Conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) are fearmongering over a supposed "new" Obama administration regulation to limit the ability of convicted domestic abusers to buy firearms.
In reality, the regulation would simply implement a 1998 law and has been under consideration for the past 17 years, including during the entire eight years of George W. Bush's administration.
The conservative opposition campaign to what is in fact a long-standing proposal began with a flawed May 30 article in The Hill headlined, 'Administration preps new gun regulations," that claimed, "The Justice Department plans to move forward this year with more than a dozen new gun-related regulations, according to [a] list of rules the agency has proposed to enact before the end of the Obama administration." The article described the regulations listed in the Department of Justice's semi-annual Unified Agenda (a periodic list of proposed or recently completed rules) as "new," when in fact several of them date back to prior administrations.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott told his supporters that Fox News has agreed to pursue stories related to the Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson, MO police department and investigate reports of mass shootings supposedly stopped by people carrying legally concealed weapons.
In a June 9 letter posted on Facebook by National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, Lott revealed that he is "working with Fox News to obtain a copy of the data used by the Obama Department of Justice in evaluating the Ferguson police department" and that Fox News "has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders."
The letter was addressed to supporters of Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Nugent is a high-profile supporter of CPRC who has made inflammatory statements in his appeals for donations to the group.
In his letter, Lott suggests that he will act as a go-between Fox News and CPRC supporters with information about mass shootings that were supposedly stopped or prevented by someone legally carrying a concealed weapon (emphasis added):
The second accomplishment is something that you all can help with. Fox News has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders (a partial list of cases is available here). If you ever see a defensive gun use story, especially one that might involve a permit holder stopping a mass killing, please email me the link to the news story as soon as possible.
Lott described the agreement with Fox News on mass shooting reports to his supporters by writing that "we won't get explicit credit," but that the venture "is still important."
The National Rifle Association is falsely characterizing a legislative proposal from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) that would allow felons to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for restoration of their gun ownership rights, saying the option would only be available to "non-violent felons."
In fact, any felon could apply to have their right to own a firearm restored under Buck's proposal, which is why the ATF program that used to provide that option was defunded in the early 1990s -- research showed that even violent felons had won their appeals, and in some cases went on to commit new violent crimes.
For the past 23 years, standard language in appropriations legislation -- first inserted by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- has prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. That longtime prohibition was challenged on June 2, however, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives adopted by voice vote a rider introduced by Buck that would re-fund the program.
During a floor speech, Buck argued for support by citing an example of a man who is prohibited from owning a gun because he wrote a bad check 40 years ago. He declared, "This bill does not intend in any way shape or form to allow a violent criminal to possess a firearm, only those non-violent criminals that ATF deems are not a danger."
But in fact, there is no language in the proposal that limits the right to appeal to non-violent felons. Buck's rider merely reverses the prohibition on funding, changing the words "none of the" funds to "such" funds in the following line: "Provided, That such funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code."
Despite this, the NRA and some conservative media outlets have run with the blatantly false talking point that the program would only apply to "non-violent felons" in coverage trumpeting Buck's proposal.
Larry Pratt, the head of extremist group Gun Owners of America, argued that "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" in comments uncovered by Right Wing Watch.
Pratt, who has suggested that politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and has flirted with the conspiracy theory that high-profile mass shootings are government staged events, was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 after his past ties to white supremacists were revealed. In spite of this track record of extremism, Pratt is still treated by Republican politicians and by certain media outlets as a credible authority on gun issues. On May 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz addressed Pratt's group, and said GOA support was "critical" to his election as a U.S. Senator. Pratt was on Fox News as recently as June 2 in order to defend comments about guns made by actor Vince Vaughn.
Right Wing Watch published audio on June 4 of Pratt appearing on a far-right radio show in April to talk about a since-withdrawn proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to ban a particular type of armor-piercing ammunition. During the discussion Pratt said, "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" and added that if the present government wants "to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em":
ROGER FREDINBURG, HOST: I think the next revolution is going to start and be won by people with rifles and Leupold [brand] scopes. I don't think it's going to be won by guys in the trenches with machetes.
