Thanks to National Rifle Association-backed legislation, commanding officers of the gunman responsible for the latest mass shooting at Fort Hood were barred by law from asking him about the privately owned handgun he used to carry out the shooting.
On April 2, Army Spec. Ivan Lopez killed three and wounded 16 others during a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, before taking his own life. During a press conference that night, Fort Hood's commanding general Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley said that the shooter, a combat veteran, "was undergoing behavioral health and psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety and a variety of other psychological and psychiatric issues." Milley also said that the shooter "was currently under diagnosis for [posttraumatic stress disorder], but he had not yet been diagnosed with PTSD" and had reportedly "self-reported a traumatic brain injury" but that "he was not wounded in action [according] to our records."
Milley also said that the shooter "was using a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol that was purchased recently in the local area." He added that the weapon was not registered with Fort Hood, which is a requirement for weapons stored on base, but not for those kept off base (Lopez reportedly lived in an apartment off base). Despite the treatment Lopez was undergoing, his commanding officer would not have been allowed to ask Lopez about this privately owned gun.
In 2011, at the behest of the NRA, the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 was amended to prohibit the Department of Defense from collecting or recording any information "relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm." In practice, commanders could no longer ask soldiers about privately-owned firearms kept off base. In celebrating the law's enactment, the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, said that the legislation was "developed by NRA-ILA and pro-Second Amendment members of Congress" and that the law would "protect the privacy and Second Amendment rights of gun-owning military personnel and their families." It is impossible to know whether Lopez's commander was in a position to ask him about privately owned guns, but the circumstances of the shooting do highlight the NRA's nonsensical foray into interfering with the judgment of commanding officers.
In the wake of the shooting that left four dead, including the gunman, several conservative media figures are urging the Pentagon to change its policy that typically bars the carrying of concealed weapons or side arms by soldiers who are not involved in law-enforcement activities.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin asked "how many more deaths" it will take before service members are "allowed to have weapons." TownHall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted, "Should we stop giving soldiers guns? Oh wait, already did that. Result? mass shootings in gun free, defenseless military bases." Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested that it's "highly possible" lives could have been saved at Fort Hood "if other people had been armed on that base."
But those who have commanded military bases and served as officers disagree, citing the concerns about increased violence and potential danger to innocent bystanders.
"My own personal feeling is that I would be against that. I don't think that's an appropriate solution to what we have seen at Fort Hood," said retired Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, a 39-year Army veteran and West Point graduate. "This has to be very, very carefully thought out. The implications of what that would result in. There are other means by which you can enhance security on installations than arming everyone -- increasing security patrols, let's take a look at all the options."
He added that a broader access policy might not have stopped the Fort Hood shooter: "The person who shot the folks down there would have been able to have the weapon. You could make the case they would have gotten him; maybe yes, maybe no. But then you have a Wild West situation there. It is just not the right thing to do."
Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general and former commander at Fort Benning, Ga., stressed that anyone on military bases who carries weapons, such as military police, receives extra training.
"We train our military police to a higher standard, they are trained first as infantry and then additional training in law enforcement and how to handle situations like a law enforcement officer," he said.
Asked about the idea of expanding weapons access to all soldiers and even allowing concealed weapons on bases, Eaton stated, "I am not in favor of that."
Jamie Barnett, a former Navy rear admiral and 32-year veteran, called more weapons "a bad idea."
"We already have lots of weapons on base," he said in an interview. "We have great law enforcement personnel, we have great military personal who can protect us. It seems to me that the real focus should be on people who have some type of mental or emotional problem, we should concentrate on that."
Asked what the negative impact of more weapons access would be, Barnett stated, "It seems like it would interfere with the legitimate law enforcement function. It does not increase safety. The more weapons you have, the more potential to have them stolen, get out of hand."
Jon Soltz, chairman at VoteVets.org and an Iraq War veteran, said adding weapons to military personnel on bases would add danger.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that opponents of gun safety laws "must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns," citing a Connecticut law that banned assault weapons following the use of an AR-15 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Nugent's claim in his regular column for conspiracy website WND that Parks is his "hero" because of her efforts to fight segregation came on the same day that Media Matters made available a copy of a 1990 interview where Nugent defended the apartheid, a system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa, with the claim, "All men are not created equal."
In his March 26 column, Nugent wrote, "If anyone believes that gun confiscation is not a real threat here in America or that it couldn't happen here like it did in the U.K. and Australia, just look to what is happening in Connecticut." Connecticut's new law prohibits the future purchase of assault weapons and requires current owners of assault weapons to register their guns. Despite a federal court ruling that the law is a constitutional means of regulating weapons under the Second Amendment, thousands of gun owners are reportedly refusing to register their weapons.
