Fox & Friends presented emerging smart gun technology as "fascinating," reliable, and not vulnerable to hacking in a segment that highlighted a shotgun that can only be fired by an authorized user who wears a special ring.
The National Rifle Association claims that it does not oppose the development of smart gun technology, but in practice it often raises unfounded concerns that the technology is unreliable or could be disabled by hackers. The NRA has also promoted the conspiracy theory that the government could use the technology to take control of private firearms to implement a de facto ban on gun ownership.
A November 24 segment on Fox & Friends featured an interview with Jonathan Mossberg, the inventor of a "Magnetic Tag-enabled shotgun," that debunked these myths.
According to Mossberg's website, authorized users for the firearm wear a ring and "when the ring comes in close range to the normal ring-finger placement on the firearm's stock, the iGun compares a unique code from the ring to the gun to see if there is a match. If the code matches, the trigger unlocks" and the gun can be fired.
Proponents of smart guns promote the technology as a way to prevent unauthorized users -- such as children or someone trying to access a law enforcement officer's gun -- from accessing a weapon.
A segment on the November 24 broadcast of Fox & Friends opened by comparing smart gun technology with something that might be seen in a James Bond movie. Fox News "CyberGuy" Kurt Knutsson participated in a demonstration of the technology with Mossberg and concluded, "I tested it out, I can tell you right now that guns are about to become a lot like an iPhone where you could just simply use your fingerprint to open a gun, or even in this case you use a ring."
During the demonstration Knutsson attempted to fire Mossberg's shotgun, but was unable to do so. He then passed the firearm to Mossberg, who was able to fire the gun instantly because he was wearing a ring for an authorized user.
After the demonstration, Mossberg explained that people who oppose the technology are "people that jump to conclusions, that don't do homework, and don't do research are against it. You may not want to buy one. That's fine. But don't be against it."
Mossberg's explanation of the unfounded reasons people oppose smart gun technology sounds like a summation of the attacks on the technology from the NRA's media arm, NRA News. (Interestingly, Mossberg's family operates O.F. Mossberg & Sons, a sponsor of the NRA News web series Noir.)
In contrast to the successful demonstration of the technology on Fox News, the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company has spread false information about the failure rate of the technology, featured content suggesting smart guns are a "dumb idea" and that "gun owners won't trust an electronic firearm to save the day," and hosted guests to claim the technology doesn't work. The NRA's online magazine America's 1st Freedom has endlessly criticized smart gun technology, recently describing it as "floundering."
These attacks are baseless -- market-ready smart guns have a similar mechanical failure rate compared to firearms that do not have the technology.
The Fox & Friends segment also addressed claims that the technology could be hacked by criminals or by the government for nefarious purposes. Knutsson explained, "The fact is, this particular technology right here, 15 million combinations to that ring is what it would take to hack through it."
"The people who hate technology, smart guns, they think that big bad government can shut my guns down. Mine does not work on WiFi, mine does not work on any signal other than this far apart," added Mossberg, demonstrating the distance between his thumb and index finger.
NRA News has promoted the type of conspiratorial claims described by Mossberg. In April 2014, conservative media distorted comments made by then-Attorney General Eric Holder about smart gun technology similar to Mossberg's -- it would use a bracelet rather than a ring -- to claim that the government wanted to track gun owners using the technology. Conservative media falsely claimed Holder promoted "tracking" bracelets, when instead the purpose of the bracelet Holder discussed was to send a signal to the firearm authorizing its use.
Despite being a complete distortion of what Holder said, NRA News hosted multiple guests to push the conspiracy theory, with one guest claiming, "For some reason they feel like they need to keep an eye on where your gun is and where my gun is, and Eric Holder can do pretty much whatever he wants with government funds."
The NRA's publication American Rifleman also promoted the conspiracy theory that "a criminal, a hacker or even a government agency could turn your gun on or off anytime they wanted" if smart gun technology was adopted. The author of the article appeared on NRA News to claim the technology could be hijacked by "politicians, let's be frank, who would just as soon ban all handguns."
During the Fox & Friends segment, Mossberg and Kilmeade both expressed opposition to legislation that would mandate the adoption of the technology, which is in line with the NRA's position, but nonetheless Kilmeade concluded the segment by describing Mossberg's invention as "fascinating."