PRATT: We figured that that was kind of what they were up to and the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration. And, yes, if The New York Times and the Rolling Stone and whoever else wants to have a hissy-fit, yes our guns are in our hands for people like those in our government right now that think they want to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em. That's what it's all about. The Second Amendment is not about hunting, it's not about target shooting, it's about Democrats who want to take our rights.
The same day as Right Wing Watch's post, GOA put online audio of Cruz's May 27 "Tele-Town Hall" appearance. Cruz opened his remarks by effusively praising GOA, saying, "GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans" and that supporters of GOA are "patriots":
CRUZ: Let me start by just saying thank you to all the men and women of Gun Owners of America. GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans and to stand up and to fight for our rights and I'm grateful to be with each of you because the men and women on this call are fighters, you are men and women of action, you are patriots, and this is the time when that is exactly what is needed in our country.
An article in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) "official journal" attacked survivors of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech for using the tragedy to advocate for stronger gun laws.
On April 16, 2007, a gunman at Virginia Tech opened fire in a dormitory and several classrooms, fatally shooting 32 people and wounding 17 others. Following the shooting, several survivors and victims' family members began to advocate for gun violence prevention laws, especially for a federal law to close a loophole in the national background check system that allowed the gunman to acquire his weapons.
In a June 4 feature, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked those advocates and ran an interview with Holly Adams, who lost her daughter in the shooting and doesn't believe that additional regulation of firearms will prevent future tragedies.
America's 1st Freedom writer David Burnett posited that some victims of the shooting were "coached by gun control lobbyists" and had politicized their experiences with the tragedy by using "their victimhood to advocate for gun bans throughout the nation":
Some Virginia Tech victims and survivors, several no doubt coached by gun control lobbyists, responded to the tragedy by demanding harsher gun laws. (In reality, the perpetrator had passed a background check when purchasing the firearms he used in his crime, even though he had been court-ordered to undergo mental health treatment. The failure was in the reporting of the information, not the gun laws.) Like most, however, Holly preferred to grieve in private rather than politicize her loss. But after five years of watching a vocal minority continuously use their victimhood to advocate for gun bans throughout the nation, Holly released a statement through the Virginia Citizens Defense League that read, in part:
Following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, members of conservative media frequently and offensively labeled victims of gun violence who supported stronger gun laws as "props" who weren't speaking voluntarily. The NRA's magazine not only did that, it went one step further and accused some survivors of politicizing their own personal tragedies.
Fox News hosts and guests relied and expounded upon recent comments by actor Vince Vaughn in support of carrying guns in public and in schools to push numerous falsehoods about gun violence that expert analyses have debunked.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) used its online magazine to encourage readers to "splurge on a new gun" to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day, a nationwide event that commemorates victims of gun violence.
Americans are wearing orange on June 2 to honor victims of gun violence as part of a national campaign organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. According to an Everytown press release, "More than 200 organizations, cultural influencers and elected officials" will promote wearing orange as "a way to visibly honor the 88 American lives cut short by gun violence every day, plus the countless survivors forever altered by shootings each year."
The "Wear Orange" campaign is an outgrowth of efforts to honor the life of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton. On January 29, 2013, Pendleton was fatally shot while taking shelter from a rainstorm in a South Side Chicago park, allegedly by gang members who thought the group she was standing with included rival gang members. The Chicago Tribune called Pendleton's murder "arguably Chicago's most galvanizing killing in recent years," and noted that "Pendleton, a dimple-faced sophomore drum majorette, had performed just a week earlier at festivities for President Barack Obama's second inauguration."
Following her death, Pendleton's friends decided to honor her life with a series of events revolving around the color orange in a project called Project Orange Tree. The group's past president, Nza-Ari Khepra, told the Chicago Sun-Times, "The question then was, 'What's the next step?' We brainstormed. Someone said we should use orange because that's the color hunters wear to alert other hunters they're not the targets."
