The right-wing media spent Wednesday stoking fears about the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) following reports that Iran was selected to serve on the 15-nation "Bureau/General Committee" of states during the treaty negotiations. Curiously, the same news organizations that engaged in Iran fearmongering have also uncritically promoted the National Rifle Association's opposition to the treaty. In fact, the positions of Iran and the National Rifle Association on the Arms Trade Treaty are remarkably similar: Both entities oppose a treaty that regulates the international import and export of small arms.
According to the United Nations, "Bureau" states will "assist the President in the general conduct of the business of the Conference and, subject to the decisions of the Conference, shall ensure the coordination of its work." Considering that Iran's and other "Bureau" members' conduct will be "subject to the decisions of the Conference," it hardly appears that Iran would be able to single-handily hijack negotiations.
Whatever role Iran plays in the negotiations, the ATT will not lead to domestic regulation of firearms in the United States -- as the NRA vacuously warns -- because the United States will not agree to a finalized treaty that places "restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution."
But the opportunity to include Iran in fearmongering surrounding the treaty was too much for the right-wing media to pass up.
The National Rifle Association, an organization with a well-documented history of baseless fearmongering, may have outdone itself with the release of a new fundraising video series that features hysterical depictions of current events. Whether it is the threat of Mexican drug cartel violence in the United States, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, or even civil unrest that occurred in England in 2011, the NRA wants you to be scared and send cash fast. After all, warns Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, "everything we love about America, all the freedoms our forefathers fought for, all of it is under attack by Barack Obama."
In today's column for the Washington Times, National Rifle Association board member and prominent Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent wrote, "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War."
Nugent's remark came in response to what he called "turncoat" Chief Justice John Roberts' "traitor vote" to uphold President Obama's health reform law, including the individual mandate. According to Nugent, Roberts "squandered the opportunity to restore judicial, financial and legislative sanity to a government that by any sane person's standards is insane and addicted to centralized federal control of our lives."
Nugent then stated:
Because our legislative, judicial and executive branches of government hold the 10th Amendment in contempt, I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War. Our Founding Fathers' concept of limited government is dead.
Nugent is infamous for wearing shirts emblazoned with the Confederate battle standard during his concerts.
Even Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly isn't buying National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's outrageous claims that a yet to be finalized United Nations treaty to regulate the import and export of small arms worldwide will strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights and cause American citizens "to be added to that pile of dead people left defenseless by the [United Nations'] policies."
The NRA has repeatedly offered such false and conspiratorial claims in response to the treaty, claims which in the past have been echoed on Fox. But during today's interview, Kelly repeatedly pushed back on LaPierre's talking points.
After LaPierre made the false claim that the proposed treaty "says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government," Kelly attempted to steer him back to reality by suggesting the treaty is about "global arms sales" not "domestic sales." On multiple occasions she urged him to justify his baseless claims.
Marking the start of July's month-long United Nations conference to negotiate a small arms treaty, National Rifle Association top lobbyist Chris Cox authored an op-ed for The Daily Caller making the hysterical -- and baseless -- claim that the treaty could "seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm." In fact the proposed treaty seeks to regulate the international trade of firearms - curtailing the illicit arms trade that keeps weapons flowing to human rights abusers -- and will not change ownership rules domestically.
Cox also made the reality-defying argument, citing conditions in the Sudan, that a treaty to restrict illegal small arms proliferation would harm citizens in countries ruled by human rights abusers. To the contrary, the United Nations has noted that "[m]ore human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon."
But according to Cox's theory "the world's socialist, tyrannical and dictatorial regimes" will use the treaty to "implement international gun registration requirements, bans on commonly owned firearms, tracking and registration of ammunition purchases, and create a new U.N. gun control bureaucracy" thus fulfilling "President Barack Obama's vision for America."
This laughable conspiracy has no place in reality. Top officials from the United Nations, the United States, and other high profile supporters have repeatedly and clearly said that the treaty does not aim to restrict anyone's "freedom to own" a gun. Indeed, the U.N. General Assembly's resolution on the treaty makes clear that countries will "exclusively" maintain the right within their borders to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownerships."
The chair of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Ambassador Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, has stated that the definitive goal of the small arms treaty "is to try to have common standards to be applied by all countries when they export or import weapons."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also said that treaty is "opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community that the United States and other responsible arms exporters already have in place to ensure that weaponry is transferred for legitimate purposes."
A senior policy advisor to the humanitarian organization Oxfam America has also pushed back against claims that the treaty has the nefarious purpose of interfering with domestic law:
"No government is discussing a treaty that would ever impact the right to bear arms, nor require regulation of domestic sales of arms," said Scott Stedjan, a senior policy adviser at the relief group Oxfam America. "This is totally about international transfer of arms so that they don't go to human rights abusers."
