Eleven days after a 22-year-old California man killed six in a shooting and stabbing spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara, the National Rifle Association responded, placing "the blame" for the tragedy on gun safety efforts.
On May 23 Elliot Rodger, apparently motivated by hatred of women, went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California, stabbing three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. Several other people were injured by Rodger's car.
The NRA typically goes silent in the wake of mass shooting incidents, and the Isla Vista killings were no different. As The New York Times noted after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, "Over the years the N.R.A. has perfected its strategy for responding to mass shootings: Lie low at first, then slow-roll any legislative push for a response." (Slate's Dave Weigel has noted that when the NRA finally does weigh in, its response is nearly identical to past incidents.)
During a June 3 appearance on the NRA's radio program Cam & Company, NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox addressed the Isla Vista killings, stating, "The blame needs to be placed on the politicians in California who time and time again their answer to these issues are more and more gun control laws."
Cox also claimed that not enough attention had been paid by the media to the victims who were stabbed to death, adopting a similar argument used in a May 30 NRA commentary video that attacked media for using the word "shooting" when describing murders committed with guns.
From the June 3 edition of Cam & Company:
From the June 3 edition of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:
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UPDATE: In a June 10 article, Mother Jones reported that a Department of Justice official said of Operation Choke Point, "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants":
Nonetheless, Issa's report alleges that the Justice Department is using the FDIC guidance as a hit list. "The FDIC's policy statements on firearm and ammunition sales carry additional weight in light of FDIC's active involvement in Operation Choke Point," the report reads. But a Justice Department official tells Mother Jones that this conclusion is incorrect. "We're not using the FDIC's list at all," the official says. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants or porn."
Conservative media are advancing baseless claims about a Department of Justice program that targets fraud in order to manufacture a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is trying to put gun retailers out of business.
The DOJ program in question is called Operation Choke Point and was conceived as a project of the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch in November 2012. Based on the suspicion that some banks -- acting with knowledge or willful blindness -- conducted business with fraudulent merchants or those merchants' third-party payment processors, an assistant United States attorney drafted a proposal to investigate banks for possible civil or criminal violations. As an early memo stated, Choke Point was designed as "a strategy to attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters' access to the banking system." The memo called for an initial investigation of 10 banks and the creation of a "database to map relationships among fraudulent merchants (beneficial owners and trade names), third-party payment processors, and banks."
In April 2014, The Washington Post reported DOJ had "issued 50 subpoenas to banks and payment processors." In a May 7 blog post, DOJ described a settlement it obtained from Four Oaks Bank in North Carolina. The bank agreed to $1.2 million in fines to settle allegations it profited from its business relationship with a clearly fraudulent third-party payment processor. While touting the settlement, DOJ also noted, "We're committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of these honest merchants." On May 29, The Wall Street Journal reported the existence of at least 15 DOJ investigations under Choke Point.
Conservative media, however, are hyping the evidence-free claims of various gun retailers that they have been targeted by Choke Point because of the Obama administration's supposed antipathy for guns. (Hysteria over Choke Point falls within a pattern of conservative media's embrace of conspiracy theories about the Obama administration attacking gun rights.) But recently released DOJ documents show that Choke Point is entirely focused on fraud, not firearms retailers.
The National Rifle Association is walking back its statement criticizing gun activists who carry loaded assault weapons in public as a form of protest, with the NRA's top lobbyist apologizing and calling the statement "a mistake."
In recent months Open Carry Texas and several other gun activist groups have made headlines for openly carrying loaded assault weapons in public and into restaurants in the Dallas area. This tactic of attempting to "normalize" open carry of rifles has spectacularly backfired, as gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has persuaded several restaurant chains where open carry rallies were staged to ask customers not to bring firearms into their businesses.
On June 2, Mother Jones reported on a statement on the NRA's website that criticized the open carry protests as "downright weird" and suggested that the practice was "downright scary" to onlookers and "counterproductive for the gun owning community." The Mother Jones report was widely circulated in media as it was an aberration from the NRA's typical absolutist position on firearm issues. Open Carry Texas called the NRA's statement "disgusting and disrespectful" and some gun activists cut up their NRA membership cards.
The NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, appeared on the NRA's radio show Cam & Company on June 3 to repudiate the NRA's article criticizing the open carry movement. Cox said that the statement was "a mistake" and that "it shouldn't have happened," adding "our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners." Cox also blamed the statement on a "staffer" who Cox said "expressed his personal opinion." Referencing media interest in the statement, Cox termed it a "distraction."
Cox went on to describe the NRA's official policy: "The National Rifle Association unapologetically and unflinchingly supports the right of self-defense and what that means is that our members and our supporters have a right to carry a firearm in any place they have a legal right to be. If that means open carry, we support open carry. If it means concealed carry, it means concealed carry. So unequivocally we support open carry, we've been the leader of open carry efforts across this country, the leader in opposing efforts to curtail the ability to carry firearms, and that's something we're proud of and we do every day for our members."
Cox added that the NRA "apologize[s] again for any confusion that that post caused."
Although the National Rifle Association is refusing to comment on the recent mass murder in Isla Vista, California, the group has released a video complaining the media "race[s] to label anything with a gun as a shooting."
On May 23 a young man apparently motivated by hatred of women went on a killing spree where he stabbed three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. In the ten days since the killing spree, the NRA has declined to issue a comment, a common tactic of the gun group.
Without mentioning the Isla Vista killings by name, on May 30 the NRA published a video commentary called "Propaganda," in which "NRA News Commentator Dom Raso exposes the inaccuracy of the media - especially regarding their reports of mass shootings."
During a critique of the media, Raso warned viewers of a "trick" where media figures "race to label anything with a gun as a shooting, because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word." According to Raso, the media use the word "shooting" so that viewers are being "subconsciously told to think about the tool they used" instead of the perpetrator.
Ken Blackwell -- who cited "the attack on ... natural marriage" as a reason for the May 23 mass murder in Isla Vista, California -- has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association.
Blackwell, who is also a senior fellow at anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, was flagged by People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch linking gay marriage to the killing spree that left six dead. From FRC's radio show:
BLACKWELL: When you see there's a crumbling of the moral foundation of the country, you see the attack on the -- on natural marriage and the family that has been a part of the, not only the moral foundation and the upbringing of our children but the teaching of sexual roles and the development of human sexuality in our culture. When these fundamental institutions are attacked and destroyed and weakened and abandoned, you get what we are now seeing and that is a flood of these disturbed people in our society that are causing great, great pain. And as opposed to dealing with the foundational problems, we look for ways of blaming the Second Amendment, or blaming knives or blaming cars when they are used. At the end of the day, you have just underscored the problem. This is a convenient way of avoiding talking about what's at the root cause.
Gun researcher John Lott is dishonestly accusing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America of spreading "false information" over the gun violence prevention group's claim that the vast majority of female firearm homicides among high-income nations occur in the United States.
But the claim is true; a 2002 study (download) published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Women's Association found that among 25 high-income nations, the United States accounted for 84 percent of female firearm homicides but just 32 percent of the female population.
In a May 29 column for National Review Online, Lott offered false attacks to support his conclusion that "[t]he notion that gun violence disproportionately harms women does not hold up." According to Lott, "anti-gun group Moms Demand Action couldn't let the tragedy in Santa Barbara pass without interjecting more false information into the gun-control debate" by sharing the statistic "84% of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in US."
Lott challenged the credibility of the statistic cited by Moms Demand Action, writing, "It is hard to see how Moms Demand Action could even make this comparison across all countries. Data from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) allows you to break down murders either by the sex of the victim or by whether firearms are used, but it doesn't allow users to identify both these categories simultaneously."
However, the study didn't use UNODC data, but instead used data gathered by the World Health Organization.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza is protecting politicians who oppose popular gun laws by predicting that the nation's latest mass murder will change nothing and pre-emptively blaming that on an indifferent public.
On May 23, a 22-year-old man apparently motivated by a deep-seated hatred of women stabbed three people to death before using a gun to kill three and wound eight others in Isla Vista, California. Five other victims were injured by the shooter's car.
