Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is facing criticism for explaining to a congressional hearing panel that featured Trayvon Martin's mother that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws benefit African-Americans, a dubious theory invented by right-wing media.
Seeking to rebut statements that Stand Your Ground laws are racially discriminatory during the October 29 hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, Cruz defended the laws by citing "press reports" that detailed how in Florida African-American defendants were successful 55 percent of the time asserting a Stand Your Ground defense compared to a 53 percent success rate for white defendants:
CRUZ: In Florida the data show that African-American defendants have availed themselves of the Stand Your Ground defense more frequently than have Anglo defendants. According to press reports, 55 percent of African-American defendants have successfully invoked the Stand Your Ground defense in prosecutions compared to a 53 percent rate in the Anglo population. This is not about politicking, this is not about inflaming racial tensions, although some might try to use it to do that, this is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their family.
The press report Cruz referred to is likely a July 16 article from conservative website The Daily Caller that used Florida Stand Your Ground data to assert that "African Americans benefit from Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law at a rate far out of proportion to their presence in the state's population, despite an assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder that repealing 'Stand Your Ground' would help African Americans," while reporting the same figures cited by Cruz.
Media coverage of the Senate hearing on the controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law should not ignore the role the law played in the acquittal of George Zimmerman, research indicating the negative consequences of the law, and that a hearing witness who favors Stand Your Ground has had his research widely discredited by academics.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that "over 99 percent" of individuals who fail background checks to obtain a gun are law-abiding citizens, despite convincing evidence that the vast majority of denied individuals are prohibited by law from owning a gun.
On his October 26 appearance on CNN's New Day Saturday, Lott made untrue charges on background checks that are characteristic of his work. He often advocates for weaker gun laws by manipulating statistics about firearms and by touting his discredited research that purports to prove looser rules concerning the carrying of guns in public reduces crime.
Lott, a contributor to FoxNews.com, will testify before an October 29 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law while representing his new organization Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Lott has previously mischaracterized "Stand Your Ground" in order to defend the law that played an important role in the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. CPRC's secretary is National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent who caused controversy by calling Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," and used the Martin case to make disparaging remarks about the African-American community and endorse racial profiling.
From the October 23 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent has accepted the role of co-chairman and treasurer in former Texas State Rep. Sid Miller's campaign for agriculture commissioner, The Texas Tribune reports.
Nugent described his role in the campaign to the Tribune by stating, "I do media every day, and I'll raise as much hell as I can." Miller will face other Republicans in a primary before a general election is held.
Miller is best known as the sponsor of legislation to require women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram, including a transvaginal sonogram in some cases. Liberal newsmagazine The Texas Observer explained he has become "a kind of national shorthand for folksy intrusion into women's health decisions."
The legislation, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry and survived a legal challenge, requires a sonogram to be performed by a doctor at least 24 hours in advance of the abortion procedure with the intention of having the woman see and hear the results. According to The New York Times, "Though the woman can choose not to view the images and hear the heartbeat, the doctor must describe what the sonogram shows, including the existence of legs, arms and internal organs." PolitiFact noted that medical experts say a transvaginal sonogram would be the only option up to week seven of pregnancy and may be needed to create an observable image as late as week 10. The Sunlight Foundation found that Texas' pre-abortion sonogram legislation served as the most popular model for legislative efforts in other states to enact similar laws.
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, attacked an academic study on gunshot injuries to children by conspiratorially suggesting that the study was part of a "kids and anti-gun hype" movement to ban firearms. NRA News host Cam Edwards further dismissed teenage victims of gun violence by falsely stating that they are culpable for their injuries because of their supposed involvement in criminal activity.
The NRA is notorious for blocking scientific research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. During the 1990s, the gun rights organization successfully lobbied for legislation that prevented the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in practice, from researching gun violence. While the legislation -- which prohibited CDC funding "to advocate or promote gun control" -- did not technically ban research on firearms, it was widely acknowledged in practice to have a chilling effect on the CDC's research priorities. The Obama administration advocated for $10 million in funding for the CDC to study gun violence in January, noting that "research on gun violence is not advocacy."