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel, went on to compare the supposed plight of gun owners to the experiences of victims of racial discrimination who fought against segregation:
In 1955, my hero, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Good for her. In 2014, gun owners must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns. As Rosa Parks once said, "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right."
In a 1990 interview now available online for the first time, National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent defended apartheid in South Africa, said that he uses racial expletives because he "hang[s] around with a lot of niggers," and described the bizarre efforts he claims to have taken to avoid military service during the Vietnam War.
Snippets from "Ted Nugent Grows Up? Older, Bolder, Cruder, Ruder -- And More Unprintable Than Ever," published in Detroit Free Press Magazine on July 15, 1990, have been floating around on the Internet for years. Media Matters requested a copy of the interview from the Detroit Public Library, which archives the Free Press, to authenticate the statements.
Nugent has recently been the subject of widespread controversy after calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" during an appearance at a January gun industry trade show. That comment resurfaced the next month when Republican Texas governor hopeful Greg Abbott invited Nugent to campaign with him. Abbott's decision created a firestorm of controversy around Nugent that only dissipated after he offered a disingenuous apology for his remark. Fallout continues from that controversy, as a Texas music festival recently announced it would pay Nugent not to show up for a planned performance.
The comments made by Nugent to Detroit Free Press Magazine demonstrate how his slur of Obama is par for the course for the NRA representative (all ellipses are DFP's):
Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
Gun researcher John Lott, an economist well known for his thoroughly discredited "More Guns, Less Crime" theory, is the latest member of right-wing media to offer baseless attacks on surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy. According to Lott, one of the "good reasons" to oppose Murthy is that he supports doctors advising parents to safely store firearms so they are inaccessible to children.
In recent weeks Murthy has come under attack from the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media because, like the rest of the medical community, he believes gun violence is a public health concern. Murthy has said his concern about gun violence stems from his experiences as a doctor, but has also said that he would not "use the Surgeon General's office as a bully pulpit for gun control," and instead would make his top priority "obesity prevention."
Continuing the National Rifle Association's smear of surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy as anti-gun, the NRA's media arm is now claiming that "doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners in this country" because of deaths caused by medical errors.
Even though Murthy holds views on firearms that are conventional within the medical community and supported by many Americans and has said that obesity, not gun safety, would be his top priority as surgeon general, the NRA has launched a smear campaign to portray him as a threat to the Second Amendment. Conservatives in media have taken the NRA's lead to attack Murthy as anti-gun and unqualified for the job.
NRA News host Cam Edwards furthered the NRA's attack, claiming that the "Institutes [sic] of Medicine" had issued a study finding that there are as many as 440,000 deaths per year due to preventable medical errors and commenting, "[m]aybe there's an issue for the Surgeon General to take up instead of your gun ownership and my gun ownership, because it sure that appears doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners are in this country."
In fact, the study Edwards cited was actually authored by a medical error-focused non-profit organization that asserts "we are patients looking after each other in a health care system that could easily kill us." According to the Institute of Medicine's "widely accepted" finding, 98,000 people a year die due to hospital errors.
Fox News host Steve Doocy told 9-year-old competitive shooter Shyanne Roberts that "she would have to give up her favorite sport" as a result of a New Jersey legislative proposal to restrict high-capacity gun magazines. But Doocy's warning completely misrepresents the legislation in question, which is intended to minimize mass shootings and save lives.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill, A2006, which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. The bill was motivated by mass shootings that involved high-capacity magazines including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the 2011 mass shooting at a constituent meeting held by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).
According to The Star-Ledger, "Parents of Newtown victims have traveled to New Jersey twice to support the bill, saying many students escaped death because the shooter had to reload his magazine." One of the sponsors of the bill noted in an op-ed that 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was killed by the 13th bullet fired during the Tucson shooting, which claimed five other lives. The shooter in that incident was only stopped when bystanders tackled him as he paused to reload after emptying a 33-round magazine into a crowd in just 16 seconds.
But by misrepresenting the legislation as a threat to competitive shooting on Fox & Friends, Doocy hid the bill's life-saving intentions. According to a report from gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns on mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and September 2013, shootings involving assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are characterized by a significantly higher death and injury rate:
Bloomberg Businessweek senior writer Paul Barrett used reports that several Democratic senators may oppose surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy to advance the tired media myth that the National Rifle Association can determine election outcomes at will.
Amid recent reports that Murthy's nomination could be delayed or withdrawn, Barrett wrote on March 17, "By all indications, the National Rifle Association and allied gun-rights groups have killed the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be the next surgeon general."
