From the January 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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From the January 7 edition of CNN's Guns In America:
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From the January 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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An article previewing CNN's town hall event on gun violence falsely suggested that it is not possible to simultaneously support the Second Amendment and support regulating firearms.
On January 7, CNN will air an hour-long "Guns in America" town hall following this week's announcement by President Obama of executive actions to reduce gun violence. CNN invited Obama to participate in the event, and he accepted. The network also invited the National Rifle Association to participate, but the group declined the invitation and made the false claim that the event was "orchestrated by the White House" -- it was actually organized by CNN.
A CNN spokesperson's characterization of the event makes it appear that the town hall is premised upon the false choice between supporting the Second Amendment and regulating firearms. According to the spokesperson, "the audience would be evenly divided between organizations that support the Second Amendment including NRA members as well as groups that back gun regulation."
This language implies that it is not possible to support both gun regulations and the Second Amendment, and is reflective of flawed polling questions on the issue of gun violence. For example, an October 2015 Washington Post-ABC News poll asked respondents, "Which do you think should be a higher priority right now - (enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence), or (protecting the right to own guns)?"
Although it now acknowledges the question is flawed, Pew Research Center for years has asked respondents to pick between whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns."
This type of premise ignores that it is entirely possible to regulate firearms while also supporting the Second Amendment. As Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research director Daniel Webster said of the Pew question, "The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns. The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
More thoughtful polling has indicated that gun owners see firearm regulation as consistent with the Second Amendment. A November 2015 Public Policy Polling survey asked gun owners whether "supporting Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers." The vast majority -- 82 percent of respondents -- agreed that it does.
The notion that it is possible to regulate guns in a manner consistent with the Second Amendment is also evident in the Supreme Court's 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision. In striking down Washington, D.C.'s total ban on handguns, conservative justice Antonin Scalia also indicated that a wide range of gun restrictions are "presumptively lawful." The vast majority of restrictions on firearms do not run afoul of the Second Amendment. Out of 900 Second Amendment challenges to gun laws since Heller, more than 96 percent failed. There is also no serious legal question about whether expanded background checks are currently constitutional -- they are.
CNN also may present viewers with a distorted view of the popularity of gun regulations by evenly splitting the audience, given the significant popularity among the general public of the proposals Obama has advocated.
A major component of Obama's newly announced executive actions is a clarification about what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms. People who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms must obtain a license and perform background checks on customers, while people who claim that they are not "engaged in the business" do not need a license or to run checks. This discrepancy is what is known as the "private sale loophole" or "gun show loophole."
Obama's "engaged in the business" executive action clarifies the law on what it means to be a gun dealer and requires people who are engaged in high-volume sales or engaging in commercial enterprises to obtain a Federal Firearms License and run background checks on customers, even if their sales are done online or at gun shows.
According to newly released polling, the general public is clearly in favor of Obama taking executive action to clarify what it means to be "engaged in the business." According to polling released on January 4 by Americans for Responsible Solutions, "a supermajority of voters -- 73 percent -- support 'an executive action by President Obama that would require anyone who sells a large number of guns per year to become a licensed gun dealer and require background checks on all of their gun sales, including those sold online or at gun shows'."
And in a more general sense, the proposition that background checks should be expanded to all gun sales -- something that would require action by Congress -- is overwhelmingly popular with the public, with numerous polls pegging support at around 90 percent. (Background checks are also widely supported among NRA members and gun owners.)
While CNN should be commended for devoting an evening to addressing the important issue of gun violence, the network should be careful to frame its event in a way that is fair to the realities of gun regulation and popular opinion in the United States.
Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler ruled that a true statement by President Obama on how guns are sold was inaccurate because it was "confusing," just weeks after writing that an unprovable claim about mass shootings made by GOP hopeful Marco Rubio was true.
Kessler's recent fact check of Obama is his latest botched article on the issue of gun violence.
On January 5, Obama announced during a speech from the White House that his administration is taking executive action to address gun violence in light of Congress' inaction following several high-profile mass shootings.
A large share of media coverage on Obama's move focused on the president's plan to expand background checks by clarifying what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, although the plan also includes provisions addressing effective enforcement of existing gun laws, funding for mental health treatment, and developing gun safety technology.
During his remarks, Obama said, "The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked." Kessler purported to fact check this statement in a January 6 article.