Everytown built on Project Orange Tree's efforts by asking Americans to wear orange on June 2 -- which would have been Pendleton's 18th birthday -- to mark the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
The NRA's online magazine, America's 1st Freedom, lashed out at the campaign, calling it pointless in a May 30 post. On June 2, it encouraged readers to mark the day by buying a gun, saying, "If you see any friends or neighbors wearing orange, consider the possibility that they: a) don't support your right to self-defense; and b) have a rather naïve view of what constitutes real activism."
The NRA proposed an "alternative" way to mark the day: "Actually go to the range; splurge on a new gun; take someone shooting for the first time. It's that kind of quiet but productive activity that makes the NRA base so powerful -- and that Everytown is still trying to figure out."
Media Matters is a partner in the "Wear Orange" campaign.
Conservative media are praising actor Vince Vaughn for repeating a debunked right-wing talking point that falsely claims most mass shootings occur in "gun-free zones."
Vaughn is receiving widespread attention for an interview he gave to British GQ in which he advocated the carrying of guns in public and in schools, declared that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend against an "abusive government," and claimed that mass shootings have "only happened in places that don't allow guns."
According to Vaughn:
All these gun shootings that have gone down in America since 1950, only one or maybe two have happened in non-gun-free zones. Take mass shootings. They've only happened in places that don't allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenceless human beings. They do not want confrontation. In all of our schools it is illegal to have guns on campus, so again and again these guys go and shoot up these f***ing schools because they know there are no guns there. They are monsters killing six-year-olds.
Vaughn's claim, which suggests that possibly none but at most two mass shootings since 1950 have happened in a place where guns were allowed, is a variation on a claim about public mass shootings over the last half-century that was first made by discredited gun researcher John Lott.
Editors of the National Rifle Association's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, attacked a national plan to honor Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager whose 2013 shooting death made national headlines, and draw attention to all victims of gun violence, calling it "pointless."
June 2 will mark the country's first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A national campaign organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has asked Americans to wear the color orange to honor victims of gun violence. The "Wear Orange" campaign organizers say they hope to turn the color "into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Groups such as Amnesty International USA, MomsRising and Sandy Hook Promise; mayors from Chicago to Miami and Chapel Hill; and members of Congress representing states from Illinois to New York and California will be wearing or promoting orange on Tuesday. Media entities such as HBO and Essence Magazine are involved, with MTV and Motown Records planning to turn their logos orange." (Media Matters is also a partner organization.)
In a May 30 post in its digital magazine, America's 1st Freedom, the National Rifle Association attacked the campaign as "pointless" and said "participating is an easy way of scoring points for being 'socially conscious.'" The magazine also criticized celebrities Julianne Moore, Russell Simmons, and Michael Stipe for participating in National Gun Violence Awareness Day, writing, "It's a shame that quite a few presumably well-meaning celebrities are caught up in a thinly veiled anti-gun stunt orchestrated by Bloomberg and friends." (Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder of Everytown for Gun Safety.)
The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their "survival" while warning of calamities including, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals." Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an "anti-aging" supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to "Tell Time Like a Man."
"The Light Of The South," an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, "Southern Pride Shines On." The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent attacked President Obama and gun safety advocates for calling attention to the deaths of children from guns, calling such efforts "The Big Lie" -- a phrase associated with Nazi propaganda.
Gun accidents and homicides involving children happen far more frequently in the United States than in other affluent nations.
In a May 13 column posted on conspiracy website WND (World Net Daily), Nugent wrote, "The Big Lie about guns is that innocent kids are being gunned down or are accidentally shooting each other."
Arguing that "very few kids under the age of 10 die or are injured as a result of gun-related accidents," Nugent wrote, "The vast majority of teenagers who die as a result of guns are involved in gangs. They are punks, thugs and street rats who have dropped out of school and let out of their cages over and over again by a so-called 'justice system' gone bad."