An October 18 interview on NRA News demonstrated how the gun lobby handles scientific studies when they are actually forced to confront them. During that segment, Edwards hosted Dr. Timothy Wheeler, founder and director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), to attack a study in the November edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
DRGO often attacks research conducted by AAP, accusing the organization of being "motivated by deep-seated prejudice against gun owners." The organization told NBC News that its "mission is to expose the poor medical scholarship -- and the anti-gun bias behind it -- held out as truth by organized medicine and medical journalism." DRGO is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation, a group that recently caused controversy by announcing plans -- since altered -- to hold a "Guns Save Lives Day" on the one-year anniversary of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
During his appearance, Wheeler, along with Edwards, suggested that the Pediatrics study -- which chronicled nearly 30,000 gun fatalities and 155,000 serious gunshot wounds in children between 2001 and 2010 -- was part of an effort to "hype" child gun injury in order to ban firearms.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed on a Florida radio station that the federal government shutdown could be resolved if the United States were "run like the Nugent household."
He also suggested that a single person could do a better job than 5,000 federal employees and revived his previous claim that members of the military are committing suicide at a record rate because President Obama is "the enemy of the country."
Asked how he would resolve the government shut down during his October 14 appearance on The Gater 98.7, Nugent said, "I celebrate that they're shut down because Fedzilla is a bloated monster."
Noting that his previous "threat" to run for president is "alive and well," Nugent added, "I would love to see America run like the Nugent household. You get up early, you maximize your productivity, you be the best that you can be, you live within your means, you save for a rainy day and you don't be some gluttonous, slovenly, criminal, wasteful paycheck fire-torching bastard like most of the people in politics today."
The right-wing media often claims that the government budget could be operated like a household budget, even though the comparison is inept because, among other reasons, the federal government is able to roll over debt and issue its own currency. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted, "Those who analogize the federal budget to a family's budget must know nothing about either."
"Guns Save Lives Day," a gun rights event originally scheduled to be held on the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed 26 lives, will now be held on December 15, the day after the anniversary of the tragedy.
According to MSNBC, Alan Gottlieb, the head of primary event sponsors Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), stated that his decision to move the event day was a challenge to gun violence prevention groups "not to hold political events in favor of gun control" on the anniversary.
On October 8, Media Matters first reported the existence of "Guns Save Lives Day," which was announced by Gottlieb at the SAF and CCRKBA sponsored 2013 Gun Rights Policy Conference. During that September event, Gottlieb took a hardline stance, stating, "We are not going to let the gun prohibition lobby own December 14," and continued, "We will out-organize the other side and show America that there is a good side to guns."
Beyond the date change, the event appears to be going forward as originally planned. According to the "Guns Save Lives Day" website -- which warns, "Don't be a victim, ARM YOURSELF -- the event will "honor" Newtown victims "by doing everything within our power to prevent misguided gun control laws from leaving Americans defenseless or worse victims."
The website also indicates that SAF and CCRKBA hired Political Media -- "a Republican New Media consulting firm" that was behind the misstep-fraught "Gun Appreciation Day" -- to organize "Guns Save Lives Day."
"Gun Appreciation Day," which was held on January 19, asked people to visit gun stores and shooting ranges and express opposition to new gun laws. The effort quickly came under fire after it was revealed that it was sponsored by several far-right organizations and a white nationalist group.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller offered false information about gun violence during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe where she promoted her recently published book, Emily Gets Her Gun... But Obama Wants to Take Yours.
In her book, Miller advanced the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that President Obama is planning to confiscate privately held firearms and offered false information about the incidence of mass shootings and the capabilities of assault weapons, while distorting academic research on gun violence.
