."
But while gun activists commonly claim that Hitler implemented tougher gun laws to pave the way for his tyrannical reign, the Nazis actually loosened gun restrictions. In fact, the "1935 law" referenced by Dicker reportedly does not exist.
FRED DICKER: Some of the signs may have been a little over the top from the point of view of some people. But they fail, I think a lot of the people fail to have a sense of history that many the demonstrators have. And when they use the Adolf Hitler image they're not thinking of Adolf Hitler the monster of the Holocaust and of world domination. Many of them are thinking in terms of, I guess it was a 1935 law. It was passed by the Reichstag in Germany that took away people's rights to own firearms.
DAVID KEENE: That's right, and folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here.
As Alex Seitz-Wald wrote in an article for Salon, "the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone's guns is mostly bogus." Seitz-Wald summarized a 2004 law review article on the myth by University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt to note that the German parliament essentially banned firearms in 1919 to comply with surrender terms in the Treaty of Versailles. The law remained in effect until 1928 when the Reichstag allowed private gun ownership with a registration requirement. In 1938 Hitler signed into law new discriminatory firearms laws that did away with restrictions for individuals aligned with the Nazis while outlawing Jews and other persecuted peoples from possessing weapons. As Seitz-Wald points out, the fact that Hitler loosened gun laws for some while banned firearms for others is not an indictment of gun violence prevention laws, but instead of fascistic policies
A member of the National Rifle Association Board of Directors compared states' efforts to strengthen gun violence prevention laws to Nazi Germany on an NRA news program, suggesting that Americans are being disarmed and that "the death of millions" could occur.
Ronnie Barrett, the outspoken manufacturer of a controversial armor-piercing sniper rifle and an NRA board member, made his prediction during the March 1 edition of the NRA's Cam & Company show on Sportsman Channel:
BARRETT: In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it's bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions. You know, and World War II hasn't been 700 years ago, it's only been 70 years ago. And if people don't think that these things don't happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they're wrong, brother, I mean we're sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what's going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can't believe that's one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our Republic. It's just unimaginable.
Barrett made similar remarks on the February 5 edition of Cam & Company, suggesting that gun owners prevent "socialism" and make it so "you can't round up hoards of armed free people and put them in cattle cars."
It is not unusual for members of NRA leadership to distort history to compare stronger firearm policies to Nazism or the Holocaust. In his book, America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre equated the United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, held on July 9, 2001, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' order that books authored by Jews be publicly burned. He then suggested that the burning of guns could "help set the stage for mass executions of gun owners" just as Goebbels' order precipitated the mass killing of Jews:
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Fox Business' Varney & Company to falsely claim that a legislative proposal to require a criminal background check on almost every gun sale would create a national gun owner registry and possibly lead to firearm confiscation.
LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It's going to be selectively enforced. It's going to be abused. And the worst thing, you're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, "Hey, we'll never use that list to confiscate." That's a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.
The list that LaPierre referenced does not exist and would not be created under a proposal to strengthen the background check system.
In fact, federal law prohibits the creation of a gun owner registry and the proposal to expand background checks would not subject gun buyers to any record-keeping requirements that do not already exist for transactions conducted at a gun store. As gun advocate Dave Kopel explains on the NRA's website, "the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) ... prohibited the creation of a registry of gun owners."
The FBI, which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), destroys identifying information about gun owners within 24 hours in order to comply with this law.
Under current law, licensed firearm dealers are required retain a copy of the ATF Form 4473, the form used to complete the background check, as a sales receipt. Under legislation proposed to improve the background check system, a federally licensed firearms dealer would oversee firearms transactions between private individuals by running a background check on the purchaser. The 4473 form used in that transaction would be kept in the dealer's records, just as records are kept for individuals who buy from the licensed dealer directly. The current legislative proposal would exempt transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers for hunting or self-defense from the background check requirement.
A Gannett article appearing on USAToday.com alleges that a recently enacted New York law limiting firearm magazine capacity to seven rounds will effectively render handguns inoperable, claiming no manufacturers produce magazines with a seven-round capacity. This reporting is gaining steam in the right-wing blogosphere, even as a quick web search reveals numerous options for purchasing magazines with a seven or less round capacity.
According to the article, which originally appeared in the Gannett-owned (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, "as far as local gun dealers and the Democrat and Chronicle have been able to determine, there are no manufacturers planning to make seven-round magazines" and that when New York's new magazine law goes into effect on April 15, dealers "can only sell something that doesn't exist yet":
Starting April 15, New York will have the smallest gun magazine limit in the country, and all signs indicate no gun makers have plans to accommodate it.