U.S. gun owners have nothing to fear from a treaty that essentially seeks to apply the standard for importing and exporting firearms already in place in the United States on a worldwide scale.
And there is no reason to believe that domestic manufacturers alone would be unable to ensure that the United States continues to have the most well-armed private citizenry in the world. According to the most recent figures available over 5.5 million firearms were manufactured in the United States in 2009 (The U.N. conservatively estimates that 7.5 to 8 million small arms are manufactured worldwide each year). Less than 200,000 of the firearms produced in the United States left the country as exports.
Last week's House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal has brought back the media myth that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a hugely-powerful organization that swings elections with its money and endorsements. But there's no evidence -- aside from the organization's media-abetted campaign to inflate its own influence -- that the NRA is an electoral force.
All 17 Democrats who voted to hold Holder in contempt received donations from the NRA. Additionally, the NRA, in an attempt to scare up more support for the contempt vote, announced that it would be scoring the vote for its candidate rating system. And based on the vote, the tactics seem to have worked, to some extent. As a result, some media coverage has predictably inflated the NRA's supposed electoral influence. But the vote is merely evidence that the NRA's campaign to portray itself as the most important lobbying group in the country has been successful.
In a post pondering "Why Is the NRA So Powerful?," Slate's Brian Palmer reinforces many of the media's favorite myths about the NRA, writing that the group "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country, despite relatively modest financial resources and just 4 million members." According to Palmer, the NRA "can reliably deliver votes."
But in truth, the NRA can't "reliably deliver votes" -- far from it.
During today's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and guest Betsy McCaughey choose to ignore the significant role that the National Rifle Association played in yesterday's contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder.
Doocy twice highlighted the fact that 17 Democrats joined Republicans to cite Holder for contempt of Congress concerning Holder's failure to satisfy an inquiry led by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee investigation into the failed ATF Fast and Furious Operation. When Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi suggested that the vote was about "politics," guest Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, disagreed, citing the decision of some Democrats to cross the aisle.
What was left unsaid is that every Democrat who voted to cite Holder in contempt has recently received money from the rabidly anti-Holder NRA.
DOOCY: As we've been telling you, the House of Representatives yesterday on a bipartisan basis voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
DOOCY: Joe [Trippi], it was a bipartisan vote, 16 Democrats went along with Republicans and said, You know, you really should give up those documents there is a dead guy we are talking about. A border patrol agent.
JOE TRIPPI: We don't do this like you know bullet vote [where] everyone has to vote the same way on the Democratic side of the aisle.
TRIPPI: I'm not talking about the credible facts [in Fast and Furious], whether they are there or not. It looks like its politics.
BETSY MCCAUGHEY: I don't think it does because Democrats voted for the contempt. And you know what, all of those Democrats walked out, the Congressional Black Caucus --
TRIPPI: 16 Democrats --
MCCAUGHEY: -- they didn't have the nerve to vote against the contempt motion. They posed this as a walk out. But you know what, that was cowardice. Either you vote for it or you vote against it. Walking out that's just stage show but with no convictions.
The NRA has, of course, been trying to effectuate Holder's ouster since the beginning. On April 30, 2011, in the earliest stages of the House Oversight Committee's investigation into Fast and Furious, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre declared, "Holder's got to go!" In media appearances, LaPierre continues to promote his insane belief that Fast and Furious was an Obama administration plot to destroy the Second Amendment.
In a June 20 letter to lawmakers in support of citing Holder for contempt, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, informed Members of Congress that the NRA would score the vote for its candidate rating system. Of the 17 Democrats who voted for contempt, 16 protected their A or A+ NRA rating. Rep. Kathleen Hochul (D-NY) possesses an NRA endorsement, but no rating.
UPDATE: During yesterday's broadcast of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Doocy predicted that Democrats who voted for contempt would be influenced by the NRA's decision to score the contempt vote. Even though his prediction appears to have come true, Doocy did not mention the NRA's influence during today's Fox & Friends and instead adopted the narrative that the bipartisan outcome suggested that partisanship was not a motivating factor.
DOOCY: Regarding how come there are going to be so many Democrats vote against Eric Holder is the fact that the NRA said, "Ok, you know what we're going to do? We're going to score that vote." And what happens in Washington is anytime there is something that involve gun control the NRA says, "We're going to score it." And if people want a good score with the NRA, and if you're in a district where the NRA is important, you vote with what the NRA wants, which is contempt of Congress for Mr. Holder.