Miller's Morning Joe appearance offered more of the same as she misled on research about the effectiveness of gun violence prevention measures and made false claims about assault weapons, including advancing the notion that an AR-15 assault weapon is "not any functionally different than a hunting rifle."
Miller claimed that "no gun control law reduces crime, and that's fact," citing a "CDC study, Harvard study." Opponents of stronger gun laws often distort a 2003 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study and a 2007 study from Harvard's Journal of Public Law and Policy to attack gun violence prevention proposals.
In Emily Gets Her Gun, Miller wrote about the 2003 CDC study at length and deceptively quoted from it to make it seem as if the study concluded that gun violence prevention laws are ineffective. Miller wrote:
There has been only one extensive government research study on firearms laws in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- an agency with a known bias against guns -- looked at the various statutes from the local to national level. The two-year investigation evaluated the following laws: bans on specified firearms or ammunition (which includes the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban), restrictions on firearm acquisition, waiting periods for firearm acquisition, firearms registration and licensing of firearm owners, "shall issue" concealed weapon carry laws, child access prevention laws, and zero tolerance laws for firearms in schools.
The final 2003 CDC report concluded, "The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes." [Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, pg. 47, 9/3/13]
But when quoted in full, the very next line of the study undermines Miller's characterization:
The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes. (Note that insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness.) [emphasis added]
The CDC did not conclude that gun violence prevention laws do not work, rather it called for further research on the topic, finding the current body of research insufficient to draw conclusions.
Conspiracy theorist Pete Santilli, a spokesman for Truckers Ride for the Constitution, suggested that violence against the government would be justified if his group's plan to jam the Capital Beltway that surrounds Washington, D.C., and ask members of Congress to resign fails.
Santilli is the host of a radio show that promotes conspiracy theories, including the notion that "The World Trade Center towers were turned to dust in mid air by a very powerful energy source." He also drew widespread attention -- including from the Secret Service -- in May when he suggested that Hillary Clinton should be "shot in the vagina" for treason.
Reports that truck drivers would circle the Beltway to cause congestion from October 11 to October 13 and call for the arrest of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) quickly garnered national media coverage. But as U.S. News & World Report noted, the event is disorganized as a result of infighting among its organizers over logistics and what the protest should seek to accomplish.
Santilli and organizer Zeeda Andrews, who promoted the protest on Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, appear to have coopted the event from one of its original promoters, Earl Conlon, who now says he merely intended to "stir the feather of the mainstream media." Media Matters noted that Andrews has promoted racism and bizarre conspiracy theories, including the belief that President Obama and Osama Bin Laden are the same person.
Santilli, whose radio show is prominently featured on the Truckers Ride for the Constitution website, told U.S. News that no arrest attempt will be made on members of Congress, but that he hopes members will "voluntarily resign" as a result of his protest.
But on his radio show, Santilli threatened a "bloody battle" against the United States government if his peaceful protest failed and said that opponents of the government are presently "justified" in using violence.
NRA News aired a special on the AR-15 military-style semi-automatic assault weapon -- ubiquitous for its use in recent mass shootings -- that provided false information about the power of the weapon and downplayed its dangerous features.
The October 7 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel featured a trip to the National Rifle Association's gun range where host Cam Edwards and National Review Online writer Charles C.W. Cooke fired a custom AR-15 assault weapon, .308 bolt-action rifle, .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and .357 caliber revolver. At the beginning of the segment, Edwards noted the weapons were provided by gun manufacturer and NRA corporate donor Ruger.
After firing the weapons, Edwards and Cooke advanced the notion that the AR-15 was less powerful than a handgun because the semi-automatic handgun produced larger holes in a paper target than the AR-15 assault weapon:
EDWARDS: Having shot now an AR[-15 assault weapon], what would you tell people who say, "Charles, it's too high-powered, it's too this, it's too that?"