What Obama said is factually accurate. There are two sets of rules for people who sell guns. People who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms must obtain a license and perform background checks on customers, while people who claim that they are not "engaged in the business" do not need a license or to run checks. This discrepancy is what is known as the "private sale loophole" or "gun show loophole."
Obama's "engaged in the business" executive action clarifies the law on what it means to be a gun dealer and requires people who are engaged in high-volume sales or engaging in commercial enterprises to obtain a Federal Firearms License and run background checks on customers.
Obama's second statement is also true. Due to the existence of the "private sales loophole," a convicted felon could purchase a firearm without a background check through ArmsList.com or several other websites that allow private transactions.
Taken together, the statement is true as a whole. Gun sellers operate under two sets of rules, and as a consequence someone with a felony conviction can buy a firearm online without a background check from a so-called "private seller" who says he or she is not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms.
Kessler, however, awarded Obama "two Pinocchios" for his statement, claiming that Obama had used "slippery" or "confusing" language while purporting that "many readers" interpreted Obama's remark to mean that the president claimed that on the Internet "it legally permitted violent felons to obtain guns" -- a bizarre interpretation of the plain meaning of Obama's remark. (According to Kessler's rating scale, a "two Pinnochios" claim involves "Significant omissions and/or exaggerations.")
Kessler was only able to reach his conclusion by misrepresenting what Obama said, writing, "Obama erred in saying the rules are different for Internet sellers. They face the same rules as other sellers -- rules that the administration now says it will enforce better." Obama actually referred to "some gun sellers," not just "Internet sellers" in his statement, before using a felon buying a gun online without a background check as an example of how the two different sets of rules for "some gun sellers" work in the online context.
Kessler's purported fact check of Obama stands in stark contrast to a December 10 fact check of GOP presidential contender Rubio's claim that, "None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them."
In his article, Kessler wrote that he was initially skeptical of Rubio's claim but in the end awarded it "a rare Geppetto Checkmark," concluding that the claim "stands up to scrutiny."
But there is no way to actually verify whether or not stronger gun laws could have prevented recent public mass shootings unless one possessed the ability to accurately project an alternate history where the stronger gun law was in place at the time of the mass shooting plot. (And how do you count the mass shootings that did not occur because the gunman wasn't able to get a firearm?) Kessler -- along with Rubio and other GOP presidential candidates -- is certainly entitled to the opinion that stronger gun laws do not prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms, but there is no factual basis for this opinion. In fact, the evidence suggests the opposite.
As a September 2015 article in online magazine The Trace explained while summarizing academic research on the topic: "criminals routinely respond to incentives, and policies such as background checks and permit-to-purchase requirements demonstrably save lives by reducing criminal access to firearms." While comprehensive gun laws would not stop every would-be mass shooter, the evidence suggests that strong gun laws meaningfully raise opportunity costs for dangerous people to obtain firearms.
In addition to his flawed premise, Kessler's accounts of mass shootings he used as examples to legitimize Rubio's claim do not stand up to scrutiny, most notably his treatment of the June 2015 mass shooting at a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In purporting to prove that no gun law could have prevented the shooting, Kessler wrote that "some analysts believe [Charleston gunman Dylann] Roof actually would have passed the background check if it had been done correctly." Kessler's sourcing for that claim was highly suspect. Any analyst making that claim would be in disagreement with the FBI, the agency responsible for administering the national background check system, which determines whether or not someone should have passed a check.
In July 2015, the FBI released a statement revealing that Roof was legally prohibited from purchasing a gun because of a pending drug charge. But due to a loophole in federal law, Roof's sale proceeded because an examiner at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was unable to locate Roof's prohibiting record within three business days, allowing the gun dealer to go forward with the sale without a completed background check. Democrats in the House and Senate introduced legislation that proposes to give the FBI more time to process background checks to prevent this scenario from occurring in the future.
Apparently made aware of the FBI's actual view of the sale to Roof, Kessler added the following update to this post (while also failing to delete his baseless suggestion that Roof may have been a legal gun purchaser):
In a statement after this fact check was first published, the FBI said Roof would have been denied a gun based on an "inference of current use."
Kessler's suggestion that the FBI said Roof would have been prohibited only after his fact check was published is false; it occurred months earlier in July 2015. And the mere fact that Kessler had to make a significant revision to his analysis -- one that undermined a central piece of evidence cited to defend Rubio's claim -- arguably debunks the entire premise of giving Rubio a "Gepetto checkmark." (Kessler never mentioned the legislation introduced to prevent similar future occurrences.)