Fox & Friends' treatment of smart gun technology stands in sharp contrast to previous coverage of the technology on Fox & Friends; the show was one of many conservative media outlets to push the conspiracy theory about Holder and "gun tracking bracelets."
From the November 23 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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During the Sunday news shows on November 22, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and John Kasich were all challenged by hosts over the fact that under current federal law, people who are on the FBI's consolidated terror watch list are not legally prohibited from buying guns. The questions over what is known as the "terror gap" followed widespread media discussion of legislation in Congress -- opposed by the National Rifle Association -- that would prohibit people on terror watch lists from buying guns.
In the wake of the recent terror attacks in France, the fact that someone on a terrorist watch list can still pass a background check and buy a firearm from a licensed gun dealer is making media headlines. But terrorists and other dangerous individuals don't actually need to subject themselves to the scrutiny of a background check because of a loophole in federal law.
Media discussions on how a terrorist might get a gun in the U.S. have largely centered on what is known as the "terror gap." Under current federal law, individuals who are on terror watch lists are not prohibited from buying firearms. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, more than 2,000 people on the FBI's consolidated terror watch list were approved to purchase firearms between 2004 and 2014, despite the fact that they underwent background checks. The National Rifle Association opposes barring individuals on this list from buying firearms, arguing that doing so would violate Second Amendment rights.
But potential terrorists don't need to submit themselves to a background check at all. Due to a loophole in federal law, a significant number of gun sales can occur without a background check, even to those on the terror watch lists.
The federal background check law only requires individuals "engaged in the business" of selling firearms to obtain a license and perform background checks on customers. People who are engaged in "occasional sales" or sell out of their "personal collection" do not need to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) or run checks on buyers. (Eight states have closed this loophole by enacting laws requiring a background check at the point of sale for all firearms.)
Some so-called "private" gun sellers, including firearms traffickers, take advantage of the vagueness of the definition of what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms in order to sell large numbers of guns without a background check. These types of sales occur at gun shows, and increasingly over the Internet.
Terrorists have already been caught exploiting gun shows to obtain weapons. In 2001, the New York Times reported on the conviction of a Hezbollah member who attempted to divert weapons from gun shows in Michigan into Lebanon. In June 2015, a North Carolina teenager who was arrested by the FBI was allegedly planning on obtaining an assault weapon from a local gun show to use in an ISIS-inspired attack.
A 2011 undercover investigation by the City of New York of seven gun shows in three states found that 19 out of 30 private sellers agreed to a sale where the buyer said he probably couldn't pass a background check. One seller who was surreptitiously filmed sold a gun to an undercover investigator who told him three times that he couldn't pass a background check. Other sellers simply laughed and continued with the sale when the investigator said he couldn't pass a check:
An investigation of online sales in 2011, also by the City of New York, found a similar trend, with 62 percent of sellers agreeing to complete a sale to someone who said he or she probably couldn't pass a background check.
Al-Qaeda is aware of the private sale loophole, and has urged its followers to exploit it. In a 2011 video, American born al-Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn urged al-Qaeda's followers to go to gun shows in order to buy firearms without undergoing a background check, asking his audience, "So what are you waiting for?"
The Blaze's Dana Loesch joined the NRA's media arm with the release of a commentary video that falsely and conspiratorially suggested that President Obama could require a family member who gives another family member a gun to register as a federally licensed firearm dealer and open their house to inspection by the government.
Loesch is now listed on the NRA News website as part of its commentators series, which the NRA describes as showcasing a "new generation of advocates and activists for the Second Amendment." She is also employed by Glenn Beck's conservative network The Blaze, hosts a nationally syndicated conservative radio show, and is a frequent guest on Fox News.
In her first video for the NRA, released on November 18, Loesch claimed, "The president could use his phone and his pen to require that even the simple transfer of a firearm between family members -- like if my husband handed down his rifle to our oldest son -- be treated in accordance with FFL [Federal Firearm License] requirements."
"So right now the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] doesn't issue FFLs for total personal use only," Loesch continued, "But if this were to change, then the ATF would be required to treat your home, and your family, as they do all gun dealers. This means regular inspections. You would be publicly listed with the other licensees and you must allow the ATF to inspect your recordkeeping. Ta-da. National registry. It's the same thing, by the way, that Hillary Clinton has proposed as an executive action should she ever become president."