Hitler first wrote about "the big lie" in Mein Kampf. The Nazi leader accused Jews of telling "the big lie" to corrupt "the broad masses," who he claimed "more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie." The phrase is also associated with tactics used by chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
It's hard to argue that accidental gun deaths involving children are not worth calling attention to, let alone that covering such tragedies is comparable to Nazi-style propaganda. And it is no surprise that accidental shootings involving children receive widespread media coverage, given how shocking and senseless they are.
According to a project of Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 88 incidents just this year "in which a child 17 or under fired a gun unintentionally and someone was harmed as a result." In 2013, the group documented at least 100 accidental shooting deaths of children aged 14 or younger. A Mother Jones report that examined the same time period found 84 fatal gun accidents involving children aged 12 and under, 64 of which involved a child pulling the trigger, killing themselves or someone else, which debunks Nugent's claim that children are not "accidentally shooting each other."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
Right on cue, the National Rifle Association has unveiled its 2016 presidential election conspiracy theory with the baseless claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is harboring a secret plan to confiscate Americans' firearms. But Clinton has never endorsed such a plan and in fact has defended private citizens' right to own guns.
In a May 11 article published in the NRA's magazine and on its lobbying website, the gun group wrote, "Whether or not she understands the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton disdains and distrusts that freedom," and claimed Clinton "wants control over every aspect of your right to keep and bear arms -- so she can deny it at will."
Clinton's own recent statements about "the right of people to own guns" meant the NRA was forced to juxtapose a series of old Clinton quotes -- some dating back to the late 1990s -- and hope that its readers would make implausible leaps of logic to buy into the conspiracy theory that a President Hillary Clinton would confiscate firearms. The NRA ran a similar fearmongering campaign about President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections that also had zero basis in fact.
In the article, the NRA purports to describe a secret plan by Clinton to confiscate firearms. The alleged starting point for the plan, however, is based on a distortion of the truth.
A newly expanded version of the National Rifle Association's flagship magazine has already featured racist and sexist content, a claim that gun owners are the victim of "institutionalized discrimination," and other inflammatory commentary.
In recent weeks, the NRA has rebranded its magazine America's 1st Freedom. While the magazine was previously available in a print and digital format, a newly-launched website has more content, including "F1rst Things First" ("The Daily Threat Assessment for Your Firearm Freedoms"), features by a wide range of NRA writers and outside contributors, and material from the NRA's lifestyle magazine NRA Sharp and the NRA News commentator series.
In a May 4 feature that promoted controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws, former NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte, who now works for the NRA's ad agency Ackerman McQueen, described a past experience where he would have felt "clearly justified in [his] mind" to push a homeless man who was yelling at him and waving his hands around his waist in front of a bus. As it turns out, LaSorte was actually able to defuse the situation by crossing the street.
LaSorte recounted how "[o]n an evening walk home from work a while back, a mentally ill man picked me out of the crowd for whatever reason and things went south from there." According to LaSorte, the man yelled at him and came "contact-close" while "[h]is hands went from waving wildly in the air to down around his waistline."
He then recalled almost pushing the man into traffic (emphasis added): "I was about to launch him away from me with an explosive and instinctive push to his chest. Just at that moment out of my peripheral vision, I noticed a city bus speeding by in the nearest lane of traffic. I stopped at the last moment and instead moved off a couple of feet to my right. If I had pushed him away from me, I would have been clearly justified in my mind, but the government might have viewed it differently if this man had been severely injured or killed by the passing bus."
Once the traffic light changed, LaSorte wrote that he walked across the street and the man did not follow him. Citing other instances of being approached by "someone suspicious," LaSorte promoted the NRA's work in advancing "Stand Your Ground" laws. These laws actually increase the incidence of homicide, and a primary criticism leveled at such laws is that they needlessly escalate situations, resulting in lethal outcomes.