Since President Obama asserted executive privilege earlier this week over a set of Department of Justice internal documents, the National Rifle Association has been quick to claim that the president's action is proof at last for the organization's insane conspiracy theory that Operation Fast and Furious was actually designed as a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment.
But the NRA's "evidence" could not be more lacking, as the documents over which Obama asserted executive privilege were generated after the conclusion of the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation. A June 19 letter sent from the Justice Department to Obama which asked the president assert his privilege clearly states that the request only covers documents "from after February 4, 2011 related to the Department's response to Congress." Fast and Furious was terminated in January 2011. The documents deal with how DOJ handled congressional inquiries into the program, not its authorization.
That NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has not actually seen the documents in question did little to temper his belief, expressed on NRA News, that the contents of the privileged documents prove that he was right about the Obama administration all along.
LAPIERRE: There must be something in those papers that just really stinks that they would be willing to walk into this briar patch and bust this whole issue out in the open.
GINNY SIMONE, NRA NEWS HOST: Do you think just maybe it has to do with what the NRA, and many others, have been talking about from the start? That this was planned, that this was about advancing an anti-gun agenda that this president had? Your thoughts?
LAPIERRE: Well my thoughts are that this was an attack on the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. That that's what Fast and Furious really was about. The fact is that's what they are trying to hide. That's what I believe is in these papers that they don't want out, is proof of that.
The president is trying to fog the issue. He's trying to say "I'm not attacking the Second Amendment." I believe what's in these papers is proof that this administration was attacking the Second Amendment. They knew exactly what they were doing. This was about putting these guns down there in Mexico and then why they found them at crime scenes going, "Aha, we need more gun laws in the United States." And that's what I believe is in these papers. And that's why I believe the president has joined with the attorney general to cover this whole thing up.
Last week Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent used opinion pieces to unleash racial tirades against both the African-American and Latino communities.
The unemployment rate among Latinos stands at 11 percent, which is much higher than the national average. Mr. Romney must continue to remind Latinos that improving the economy is key to improving their livelihood. He should tell them that Mr. Obama's economic policies are a complete disaster and that the president has failed them miserably.
Mr. Romney should continue to press for education reform, and remind Latino voters that education is vital to success. He should illustrate the importance that Americans of Asia-Pacific descent place on education and how fast their children move into the middle class. It doesn't have to be an Asian thing.
He should praise Latinos for their strong work ethic and remind them that this work ethic coupled with an education is an unstoppable combination that will catapult them into the middle class and beyond.
Then in a June 15 column for Newsmax Nugent claimed that "overwhelming majority of blacks are slaughtered by other black hoodlums":
I do agree with Mr. [Bill] Cosby that the Trayvon Martin shooting has nothing to do with race. Only empty-headed racists such as our black-panther loving Department of Justice believe otherwise.
Race does, however, play a significant role in the percentage of black Americans who are killed and wounded every single day in America.
The overwhelming majority of blacks are slaughtered by other black hoodlums, the overwhelming majority of whom are involved in gangs and drugs -- you know, that "victimless crime" thing.
Mr. Cosby is right about this tragedy. These black punks do use guns to solve their gang-related differences. None of them carry or use their guns legally.
Media Matters has previously noted that Nugent has made inflammatory comments on a number of topics, particularly race.
From the June 20 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre appeared on Fox News' America Live yesterday to comment on the controversial "Kill At Will" law that has been connected to the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. LaPierre's appearance came the day after The Wall Street Journal reported on a new study that linked the NRA-backed "Kill At Will" laws to higher homicide rates, though America Live host Shannon Bream failed to raise the results of the study with LaPierre.
Starting with Florida in 2005, at least 25 states have enacted some form of "Kill At Will." The study, conducted by Texas A&M University economics professor Mark Hoekstra, reached the damning conclusion that the expansion of such self-defense laws since 2005 led to an increase in the incidence of homicides:
[W]e find the laws increase murder and manslaughter by a statistically significant 7 to 9 percent, which translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally across the states that adopted castle doctrine [Hoekstra's term for laws passed since 2005 that expand the right to self-defense]. Thus, by lowering the expected costs associated with using lethal force, castle doctrine laws induce more of it. This increase in homicides could be due either to the increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations, or to the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal conflicts. We suspect that self-defense situations are unlikely to explain all of the increase, as we also find that murder alone is increased by a statistically significant 6 to 11 percent. This is important because murder excludes non-negligent manslaughter classifications that one might think are used more frequently in self-defense cases. But regardless of how one interprets increases from various classifications, it is clear that the primary effect of strengthening self-defense law is to increase homicide. [emphasis added]
Hoekstra also found no link between the enactment of "Kill At Will" laws and a decrease in other types of crime:
Results indicate that the prospect of facing additional self-defense does not deter crime. Specifically, we find no evidence of deterrence effects on burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. Moreover, our estimates are sufficiently precise as to rule out meaningful deterrence effects.