The scenario described by Loesch is absurd. In recent months both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign have expressed interest in executive action that would partially close the "private sales loophole" that allows a significant number of guns to be sold without a background check.
Under current federal law, individuals "engaged in the business" of selling firearms must obtain a Federal Firearm License (FFL) and run background checks on customers. People who are engaged in "occasional sales" or sell out of their "personal collection" do not need to obtain an FFL or run checks on buyers.
Some gun sellers, including firearms traffickers, take advantage of the vagueness of the definition of what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms in order to sell large numbers of guns without a background check.
The Obama administration and the Clinton campaign are considering proposals to require people who are engaged in significant commercial firearm activity to perform background checks on customers, but the suggestion that these proposals would reach a father handing a gun down to a son is baseless and conspiratorial.
According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration is examining proposals "to impose background checks on individuals who buy from dealers who sell a significant number of guns each year." The paper reported that one such proposal considered in 2013 by the administration would impose the requirement for individuals who sell more than 50 guns a year.
Likewise, Clinton is also only considering an FFL requirement for sellers of large numbers of guns. According to a Clinton aide the proposal would "ensure that high-volume gun sellers are covered by the same common-sense rules that apply to guns stores -- including requiring background checks on gun sales."
Policy papers by leading gun safety advocacy groups also make it clear that proposals would target people who are actually commercial sellers, and nothing in their proposals approaches requiring a father to obtain an FFL to give a gun to his son.
Loesch's claim about home inspections by the ATF, the agency charged with enforcing federal gun laws and regulating gun dealers, is also baseless fearmongering.
The ATF has limited resources, in large part due to the NRA's repeated efforts to hinder the agency. There are currently around 140,000 FFLs, and the ATF aims to inspect dealers every three to five years. According to The Trace, just 7 percent of dealers were inspected in 2014, and in 2013 just 42 percent of FFLs had been inspected by the ATF in the previous five years. If transfers of firearms between family members were to require an FFL, the ATF would be tasked with tens of millions of inspections each year, a scenario that highlights the absurdity of Loesch's claim.
Loesch concluded her video with another conspiracy, claiming that proponents of "common sense" gun laws actually want anyone who ever told a doctor or mental health professional that they were "moody" or anyone who ever got angry or shouted at work to be put into a database that disqualifies gun ownership. In reality, the Affordable Care Act contains NRA-backed provisions that prohibit certain data collection about gun ownership and laws that prohibit people from owning guns on the basis of serious mental health conditions do so on the basis of the individual being a danger to themselves or others, not whether they got angry at work.
The Associated Press purported to fact-check Hillary Clinton's statement that "nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns" over the past month but did so by erroneously citing a source that only counts about one-third of total gun deaths. According to the federal government, around 33,000 Americans die in gun-related incidents each year, meaning Clinton's statement aligns with the available data.
During the November 14 Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Clinton said, "Since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency." The Las Vegas debate took place on October 13.
In a November 15 article, the AP falsely wrote that Clinton's "claim appears to be unsupported on all counts," and claimed Clinton's statistic was "highly exaggerated." To support its conclusion, the AP cited the Gun Violence Archive, which counted "an average of just under 1,000" gun deaths "per month" in 2015:
THE FACTS: The claim appears to be unsupported on all counts.
The Gun Violence Archive has recorded 11,485 gun deaths in the U.S. so far this year, an average of just under 1,000 per month, making Clinton's figure appear to be highly exaggerated. The archive had more detailed data for children and teenagers, showing 70 from those age groups killed by firearms since the Democratic candidates debated Oct. 13 - not 200 as she claimed.
The AP erred by citing the Gun Violence Archive as a source for the total number of gun deaths. While the Gun Violence Archive is a valuable resource for a number of reasons -- especially because it aggregates detailed information about individual shootings -- it's not a comprehensive count of the total number of gun deaths in the United States because its methodology does not capture every shooting.
Researchers on the issue of gun violence have known that for years the gold standard for a total count of gun deaths in the United States comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS).