COOKE: Well, I think I'd say what, sort of what you were pointing out. If you look at the targets and you asked people which is the scary AR, they wouldn't say -- much smaller holes, it's quieter, it's much more comfortable to hold, there's less recoil, you wouldn't presume -- in fact that gun is the easiest probably to shoot of all of them, and it's certainly the least scary really, it's just black.
But using bullet hole size as a proxy for wounding power is highly misleading, because assault weapons fire the round at a much higher velocity than a handgun.
According to a 2011 report by doctors who had performed autopsies on soldiers killed by gunfire in Iraq, "The velocity of the missile as it strikes the target is the main determinant of the wounding capacity" and "[t]he greater energy of the missile at the moment of impact the greater is the tissue destruction." Indeed, the study found that rounds with a velocity exceeding 2,500 feet per second cause a shockwave to pass through the body upon impact that caused catastrophic injuries even in areas remote to the direct wound.
Using popular ammunition brand Hornady as a comparison point, the ammunition available for the .45 caliber handgun fires at a muzzle velocity of no more than 1,055 feet per second. The .223 ammunition most often used by the AR-15 assault weapon, however, can achieve a velocity of 4,000 feet per second. Some AR-15s are designed to accept 5.56 NATO ammunition; a similar round to the .223 that has a velocity of up to 3,130 feet per second.
"Take a look to your left," said the Hon. Philip Journey. "Now take a look to your right. What do you see?"
It was Saturday morning inside a hotel ballroom at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. We, the several hundred congregants of the twenty-eighth annual Guns Rights Policy Conference, did as instructed. Looking to my left, I saw the pundit and National Review columnist John Fund struggling to attach a new credit card reader to his smart phone. Looking to my right, I exchanged nods with an older gentleman wearing suspenders and a VFW hat. He looked like he could have served in the Navy with the airport's nearly nonagenarian namesake.
"You'll notice there's a lot of grey in this room," said Judge Journey, who when not sitting on a Kansas district court bench serves as an officer for the Kansas State Rifle Association. "That's the problem with our movement. We've got to get children into the shooting sports and develop an appreciation by them in the right to keep and bear arms. Because in 20 years, where will we be?"
This question -- "In 20 years, where will we be?" -- is one of gnawing urgency for the gun-rights movement. At the National Rifle Association convention last summer, I heard gun industry veterans joke that NRA now stood for "Normal Retirement Age." At this smaller but no less influential meeting of leading pro-gun minds, most speakers circled back to their fear that those in the room represented the end of a proud line. Even as the movement's leading activists boasted of recent victories at the federal and state level -- and there are many, from successful recall elections in Colorado to a carry law in Illinois -- they warned of a deadly demographic drop-off, that the energy and the youth was all in the gun-reform corner. "The people on the other side, like [the Stimson Center's] Rachel Stohl, they are very young and they are motivated," said Julianne Versnel, of the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights. "They know how to Tweet and Facebook, and they are doing a very good job."
If only winning the battle for young hearts and minds was as simple as opening a Twitter account. Like the GOP it overwhelming supports, the pro-gun movement does not sound like a modern army positioned to win a culture war for the allegiance of young Americans. Beverly Zaslow, a protégé of Andrew Breitbart who produces right-wing documentaries, used to the GRPC podium to slam the television program Glee for not having "normal kinds of relationships in it." Another speaker advised the pro-gun movement to "accept the gays, if they're with us." This kind of outreach is unlikely to draw the required levels of new blood needed to replace the men in suspenders and VFW hats. The severity of the crisis was put most bluntly by Andrew Sypien, content manager for the online retail gun giant CheaperThanDirt.com. "It's the 25 to 35 year-olds who are going to replace you in ten years," he said. "If you don't get them, it's going to die here with you."