Kessler also failed to mention the 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, at all in his fact check. Following that tragedy, California signed into law legislation to specifically address the circumstances of the shooting. Before the shooting was carried out, the family of gunman Elliot Rodger expressed concern to law enforcement authorities that Rodger was experiencing a mental health crisis, but no legal mechanism existed to remove his firearms at the time. The responsive law, known as a "gun violence restraining order," allows family members or law enforcement personnel to petition a judge for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. The "gun violence restraining order" law -- which has now been introduced on the federal level -- has applicability to a number of other recent mass shootings where family members or law enforcement knew that someone posed a danger, but lacked a mechanism to remove firearms from that person's possession.
Kessler's fact check of Obama's statement about online gun sales is his latest in a series of suspect articles on the issue of gun violence. In October, Kessler awarded Obama "two Pinnochios" because Obama included gun suicides within his use of the term "gun deaths" - echoing a common right-wing talking point that gun suicides should not be included in the "gun death" total.
Fox News' Casey Stegall reported that officials in Texas are criticizing parts of a new open carry law that makes it illegal for police to ask citizens to see their gun licenses.
On January 1, 2016 Texas Open Carry law went into effect allowing residents to openly carry fire arms in most public places except for public schools and college campuses.
During the January 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Stegall reported that law enforcement officials "raised some concerns" about the enforcement of the law. Stegall explained that Kevin Lawrence from the Texas Municipal Police Association stated the "murky" writing of the law caused police to be "unable to ask for a license," preventing police from knowing "who is packing heat legally." Lawrence also claimed police faced "uncertainty" when it came to "what authorities the officers have."
CASEY STEGALL (REPORTER): But members of law enforcement have raised some concerns. Not so much about the law itself, but how it's enforced.
KEVIN LAWRENCE (TEXAS MUNICIPAL POLICE ASSOCIATION): If a citizen calls in, a business calls in and says hey, there's somebody here carrying a firearm that we're concerned about, the question then becomes exactly how much authority does that officer have to approach that individual and investigate whether or not they have a license to carry that gun.
STEGALL: Kevin Lawrence heads up the largest police union in Texas. He says the wording of the law is murky. And if officers are unable to ask for a license, there's no way of knowing who is packing heat legally.
LAWRENCE: That's the difficulty is the uncertainty, not knowing for sure what the rules are, what authority the officers have. We need to get that clarified as much as possible.
This segment is unusual for Fox News which has repeatedly rallied for looser gun laws, falsely claimed that more guns means more safety, and pushed the gun-free zone myth. Fox News has also repeatedly attacked President Obama for proposing gun safety measures.
After President Obama unveiled new executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence, a constant media theme has been that the proposals are deeply controversial. But are they? Or are media outlets providing a disjointed look by giving a skewed, Republican-friendly take on the issue by stressing conflict where very little exists?
A key component of Obama's initiative is to expand the pool of people who count as gun dealers, which would require more people to be licensed. That would mean more buyers being screened. It's the White House's concerted effort to bypass obstructionist Republicans to close the so-called "gun show loophole."
News coverage has generally been good in terms of clearly detailing the specifics of the proposals. But the coverage falls down when it comes to the politics; when it comes to explaining why Obama has been forced to use his powers as chief executive to address gun violence. (Hint: It's because Republicans have purposefully made Congress dysfunctional.)
Too much of the coverage has also omitted the fact that expanding background checks is wildly popular with everyone, it seems, except Republican members of Congress and the NRA's board of directors.
"Gun owners overwhelmingly support background checks," Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, told the Center for American Progress last year. "And that includes gun owners who are Republicans and gun owners who are NRA members."
By leaving out the context -- by leaving out the fact that 90 percent of Americans support background checks to cover all gun sales -- the press erroneously presents the Obama initiative as deeply controversial and deeply partisan.
But they're not. And it's worth noting that much of the existing polling showing vast support for expanded background checks has focused on the question of whether all gun sales should be subject to a background check, but Obama's proposal doesn't even go that far.
It's actually hard to find another high-profile public policy issue in the U.S. that enjoys as much bipartisan backing. The polling data is rather remarkable:
*90 percent of Americans support criminal background checks for all gun sales.