WISQARS found that in 2013, the most recent year in which complete data is available, there were 33,636 gun deaths in America. This figure is consistent with the number of gun deaths over the past 10 years - although the death toll is steadily climbing - and indicates that Clinton's figure aligns with the best available data:
In its article, the AP also wrote, "The archive had more detailed data for children and teenagers, showing 70 from those age groups killed by firearms since the Democratic candidates debated Oct. 13 - not 200 as [Clinton] claimed."
Again, this criticism of Clinton is erroneous because it treats the Gun Violence Archive as a comprehensive source.
The botched AP fact check was subsequently touted by the National Rifle Association.
Chart by Oliver Willis.
A commentary video from the National Rifle Association claimed it's "a complete lie" that "the only acceptable definition of minority is non-white, or sometimes non-straight" before drawing a parallel between the experiences of gun owners and racial and LGBT minorities.
The claim was made on the NRA's Noir web series, a show hosted by gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir. The series is part of the NRA's increasing efforts to appeal to a younger demographic.
The November 10 episode of Noir displayed stock footage of civil rights marches and suffragette protestors while Noir said, "No other country empowers its minorities the way that we do. We defend minorities' speech, minority opinion, and yes, minority gun rights, because differences are the foundation of our greatness."
While suggesting that gun owners are a minority and that "majorities by definition accept the status quo, minorities change it," Noir likened people who have guns to several great Americans, including "Martin Luther King Jr., who thought about race differently."
Noir drove his claim home that gun owners are like minorities by saying it's "a complete lie" that "in today's media-driven world, the only acceptable definition of minority is non-white, or sometimes non-straight."
Noir's grouping of gun owners with racial minorities, LGBT people, and women who fought for equal rights falls flat. Protected classes are often formed upon the theory that it is wrong to discriminate against people because of their immutable characteristics, such as skin tone, gender, or sexual orientation. Gun ownership is not immutable, it's a choice.
Another common characteristic of a protected class is that it encompasses an individual or group who has unequal access to the political process, something that cannot be said for gun owners, especially given the political efforts of the NRA.
And Noir did nothing to establish that gun owners have faced the type of systematic and institutional discrimination that protected classes have historically faced.
A better argument might be to contend that gun ownership falls within the same class as other rights that the Supreme Court has deemed "fundamental," but that wouldn't produce the type of inflammatory hot take that Noir is known for.
The claims in the November 10 episode of Noir represent the other side of the coin to the NRA's common claim that restrictions on firearms are tantamount to Jim Crow, segregation, or other laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Past NRA president Marion Hammer infamously put forward this argument with her claim that assault weapons bans are like racial discrimination because "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent weighed in on controversy over a viral video showing a South Carolina deputy ripping a high school student from her desk and throwing her to the ground, claiming that the teenager "had it coming" before comparing the young student to "an animal."
Videos began circulating on social media on October 26 showing South Carolina Deputy Ben Fields dragging a 16-year-old student away from her desk and slamming her onto the ground before arresting her. The student was accused of disrupting the classroom. Following widespread outrage over the officer's conduct, Fields was fired.
In his regular column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent offered "a huge Nuge thank you and SALUTE to Columbia, South Carolina, Senior Deputy Ben Fields," calling him a "master of 'improvise, adapt and overcome' good citizen cop all good Americans have come to admire and respect."
Nugent also lobbed insults at the student, calling her a "disobedient punk," and a "brat." He suggested the student disobeyed her parents, writing, "By all these consistent indicators, how much do you want to bet she disobeyed her parents and every other authority figure her entire life, and got away with it?"
According to news reports, the student is recently orphaned, following the death of her mother.
Nugent also connected the South Carolina incident to several incidents that resulted in the death of African-Americans. Referencing the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, Nugent wrote, "None of my family members would attack a neighborhood watch volunteer and end up getting shot and killed."
He then connected the incident to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner:
None of my children would steal anything from a store and then assault the shopkeeper.
None of my children would defy orders from a cop, assault him and attempt to steal his gun, then attack him and get shot in self-defense.
None of the Nugent family would sell illegal cigarettes then violently resist arrest.
Nugent also compared the South Carolina student to an animal, writing, "Obey and you won't get ripped from your desk and put under control. Act like an animal and you will end up being treated like an animal."