The following day Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher was shot to death during the killing spree, gave an impassioned press conference in which he castigated "irresponsible politicians and the NRA" and asked, "When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, 'Stop this madness?' We don't have to live like this. Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, 'Not. One. More.'" Martinez later elaborated on his press conference, telling politicians, "I don't care about your sympathy ... Get to work and do something."
While expressing sympathy for Martinez, Cillizza categorically rejected the idea that anything will change because of "Richard Martinez's grief" in a May 27 blog post. Cillizza concluded by writing, "Yes, Richard Martinez's grief is powerful. But it is also fleeting in the American consciousness. If the slaughter of 20 children at their elementary school didn't change things, it's hard to believe that Richard Martinez's anger -- or virtually anything else -- will." (Cillizza published columns with similar conclusions following the Newtown massacre and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting.)
Cillizza's description of the events since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 both ignores the progress that has been made since and misrepresents public opinion on the gun issue.
Some in the media reacted to the killing spree in Isla Vista, California that claimed the lives of six victims with offensive or bizarre commentary.
On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed three people in his house with blunt or sharp objects before driving to a sorority house near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Outside that house he shot three women, killing two. He then shot to death a young man at a nearby convenience store. Rodger reportedly committed suicide with one of his guns, but not before killing six people and wounding 13 others.
Much attention has focused on a video uploaded by Rodger on YouTube where he describes his desire to kill women in a "day of retribution" against those who has refused his sexual advances and a 140-page manifesto that described his hatred towards the world and in particular women.
Media reactions to the killings included: A Fox News guest suggested the shooting was the result of "homosexual tendencies"; a Fox News contributor who blamed a "war on masculinity" for the killing spree; conservative commentators who lashed out at a victim's father who castigated the National Rifle Association during an emotional press conference; and a CNN reporter described Rodger's manifesto as "really well written" and compared it to a Dickens novel.
Writing at RedState.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Rodger "lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live" and that his actions were a consequence of a "war on masculinity." One of the features of this "war," according to Erickson, is that "[i]nstead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not."
Best we can tell, Elliot Rodger lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live and that is regularly glorified on the silver screen. For all the talk of a "War on Women," there has actually been a war on masculinity for a few decades. And more and more twenty-something young men are getting lost and acting out while society tries to find something new to replace the tried and true.
Society used to expect men to open doors, protect their families, and be champions of modesty and virtue. But chivalry is dead. Instead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not. The hook up culture, instant gratification, and selfishness pervade our culture.
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.
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington D.C.'s Fox affiliate, fabricated quotations to claim Hillary Clinton recently said, "Nobody should have guns" and "There's too many guns." In fact, Clinton expressed the opposite sentiment, referencing "the right of people to own guns."
During a May 19 appearance on FOX 5, Miller twisted Clinton's recent remarks at the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in order to suggest that the former secretary of state has held inconsistent positions on gun regulation. Miller claimed that Clinton had "talked about hunting and fishing and all that stuff, now she is like, 'We need to pull back guns, nobody should have guns'":
Fox News promoted Colion Noir, the host of a new National Rifle Association web series that aims to promote guns to young people, with a fawning interview.
In a May 20 interview on Fox & Friends, Elisabeth Hasselbeck termed Noir "really passionate," asking him "where does this come for you, the passion for the Second Amendment?" She offered up softball questions such as "will they succeed in silencing you, your critics?" Hasselbeck concluded the interview by promising, "we will continue to check you out there and all that you have to say with regard to our constitutional rights."
Fox News regularly provides a platform for gun misinformation from the NRA and its supporters.
A new web series for young people produced by the National Rifle Association is being widely panned by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging. And for good reason -- the NRA's Noir is really about the same themes the NRA has been ranting on for decades, that the NRA is the only group that can stand up for persecuted gun owners and save America in the face of machinations by anti-gun elites.
Recently launched on the NRA's new "Freestyle" network, Noir promises to report on "the latest on firearms, fashion, pop culture and other hot topics." The show is hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir -- best known for his bizarre claim Martin Luther King Jr. was a gun proponent -- along with co-host Amy Robbins and is sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg.