The "it" here refers to a Second Amendment absolutism that rejects as unconstitutional restrictions on the right of Americans to buy, sell, transport, and carry firearms as they see fit. For the last 30 years, no single figure has done more to advance this vision of an Armed America than the diminutive, bow-tied organizer behind the Gun Rights Policy Conference. Though few Americans have ever heard of Alan Gottlieb, we live in a country he helped create.
NBC Sports will not be a sponsor of the nation's largest gun trade show next year, a spokesperson confirmed to Media Matters. The network had served for several years as a top sponsor of the event, which has billed itself as a show of industry strength against stronger gun laws.
"Our level of sponsorship has varied each year, and this January we will not be sponsoring the show because it does not make business sense for us at this time," said the NBC Sports spokesperson.
The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show calls itself the "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and "the world's premier exposition of combined firearms." Manufacturers use the event to show off their latest products, typically including an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines.
According to its organizer, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the trade association for firearms manufacturers and dealers), the trade show is also "a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
In January, NBC Sports returned as the sponsor of the show's New Product Center, "the showcase for innovative, new equipment being introduced to the hunting, shooting, outdoors and law enforcement markets," using the event to promote their hunting programming. That sponsorship drew criticism since it came in the wake of NBC Sports host Bob Costas' on-air censure of the nation's "gun culture" and the December 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, CT.
While NBC Sports will not sponsor the event, their executives will be at the show conducting meetings and entertaining clients, according to the network's spokesperson, who stressed that the network is participating for the show's focus on hunting and outdoor sports, not firearms.
The statement comes just days after a controversy involving the network's firearms programming.
National Rifle Association commentator Billy Johnson released a video that sought to shift focus away from guns and onto domestic violence following widespread discussion of gun policy in the wake of a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. This new-found concern for domestic violence ignores both the lethal consequences of armed domestic abusers and the NRA's lengthy history of blocking measures to keep guns out of the hands of abusers.
Notably, Johnson did not offer a single policy solution for domestic violence, concluding his September 30 commentary by stating, "I don't have a silver bullet to solve domestic violence, but what I do know is that we can no longer avoid this issue."
In his commentary, Johnson referenced mass shootings to claim, "Everyone from President Obama to Mayor Bloomberg's Demand a Plan campaign will shamelessly exploit the stories of children who are killed in tragic -- but isolated -- incidents, yet these same people are noticeably silent about millions of children and innocent adults in our country who are victims of, or witness to, violence in the place they should feel safest, their homes."
Johnson also stated, "If we sincerely want to decrease violence against children in our country, it's time we stop talking about AR-15s" -- the assault weapon ubiquitous for its use in mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre -- "and start talking about real threats that millions of our children face every year."
While Johnson concluded his video by stating that "we can no longer avoid this issue" of domestic violence, the NRA has not avoided the issue in the past. In fact, it has fought legislative efforts to remove guns from the homes of individuals subject to a restraining order because of domestic violence.
NBC Sports Network host Tony Makris defended his controversial killing of an elephant on an NRA-sponsored hunting show during the September 26 edition of NRA News by claiming that opponents of elephant hunting have a philosophy similar to Hitler's.
Makris has faced widespread criticism since he shot and killed an elephant on the September 22 episode of Under Wild Skies on NBC Sports, which also showed him celebrating the kill with Champagne. A petition calling for the cancellation of Under Wild Skies, which Makris hosts, currently has more than 47,000 signatures.
Makris has longstanding ties to the NRA. According to the Los Angeles Times, "he helped install Charlton Heston as president" of the NRA in 1998. Makris has also been previously identified as an employee of Ackerman McQueen, an ad agency employed by the NRA for decades that was responsible for a controversial ad that politicized security measures that protect the president's children.
On the NRA News show Cam & Company, Makris offered a number of rationales for shooting the elephant, including suggesting that people who oppose elephant hunting but accept other forms of hunting are practicing "animal racism." He added that he would respond to someone who said elephants should not be hunted because of their size, scarcity or intelligence by saying, "Hitler would have said the same thing."