A new video from the National Rifle Association's (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre claims that President Obama "has all the laws he needs to stop the bloodshed" of gun violence in big cities but chooses not to because he supposedly refuses to enforce federal gun laws.
In fact, the NRA has engaged in a decades-long campaign to hinder the efforts of the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
In an October 27 video released by NRA News, LaPierre claimed, "Under the existing federal gun laws, [Obama] could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more. But he won't do it, his Justice Department won't do it, and the media never asks why."
The video also featured LaPierre's continued apparent use of racially coded language by contrasting "thugs like De'Eris Brown," "criminal gangbangers with illegal guns in Chicago," and "violent thugs" with "the good, honest Americans living out in farm towns in Nebraska or Oklahoma or working two jobs in inner-city Chicago or Baltimore." The video was introduced by LaPierre claiming "[n]othing illustrates America's breakdown like the way the president's hometown celebrates its holidays," before describing Chicago shootings as a "kind of third-world carnage."
LaPierre concluded with a false claim: "No organization has been louder, clearer or more consistent on the urgent need to enforce the federal gun laws than the NRA."
The NRA's lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, "lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them."
According to The Washington Post, "the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF's budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings."
The NRA's opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents "jack-booted government thugs" who wear "Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms."
Here are four things the NRA does that are detrimental to the enforcement of federal gun laws:
The NRA routinely cajoles its allies in Congress to limit the ATF's budget (even as other federal law enforcement agency budgets grow) and pass riders to appropriations legislation that further limit the agency's ability to enforce federal gun laws. As a 2013 report from Center for American Progress explained, one set of riders, often called the Tiahrt Amendments, "have limited how ATF can collect and share information to detect illegal gun trafficking, how it can regulate firearms sellers, and how it partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies." The NRA has also backed legislation to hamper the ability of the ATF to go after criminal gun dealers, in one instance backing a bill that the Washington Post editorial board explained, "would make it all but impossible for the ATF to press forward with any case."
In 2006, an NRA-backed amendment to the re-authorization of The Patriot Act created the requirement that the Senate confirm permanent ATF directors who are nominated by the president. The NRA subsequently opposed nominees for a permanent director, in one case comparing Obama's 2010 nominee Andrew Traver to an arsonist. After seven years of not having a permanent director, B. Todd Jones was confirmed by the Senate in 2013, but resigned after just two years. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement officials have told The New York Times that having a permanent director vacancy "has inevitably depleted morale and kept the agency from developing a coherent agenda."
While LaPierre repeatedly referenced felons with guns in his video, his organization attempts to make the ATF use its budget to rearm felons. For more than two decades, standard appropriations language 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. Without having to operate the program, the ATF has had more funding to enforce federal gun laws. In June, an NRA ally in Congress offered a successful amendment to reverse the longstanding language. While the amendment was under consideration the NRA repeatedly promoted it with the blatant falsehood that the program would only be available to nonviolent felons.
Under current federal law, gun dealers are allowed to proceed with a gun sale if the federal background check is not returned as a "proceed" or "denied" after three business days. Known as a "default proceed" sale, this feature of federal law is also called the "Charleston loophole" after the gunman who perpetrated the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME church, who received his gun without a completed background check (he would have been disqualified because of a drug charge). The "Charleston loophole" allows a significant number of prohibited persons to obtain firearms and diverts the resources of the ATF and other law enforcement agencies who must attempt to recover guns that would not have been sold without a completed background check. The loophole was created by an NRA-backed amendment to the 1993 Brady background check bill and following the Charleston massacre, the NRA vigorously defended the loophole as "a critical safety valve" to shield prospective gun purchasers from undergoing delays in the completion of background checks -- even though more than 90 percent of background checks are completed instantly.
The National Rifle Association is promoting an article that suggested "radical" Democrats will attempt to confiscate firearms in the United States and trigger a civil war where "the survivors of the Democrat rebellion" are ultimately hanged.
In an October 17 post, conservative gun blogger Bob Owens claimed that if the "radical left" attempts to "impose their ideas on the American people" -- which Owens claims includes gun confiscation -- "it would end poorly and quickly" for them after they are confronted by "armed free citizens."