Gun manufacturers have never had a reason to make a magazine with fewer than 10 rounds, because no state required it until now. And, as far as local gun dealers and the Democrat and Chronicle have been able to determine, there are no manufacturers planning to make seven-round magazines.
This means that in less than two months, gun dealers such as Paul Martin, owner of Pro-Gun Services in Victor, can only sell something that doesn't exist yet.
A search on firearms accessories supplier Brownells' website reveals 51 options for purchasing magazines with a 5, 6 or 7 round capacity. Magazines for popular firearms brands offered by Brownells include Springfield, Glock, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Ruger, and Sig Sauer. In fact, the seven-round magazine is the third most popular configuration offered by Brownells, with only eight- and 10-round magazines offering more options.
The Democrat and Chronicle notes that most gun manufacturers it reached out to for comment, including Brownells, Glock, Smith & Weston and Pro Mag Industries, did not or declined to respond. However, on its website, Brownells indicates that it sells seven-round Smith & Wesson and Pro Mag magazines. A six-round magazine is also offered by Glock.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent appeared on Alex Jones' radio show where the two swapped conspiracy theories about Benghazi and other topics, called for President Obama's impeachment, and praised the National Rifle Association's new "hardcore" direction. Nugent claimed that Jones, a prominent pusher of 9/11 and New World Order conspiracies, is doing "God's work" and that the information on his radio show is "indisputable" and "irrefutable."
Nugent legitimizing Jones is the second recent instance where a high-profile member of NRA leadership has conducted an interview on conspiracy-geared programming. On February 16, NRA president David Keene appeared on the television show of Gary Franchi, a well-known 9/11 truther.
Jones, one of the country's leading conspiracy theorists, describes himself as "one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement" and has also promoted the existence of FEMA concentration camps as part of his claim that President Obama is transforming the United States into "something that resembles Nazi Germany." He has also theorized that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was "carried out by intelligence agencies" with "Bill Clinton's involvement."
Furthermore, Jones believes that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery and has pushed conspiracy theories involving weather control, mass sterilization by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and an effort by the government to use "estrogen-mimicking" juice boxes to "encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children."
Nugent's appearance was billed by Jones' InfoWars.com website as "a surprise call in to thank Alex Jones for waking him up to the NWO."
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards has taken on a media critic role to allege that news reports linking firearms to public safety concerns are inaccurate. The series of rebuttals offered by Edwards on his show Cam & Company, however, are rife with outright falsehoods and are debunked by peer reviewed research.
In five recent "Media Misinformation" segments, Edwards...
- ...cited the long-debunked research of criminologist Gary Kleck to claim that up to 2.5 million defensive gun uses occur each year while also pushing the false claim that loosening concealed gun carry laws reduces crime.
- ...falsely claimed that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in terms of gun homicide rate when the U.S. actually ranks first in a more comparable study among high-income nations.
- ...used discredited research to attack an accurate claim by Mother Jones that guns in the home are more often used in criminal acts, accidents or suicides than for self-defense.
- ...made a flawed and anecdotal comparison to deny that increased gun availability is associated with increased firearm homicide.
- ...denied that a link exists between firearm access and suicide while suggesting that making firearms less accessible to a suicidal individual was not a plausible way to prevent a suicide attempt.
Right-wing media figures are dismissing extensive evidence to deny a link between firearm availability and suicide in the United States.
On the February 19 edition of the NRA News program Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards claimed during an ironically titled "Media Misinformation" segment that "we know that the prevalence of firearms does not always indicate increase in suicides. Take Japan for instance. Gun control advocates love talking about Japan's low violent crime rate. They don't usually bring up Japan's sky high suicide rate, far higher than that of the United States, despite a near total absence of firearms in civilian hands."
Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator and frequent Fox guest made a similar claim on the February 4 edition of Hannity on Fox News, stating that, "You might say, well but then having a gun they are going to commit suicide and they wouldn't have otherwise. No, that is false. Suicide rates do not go up with the availability of guns. The Japanese, for example, have no guns. They have twice our suicide rate. You see the same thing state to state. No matter what gun laws are, suicide rates have nothing to do with that."
In fact, numerous studies appearing in peer reviewed journals have proven that there is a strong nexus between firearm availability and suicide in the United States.
[The New York Times, accessed 2/21/13]
While approximately 9 percent of all suicide attempts are fatal, 85 percent of firearm suicide attempts result in death. Contrary to unsupported claims that troubled individuals will simply find an alternate method to commit suicide if an attempt fails, persons who have survived a suicide attempt usually do not find another way to end their lives. According to a review of 90 studies on the long term outcomes of individuals who previously attempted suicide, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide. Notably, individuals who attempt suicide by firearms rarely have such an opportunity to continue their lives.