The study undermines LaPierre's organization's defense of "Kill At Will" laws, which were enacted across the nation after dogged lobbying efforts by the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council. LaPierre wasn't asked about the study during his Fox appearance, but was instead given free rein to make a number of misleading claims about the nature of "Kill At Will" laws.
LaPierre described Florida's "Kill At Will" law, and similar laws nationwide that remove the duty to retreat before employing deadly force outside of the home while often adding the presumption that the use of deadly force was lawful, as "completely unremarkable." Contrary to LaPierre's characterization, increased scrutiny of "Kill At Will" laws has uncovered numerous instances in which the laws have been tied to seemingly avoidable killings.
This week, National Rifle Association president David Keene will moderate a "conservative conversation" at the Chicago Conservative Political Action Conference with NRA board member Maria Heil, Illinois State Rifle Association executive director Richard Pearson, and Wisconsin Tea Party figure Kimberly Jo Simac. Keene and the panelists all have a history of extreme and conspiratorial rhetoric.
During an interview on NRA News, Mike Piccione, editor of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section, and host Ginny Simone spoke of "a team effort" between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Caller to promote gun ownership. During the interview Piccione said he hoped to expand his online publication's controversial gun giveaway promotion by giving away a firearm to a Caller email list subscriber who signs up for an NRA membership.
MIKE PICCIONE, DAILY CALLER GUNS AND GEAR EDITOR: Check back though because we're going to do a few things. One thing I want to do is I want to give a gun to somebody that joins the National Rifle Association from the Daily Caller.
GINNY SIMONE, HOST: Alrighty.
PICCIONE: Absolutely. Join the NRA and we'll support you.
SIMONE: It's a team effort.
Piccione also admitted that the gun giveaway promotion was the result of a brainstorm session with far right-wing gun manufacturer Jim Pontillo.
The Caller at one point distanced themselves from Pontillo's political views when confronted with extreme and racial comments about President Obama made by prize gun manufacturer Pontillo, telling The Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." But the next day, Piccione told NRA News host Ginny Simone that he came up with the idea for the promotion with his "friend" Pontillo in order to "remind people" that Caller is "pro-Constitution" and "pro-gun."
During a May 23 appearance on NRA News' Cam & Company, John Frazer, the research director for the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, attacked a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study while failing to acknowledge that the main premise of the study is true: gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in 10 states.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
Using the most recently available data, VPC also demonstrated that nationwide motor vehicle deaths have declined over the last decade while gun related deaths ticked up during this period. VPC attributes this difference to successful regulation of motor vehicles and a lack of such regulation with regard to guns.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
In response to the study, Frazer was forced to make the contrived argument that only fatal accidents involving firearms should be compared to accidental motor vehicle deaths. At no point during the interview did he acknowledge that in a number of states the total number of deaths as a result of firearm use exceeded deaths resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle or that the gap between the firearm and motor vehicle death rate is narrowing.
FRAZER: What [VPC] are talking about is a pure apples and oranges comparison. They are comparing total numbers across the board, which is a completely invalid comparison because obviously most vehicle deaths are accidents. So if they really want an aggregate comparison they should compare motor vehicle accidents to firearmsaccidents, and firearms accidents are at their lowest point in recorded history.
But an aggregate comparison is exactly what VPC did.
Just one day after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force that was responsible for model voter ID and "Kill At Will" self-defense legislation like that linked to Trayvon Martin's death, a new organization emerged to carry the torch for the implementation of voter ID laws nationwide.
In an April 18 press release, the innocuous-sounding National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) heralded "the formation of a 'Voter Identification Task Force,' intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting." According to NCPPR chair Amy Ridenour, "conservatives will kick up our support for voter integrity programs. We're putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we'll kick it up a notch somewhere else. You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory."
NCPPR's press release ominously concluded with a claim that NCPPR was prepared to pull a metaphoric gun on its political opponents: "Unlike [ALEC critic] the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Public Policy Research eschews the use of violent references such as 'War Room.' We are, however, inspired by a particular passage in the 1987 movie 'The Untouchables': 'They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.' Indeed." So much for eschewing violent references.
It was only fitting then that the National Rifle Association, the former private sector co-chair of ALEC's disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, would give NCPPR free publicity. During the May 22 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company, NCPPR adjunct fellow Horace Cooper appeared to discuss his organization's voter fraud hysteria.