Owens has previously fantasized about civil war breaking out in the United States and has responded to Media Matters documentation of his rhetoric by writing that he hopes the "propagandists" at Media Matters "feel threatened."
Owens began his October 17 article with an image of gallows and the caption, "This is where the survivors of the Democrat rebellion will meet their end." His article was promoted by the NRA on social media.
Writing, "I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections," Owens nonetheless described a scenario where gun confiscation supported by Democrats starts a civil war. Owens warned, "We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended":
I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections.
The radical left is getting much louder, much more shrill, and much more insistent in their desire to use force to get their way and impose their ideas on the American people.
If they try such a radical path it would end poorly and quickly.
The military and local law enforcement agencies in the United States that the radical left has been trashing in public since the Vietnam War until now will not take part in any plot to disarm American citizens.
Soldiers, Marines and sheriffs may even defect to actively resist any federal officers from a pool of just over 100,000 who would take on the suicidal task of taking on the military, local police, and a hundred righteously-angry million gun owners, led by over a thousand angry Green Berets that warned President Obama in 2013 not push his luck.
Who is left to carrying out these confiscatory fantasies but the radicals themselves?
Are Cornell University Art Professor Carl Ostendarp or Coppin State writing instructor D. Watkins going to going on raiding parties? Are comedian Amy Schumer and her Senator-cousin Chuck going to kick in doors? Somehow, I don't see President Mom Jeans picking up a breaching ram and leading by example.
I'm glad that these totalitarians are finally showing their true colors to their fellow Americans, as it will assure a crushing defeat of their anti-American ideals at the ballot box. Perhaps then sane Democrats like Jim Webb can pick up the remains of the Democrat Party and either return it to something President Kennedy would have respected, or start something new.
Of course, we've got to get the elections, and these radicals are pushing hard for action, now, and they're proving with every passing day that reason and constitutionality are the least of their concerns.
We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association admitted that the odds of needing to use a gun for self-defense are exceedingly small while still promoting the ownership of firearms for self-defense.
The admission was made on the NRA's Noir web series, a show hosted by gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir. The series is part of the NRA's increasing efforts to appeal to a younger demographic.
The October 20 edition of Noir opened with Noir playing the role of a magician as he laid out a deck of 52 cards in random order. After the skit ended, Noir said, "There are 318.9 million American citizens. The odds of you and me needing a gun to protect our lives is not that much better than Colion the Incredible putting these cards back in the exact order."
This admission from an NRA media product is surprising, but also accurate. The odds of randomly laying out two decks of cards in the same order are infinitesimal.
The odds of using a gun defensively are actually so low that it is difficult to accurately measure the number of defensive gun uses that occur each year. Meanwhile, gun violence is so frequent in the United States that more than 100,000 gunshot injuries are recorded every year (a figure that does not include crimes committed with guns where no one is shot).
Despite admitting the rarity of defensive gun uses, the NRA commentary video did not admit the logical conclusion of that fact, which is that guns do not typically make people safer.
In the commentary video, Noir still promoted guns as a life-saving tool. While acknowledging the long odds of actually needing a gun for self-defense, Noir stated, "Some people like to be prepared for the unlikely but possible. Other people like to cross their fingers and play the statistics. As American citizens we have the right to do both. But we don't have the right to do is limit someone's ability to be prepared for something we don't believe will happen until it does."
And Noir giving equal weight to owning a gun and being "prepared for the unlikely but possible" as opposed to not owning a gun and "play[ing] the statistics" does not make much sense if the ultimate goal is to improve personal safety.
This is because the evidence clearly indicates that gun ownership increases the risk of injury and death. While Noir frequently challenges those skeptical of gun ownership with a hypothetical scenario where it is obvious that having a gun would be better than not having one, firearm ownership on balance makes the average gun owner and his or her family less rather than more safe throughout that person's life. Peer-reviewed research has repeatedly established that gun ownership raises the likelihood of death by suicide, homicide, and through unintentional shooting.
Emerging research has also challenged the notion that guns are the best tools during a self-defense situation.
According to an analysis of federal government data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, "having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation" because victims who used a firearm to defend themselves were injured 10.9 percent of the time during a "criminal confrontation" compared to 11 percent of unarmed victims who were injured. Furthermore, the research indicated that 4.1 percent of victims were injured "after brandishing a firearm," compared to just 2.4 percent of victims who were injured after running or hiding.