*83 percent of gun owners nationally support criminal background checks on all sales of firearms.
*72 percent of NRA members back them.
By often ignoring those findings, the press misreads the story.
For instance, Politico reported Obama will have "a tricky task" convincing "gun-owning Americans" to support his background check push. But that doesn't make sense because most gun-owning Americans already support background checks.
And by failing to distinguish the fact that the NRA and GOP politicians categorically object to any Obama attempt to address gun ownership, but most Americans, including most gun owners, do not.
That omission highlights an ongoing newsroom failure when covering the gun debate during the Obama years: whitewashing the GOP's radical obstruction, and especially the nearly unanimous opposition to the White House-backed gun bill in the wake of 2012 Newtown school gun massacre.
Here's how the Washington Post referred to it in a January 4 article [emphasis added]:
His administration failed to persuade lawmakers to approve tighter legislative controls on gun sales in 2013, in the wake of the December 2012 killings of 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Added NPR: "Obama was stymied in his effort to promote gun control legislation three years ago in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre."
That's not quite accurate. What happened in 2013 is Obama persuaded a majority of lawmakers to pass a gun bill, including a handful of Republicans. But a hardcore minority of Republicans in the Senate refused to allow a vote on the issue.
Even though more than 90 percent of Americans supported the bill. Even though more than two dozen people had recently been gunned down in one day at an elementary school. Even though Obama had just become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win election and reelection with 51 percent of the vote or more and had made the gun bill a top legislative priority, Republicans still refused to even allow a vote on the background check bill.
Why did Republicans refuse? Because they didn't want to be seen giving the president a victory. That, according to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, among the few who tried to help the White House fashion together a deal: "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it."
Ignoring that crucial background information, this week we're told rather vaguely that Congress (not Republicans) "stymied" Obama on guns. The lack of context has produced real oddities.
From the Wall Street Journal:
A National Rifle Association spokeswoman said before the White House's announcement that the president had failed to pass his anti-gun agenda through Congress and now is defying the will of the people by relying on executive action.
Nine out of ten Republican senators in 2013 refused to allow a vote on a gun bill with overwhelming public support, but the NRA claims it's Obama who's "defying the will of the people"?
Some news coverage has gotten it right. For instance, during a CNN report Monday night, an on-screen graphic documented the polling data on the topic:
And a USA Today article on Obama's initiative set aside space to note, "White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest pointed to recent polls showing 89% of Americans -- and 84% of gun owners -- support universal background checks."
That's all it takes to provide the proper context. The press should at least do the minimum.
Newspaper editorial boards are urging support for President Obama's executive actions to curb gun violence, calling them "an important step," and "the beginning of sensible reform."
From the January 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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Leading up to and after the unveiling of President Obama's executive actions on gun violence, conservative media figures have made numerous misleading and false claims about them, including that they do not have popular support, will be ineffective, are unconstitutional, and will lead to mass gun confiscation.
The National Rifle Association has offered contradictory criticisms of President Obama's plan to release a series of executive actions to address gun violence. While the NRA has dismissed the actions as "not really doing anything" when talking to the media, the group has warned its members that Obama's plan represents a serious national security threat.
On January 5, Obama announced several ways his administration will attempt to reduce gun violence in response to a series of mass shootings and subsequent inaction by Congress. A large share of media coverage of Obama's move focused on the president's plan to expand background checks by clarifying what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, although the plan also includes provisions addressing effective enforcement of existing gun laws, funding for mental health treatment, and developing gun safety technology.
The day before the plan was released, the NRA offered contradictory criticisms, one to the press and the other to its members.
On January 4, an NRA spokeswoman commented to the New York Times, saying of the plan, "This is it, really?"
A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said on Monday that the organization's lawyers would look at the president's proposals more closely to determine if there was anything they might go to court to challenge. But she said that at first glance the plan seemed surprisingly thin.
"This is it, really?" asked Jennifer Baker, an official with the N.R.A.'s Washington lobbying arm. "This is what they've been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they've spent seven years putting together? They're not really doing anything."
The same day, the NRA released a video on its NRA News network. Far from downplaying the plan as "not really doing anything," the NRA claimed that Obama's plan to take executive action meant that he is now "our biggest threat to national security":
According to a Media Matters review of internal video archives, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN all reported on the NRA's statement to the Times downplaying the significance of Obama's executive action, while none of these networks mentioned the NRA's unhinged messaging to its member base.