Early reviews of Noir report that it reeks of inauthenticity. Indeed the 16-minute premiere episode is rife with product placements and lame pop culture and sports references, all awkwardly interspersed between features on high-powered, expensive-looking firearms.
In one cringe-worthy moment, Noir complains that the cardboard box his $5,000 rifle came in looks like "a Build-A-Bear beginning set of a homeless guy's apartment." During a glowing review of a compact Smith & Wesson handgun, Noir analogizes the pistol to Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson: "Sure he is small and unimposing, but the moment you drop your guard he will tear your ass up." There is also an obligatory twerking reference.
This fakery led Gawker's Adam Weinstein to describe the show as "hilariously bad poser garbage." Writing for Vocativ, Mike Spies summed up the show as "public-access television: Think Wayne's World, but with a focus on sleek weapons" and concluded that "NRA employs millenial-friendly tropes to attract younger members -- and fails miserably." While Spies imagined the show being "produced by aliens who spent an hour studying American pop culture," Weinstein poked fun at "the cringe-inducing 'urban' script copy dropping out of Noir's mouth like it was written by a white Mitch McConnell intern on summer break from Liberty University."
Beyond the widely noted production and messaging problems, the NRA has failed to create a different message that can resonate with young people with Noir. The NRA must realize that young people are unlikely to embrace the bombastic paranoid rants of its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. But as the video below shows, Noir is more of the same from the NRA, only delivered with a less abrasive tone and buried between pop culture references.
Reports that the handgun used by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev originated in Maine should come as no surprise given guns are routinely trafficked from states with weak gun laws to states with stronger gun laws like Massachusetts. Meanwhile, attempts to create a federal law to crack down on gun trafficking have been stifled by the National Rifle Association.
Following the April 15, 2013, bombings that left three dead and hundreds wounded, the Tsarnaev brothers attempted to elude a massive police manhunt. On the evening of April 18 a Ruger handgun was used by the brothers to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier. Hours later the pistol was used again in a firefight that left MBTA officer Richard Donohue seriously wounded. On May 12, Los Angeles Times federal law enforcement and terrorism reporter Richard Serrano reported that the firearm was purchased at a Maine gun store, and "passed" to a well-known Portland, ME gang leader, before being obtained by Tsarnaev.
Massachusetts has the sixth strongest gun laws in the United States and also has the second lowest gun death rate, according to rankings by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. When guns are used in crimes in Massachusetts, they are most often trafficked from other states (although the National Rifle Association's official state affiliate has denied this regularly occurs).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was able to determine the origin of 999 Massachusetts crime guns in 2012; 453 came from in-state while 546 were trafficked from other states. Maine accounted for the second largest number of out of state gun traces after New Hampshire. The top six crime gun importers to Massachusetts -- New Hampshire, Maine, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina -- all received a D or worse grade in the Brady Campaign/LCPGV gun law ranking. Overall the rankings found a correlation between weak gun laws and the exporting of crime guns into states with strong gun laws.
Conservative media are touting a video from the right-wing Media Research Center purporting to show that vendors at gun shows always refuse to sell firearms to felons and other disqualified persons and that legislation to expand the background check system is unnecessary. But according to prior undercover reports, when private sellers at gun shows were not aware they were on camera, a substantial portion agreed to sell guns to people they believed could not legally possess them.
Vendors who have a Federal Firearms License are required to perform background checks on their customers, but so-called private sellers who say they are not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms have no such requirement at gun shows in 33 states. This discrepancy has been termed the "gun show loophole" and is the reason narco-terrorists, illegal gun traffickers and other dangerous individuals seek out unregulated sales at gun shows. The most infamous use of the loophole is the 1999 Columbine High School massacre where all four guns involved were passed through a local gun show by private sellers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has estimated between 25 and 50 percent of vendors at gun shows sell without a background check. Adding sales over the Internet and through newspaper classified adverts, a substantial proportion of firearms are transferred without a background check in the United States. Federal legislation to expand the background check system to cover private sales failed in the Senate last year.