Noir's admission that people are unlikely to actually use a gun in self-defense is also counter to the NRA's typical paranoid message, which posits that guns should be permissively purchased and carried so that gun owners can confront constant threats to their lives.
For example, in a February 2013 op-ed that was widely ridiculed for its outlandish claims and racially charged overtones, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre suggested that gun ownership was necessary to ensure "survival." LaPierre argued that Americans who don't buy firearms risk death from a number of sources:
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face--not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival. It's responsible behavior, and it's time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.
LaPierre used similar language in a 2014 speech at CPAC, raising a number of frightful scenarios including "knockout gamers," "haters," "vicious waves of chemicals or disease" to support his claim that "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want":
We don't trust government, because government itself has proven unworthy of our trust. We trust ourselves and we trust what we know in our hearts to be right. We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want. We know in the world that surrounds us there are terrorists and there are 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.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent said "losers" who don't carry a gun "get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter" in a column for WND, becoming the latest public conservative figure to blame victims of gun violence who are unarmed.
In an October 7 column headlined, "The Answer: Get A Damn Handgun," Nugent urged Americans to buy and carry guns and criticized people who are shot while unarmed. After declaring that "any law, any regulation" of guns is unconstitutional, Nugent wrote about "those losers amongst us ... [who] fall for the big lie of political correctness, and get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter":
Anything, any law, any regulation, any directive, any decree, any dastardly claim to the contrary is pure, unambiguous criminal infringement in the first degree, and I see a whole gang of criminal violators everywhere I look in our government, our courts and in pretty much every power-abusing bureaucracy out there.
Meanwhile, those losers amongst us - spinelessly discarding self-evident truth, logic, common sense and pure human instinct - continue to fall for the big lie of political correctness, and get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter.
Nugent's advice that people should arm themselves is based on his false belief that the October 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Oregon took place in a "gun-free zone." (The campus was not a "gun-free zone," according to Newsweek, it was "common knowledge" that "many students carried guns" on campus.)
Nugent also offered advice to anyone confronted by a gunman, including this counsel: "Do not hide under tables of chairs. Do not comply with the directions from the perpetrator."
Nugent ended his column by advising readers to join the NRA, concluding, "Disarmed and helpless is an irresponsible, suicidal choice that will get you killed. Defend yourself."
Blaming unarmed victims of gun violence for not defending themselves is an increasing trend among conservatives.
GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson recently created controversy for responding to the Oregon college shooting by saying, "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me." (Although later he shared an anecdote about facing an armed robber at a fast food restaurant and recounted that he said, "I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.")
In a September 28 post on his website, discredited gun researcher John Lott -- the inventor of the debunked "More Guns, Less Crime" thesis -- blamed a robbery victim who was shot in the back for his injuries, claiming the man displayed "passive behavior" because he fled from his attacker. The victim in that case, an Army veteran, was likely paralyzed by the shooting.
Following the June 17 killing of nine people at an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, NRA board member Charles L. Cotton wrote that the victims died because the church reverend -- who was also killed in the attack -- was an advocate for gun safety laws.
Several conservative media outlets cited a recent study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine to conclude that gun laws do not effectively deter criminals from obtaining firearms, even though the study actually found that gun laws in Chicago make it harder for criminals to acquire firearms by increasing opportunity costs. The study's authors are now speaking out against media misrepresentations of their work.
A new commentary video produced by the National Rifle Association's (NRA) NRA News suggests that school shootings occur because children do not "respect" firearms or know how to handle them safely.
The claim came during the September 23 episode of the NRA News' series, Defending Our America, which brings together conservative commentators to participate in a roundtable discussion in each episode. Defending Our America has been heavily promoted by the NRA as part of the "new" NRA News, which launched on September 8. Other NRA News shows include talk radio show Cam & Company, a web series aimed at millennials called Noir, and Frontlines, a military-themed show that recently promoted the paranoid idea that North Korea could use a satellite to launch an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America. Defending Our America is sponsored by gun manufacturer Sig Sauer.