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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With the President's announcement today that he will take sensible executive action to strengthen background checks for purchasing guns, among other common sense measures, I can hardly wait to turn my dial to hear El Rushbo and friends' reactions. He's overstepping his bounds by bypassing Congress, he's taking away guns, public places are more dangerous if they're gun-free zones. We've heard it all before, folks. And there isn't a lick of truth to any of it.
Speaking of gun-free zones, I don't usually give advice to the GOP -- it's not exactly my business -- but this idea seemed so obvious for conservatives, I figured they just forgot to mention it: Why not let folks bring their guns to the Republican National Convention?
If you listen to the rhetoric of many conservative wackadoodles, guns should be welcome at Quicken Loans Arena. (The only flashes the event staff should worry about should be from photography, not firearms.)
The convention floor seems like logical next place to expand gun rights, a sort of manifest destiny for the Second Amendment. Republicans have already voted for your right to carry in all sorts of public places: churches in Georgia... state parks in Maine, Louisiana, and Virginia... stadiums, hospitals, and day care centers in Michigan... Mississippi high schools, courthouses, polling places, colleges, churches, and the passenger terminal of Jackson-Evers International Airport.
Thanks to Republican legislators, you'll soon be able to pack heat on the quad of Texas A&M or at the college bar in town. Which brings a whole new meaning to "taking a shot."
But for some reason, the march of progress hasn't made it yet to political rallies. The 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa - which adopted a platform "uphold[ing] the right... to keep and bear arms" - was curiously a "gun-free zone." Firearms were also disallowed at a campaign event last year in Nevada featuring Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. And when the Republican hopefuls debate on January 28 at Iowa Events Center, they'll be doing so in an arena that usually prohibits "weapons of any kind," presumably because the event coordinators think it'll keep people safer. In yet another head-scratcher, the RNC has chosen Quicken Loans Arena, where a stadium policy "strictly" forbids firearms, for their next national convention.
This has to be an oversight.
See, the conservative argument against gun-free zones - and for the right to carry anywhere - is that it deters gun violence. And if it doesn't deter gun violence, then at least it gives anybody the chance to put two in the chest of a wannabee murderer. As Ted Cruz put it, "You stop bad guys by using our guns."
Cruz isn't alone here; conservatives haven't been shy about this. After the attacks in Paris, Donald Trump said that had the victims been carrying, it would have been a "much, much different situation." Then Ben Carson shared this interesting bit of history: Jews might have prevented the Holocaust if they'd been packing heat in the ghettos.
In other words: Guns don't kill people. Guns just kill people who don't have guns.
This is why it's crazy that the Republican National Convention hasn't declared itself a "gun-friendly zone" yet. Republicans know they need to protect themselves. RNC boss Reince Priebus should've put out a press release by now, a thumbs up next to a trigger finger, demanding that Quicken Loans Arena reverse its policy. And Ohio Governor Kasich and his Republican legislature should've already suspended the pesky law from July 18th to the 21st that allows the arena to set its policy so the Second Amendment can be in the speeches - and in the waistbands - of everyone at the convention.
After all, these big political conventions always attract their fair share of threats. And sure, the Secret Service is there with snipers to protect the nominee. But shouldn't the Republicans on the floor - the guys from the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce and the fellows of the Heritage Foundation - be able to lock and load if ISIS breaks through the security barrier?
Or what about outside of the arena? Republicans won't be exiting by way of the covered veranda at Augusta National. (There's always the 2020 convention, guys.) This is Cleveland, and Republicans know that Cleveland so urrrrban. It's full of... How do I put this gently? What's the euphemism they'd use? ... Cleveland is full of Democrats. (That sound you're hearing is a Republican dog whistle). And when you're feeling threatened in a city you don't know, you need protection.
Look, I don't really expect anything bad to happen in Cleveland this summer. Maybe the combination of $15-dollar stadium cocktails and Limbaugh-style rage will lead the delegation from the Columbia, SC statehouse to harangue some RINO. But beyond that, I hope the convention is as boring and unwatchable as all the others.
Nevertheless, as Senate candidate Sharron Angle reminded us, Republicans should be ready with "Second Amendment remedies" should a threat ever pop up.
And if the threat never comes? Well... at least the convention-goers can take some target practice when the balloons drop. There's nothing more fun than some .22-caliber fireworks.
Someone should just warn the nominee about the ricochet.
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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