While Barrett acknowledged that "[i]t seems preposterous that Murthy's attitudes toward guns -- views roughly similar to those of the twice-elected president -- may preclude him from federal office," his analysis quickly veered off-track.
The New York Times repeated the unfounded claims from critics that Obama Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is "antigun," without adequately explaining how Vivek's views on firearms are mainstream within the medical community.
As Murthy's nomination for Surgeon General moves towards a vote in the Senate, which may now be delayed, the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media are advancing the false narrative that Murthy is "radical" and "anti-gun" because he views gun violence in the United States as a public health concern and supports allowing doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, among other gun safety measures.
In a March 14 article, the Times devoted significant space to attacks on Murthy while only briefly noting that his views reflect those of many Americans. The article noted that an NRA message to supporters claimed that Murthy is "President Obama's radically antigun nominee," and also mentioned that a Democratic senator had received letters from constituents "who say they are alarmed by what they believe are Dr. Murthy's antigun views."
It took until the 14th paragraph of the article to note that Vivek's views on firearms are "in step with where many Americans stand on gun control," and the article made no mention of the fact that Vivek's views on guns are in keeping with the medical community.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney was visibly stunned as Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller dismissed concerns about 700 people dying in firearms accidents in the United States annually.
After Varney said that "There's an enormous number of problems with guns in homes, people getting shot and killed," Miller, who writes regularly on guns, replied, "No there's not." She added that it's "very rare" for people to be killed in homes with guns, stating that 700 people are killed annually in gun accidents. Referencing Miller's 700 deaths figure several times and stating "that poses a danger to 700 people," Varney appeared incredulous that such a death toll was so easily set aside.
From the March 13 edition of Varney & Co. on Fox Business:
During her appearance, Miller made a number of misleading claims to downplay the problem of firearm-related death in the United States:
In reporting on an omnibus gun bill in the Georgia legislature, state media have largely overlooked that the legislation would expand the state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law to allow those in illegal possession of firearms to avail themselves of the law's defenses and immunity provision.
House Bill 875, which would weaken Georgia's already lax gun laws in several ways including allowing guns in churches and bars, has garnered significant media attention in Georgia. The latest development involved a procedural move by Georgia House Republicans to force a vote on the bill in the Senate amid worries by House Republicans that the Senate version of H.B. 875 would remove several of the House Republican's provisions.
While the media has devoted significant attention to the issue of allowing guns in churches and bars, and the decision of House Republicans to eliminate a provision that would decriminalize the carrying of guns on campuses as part of its procedural move to force the Senate's hand, it has largely overlooked the provision in H.B. 875 that significantly expands Georgia's "Stand Your Ground" law.
Under current Georgia law, individuals claiming immunity from prosecution under "Stand Your Ground" must be complying with Georgia gun laws when they use their firearm.
However under H.B. 875, "Stand Your Ground" claimants would no longer be required to have been in compliance with Chapter 11, Article 4, Part 3 of Georgia's criminal code. That part of Georgia's code includes provisions on carrying weapons on school grounds, carrying a handgun without a license, the possession of firearms by convicted felons, the possession of handguns by minors, and the discharging of a firearm "while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."
Media conservatives are attacking Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for the post of Surgeon General, because when he was 16 he expressed concern about children being exposed to violence on television.
As Murthy's nomination has moved closer to a vote in the Senate, right-wing media have smeared him as "anti-gun" and "radical" because Murthy, like the rest of the medical community, believes gun violence is a public health concern.
The latest attack on Murthy appeared in a Daily Mail article by David Martosko, the former executive editor of the right-wing Daily Caller. Martosko's article appeared under the headline: "Revealed: Obama's controversial pick for surgeon general adopted his anti-gun stance by watching violent CARTOONS."
In the article Martosko, who is the Daily Mail's U.S. political editor, dug up a quote from when Murthy was 16 and expressed concern to the Miami Herald about children being exposed to violent cartoons:
Dr. Vivek Murthy, who founded Doctors for Obama in 2008 -- a group that later changed its name to 'Doctors for America -- was a graduating high school senior at the time, one of several valedictorians the Miami Herald interviewed.
'Vivek Murthy, 16, of Palmetto High, takes television cartoons to task' for 'the growing problem of kids and violence,' according to the Herald.
'Today, a typical elementary student wakes up on Saturday mornings to fiery gun battles, explosive scenes of terror and the violent decimation of the "bad guy" - all this in a children's cartoon,' Murthy said then.
'With such destructive influence, society's preoccupation with firearms and brutal methods of conflict resolution is no surprise.'
Just days after concluding a smear campaign against highly qualified civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile's nomination to the Department of Justice, the right-wing media began working to tar Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, as a "radical" for suggesting that gun violence is a public health issue.
After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."