During the Defending Our America episode, co-host Del Wilber said, "When I was growing up, part of the curriculum at high schools was firearm safety and marksmanship. And we didn't have 'Columbines' or 'Newtowns' because kids were taught to respect firearms, they were taught how to handle them safely and taught what their purpose was for, and that's been long gone."
The perpetrator in the Newtown, CT school shooting was highly-trained in the use of firearms and frequented shooting ranges. Authorities who investigated the killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary school found an NRA certificate bearing the gunman's name as well as an NRA firearm training manual in his house.
From the September 23 edition of NRA News' Defending Our America:
A contributor to the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Frontlines series suggested that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America could kill 90 percent of the population and cause people on food assistance to start "eating each other in the streets."
The NRA routinely fearmongers that an EMP attack -- where a nuclear bomb is detonated in space, supposedly causing the destruction of the power grid -- would cause widespread chaos and death, even though experts have dismissed such claims as coming from a "crowd of cranks and threat inflators."
During the September 22 broadcast of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, Frontlines contributor Chuck Holton promoted an episode of his series featuring former CIA director James Woolsey. Called "The Fight for Light: The Coming Catastrophe," the episode largely speculated about the prospect of North Korea using a satellite to detonate a nuclear bomb in space to destroy the United States' power grid.
Frontlines is hosted by NRA board member and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North and takes viewers "inside the most dangerous threats and critical events concerning your freedom."
While promoting the North Korea EMP episode, Holton said on Cam & Company, "Like Admiral Woolsey said in that piece -- you know, this is the former director of the CIA, it's not just some old guy that we found on the street, OK? He knows what he is talking about. And they're estimating that 90 percent of Americans would die in the case of a large-scale grid down situation."
"You're talking about mass starvation, disease breaking out," Holton continued. "It's not just like people are going to die because their iPhone doesn't work anymore, you're talking about large scale -- people eating each other in the streets, because when you have these sort of systemic issues in our government of nearly half of the people in the United States receiving some sort of subsidy from the government, imagine what happens when all the EBT cards start flashing zeroes."
The NRA's claims about the chance of an EMP attack are greatly overblown. For one thing, North Korean satellites are not sophisticated enough to be used as reliable delivery systems for nuclear bombs (and look nothing like the highly-sophisticated satellite depicted as exploding over the United States in the Frontlines' episode.)
As Wired noted after "hysterical headlines" in 2012 about how North Korea had "finally managed to put an object into orbit around the Earth after 14 years of trying," North Korea's satellite is 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet tall and weighs just 220 pounds. While the satellite was supposed to transmit "scientific data when orbiting over the DPRK and the hymns of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il the rest of the time," it is apparently non-functional.
Woolsey, whom the NRA's considers its expert on EMP attacks, has also been criticized for his EMP claims and promotion of the conspiracy theory that Iraqis were responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In a 2013 article in Foreign Policy, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis criticized Woolsey for a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting the United States should launch pre-emptive strike on North Korea to prevent an EMP attack on the United States.
Even if an EMP attack somehow occurred, Lewis demonstrated how past experimentation suggests that the "EMP crowd" has baselessly speculated about what would actually happen during an attack:
Even if we understand how an electromagnetic pulse works and have data about the vulnerability of equipment, a modern system like a power grid or communications network presents just too complex a set of resiliencies and vulnerabilities.
The solution of the EMP Commission was simply to collect more data, essentially creating laundry lists of things that might go wrong. For example, the EMP Commission exposed 37 cars and 18 trucks to EMP effects in a laboratory environment. While EMP advocates claim the results of an EMP attack would be "planes falling from the sky, cars stalling on the roadways, electrical networks failing, food rotting," the actual results were much more modest. Of the 55 vehicles exposed to EMP, six at the highest levels of exposure needed to be restarted. A few more showed "nuisance" damage to electronics, such as blinking dashboard displays.
The NRA routinely fills its magazines with advertisements for bulk survival food and alternative power sources in case the grid goes offline.
Just before the 2014 elections, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre urged supporters to "vote your guns" while fear mongering over the prospect of a Russia, China or North Korea-led EMP attack that could kill "as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S." by bringing about the reemergence of "Third World" diseases like "amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera -- killing our youngest and frailest family members."