This weekend former Senator Evan Bayh echoed the beliefs of many in the media that the National Rifle Association has only recently moved to the fringe, telling Politico "their position is now in the end zone, not at the 40-yard line."
These extremes were on display at the NRA annual meeting this weekend where Glenn Beck, during a keynote address just days after the announcement that New York's Cablevision would soon begin to carry his Blaze network to millions of households, displayed on the screen a poster-like image of Michael Bloomberg giving the Sieg Heil salute. To equate the Jewish mayor of New York City to Nazis used to be beyond the pale in American politics.
One could say this outrageous hate speech was Beck acting like Beck, demonstrating his herculean effort to prove Godwin's Law, but Nazi comparisons have been part and parcel of the NRA's rhetoric for decades.
In 1995, former President George H.W. Bush resigned his lifetime membership in the organization after Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre signed a fundraising letter that claimed the Assault Weapons Ban passed earlier that year "gives jackbooted Government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure and kill us."
Bush told the organization, "your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country."
The rhetoric might have been new to Bush, but the organization had freely referred to law enforcement officials as "jackbooted thugs" for years. It was only in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing that previously ignored communications, such as direct mail pieces, were scrutinized by the media, outing this disgraceful language.
From the May 4 National Rifle Association "Stand and Fight" rally:
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The membership of the National Rifle Association has unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by a WND columnist expressing opposition to any and all additional restrictions against guns during the session of its annual meeting. This position puts the activists in attendance out of step not only with the American people, but with the broader membership of the organization.
The resolution was offered by fringe gun activist Jeff Knox during the open session of the May 4 meeting. Knox is head of the Firearms Coalition, a hardline organization that promotes the "unencumbered right to arms" and opposes "any moves toward more restrictive and/or intrusive gun laws." He also writes a column about gun policy for WND, a discredited right-wing website known for its conspiracy theories. Knox's father Neal is credited with leading NRA hard-liners to crush the group's moderate wing in the 1970s and 1990s, helping to establish the organization as a no-compromises right-wing lobbying powerhouse.
The text of Knox's resolution cites its necessity as "a public repudiation of the lies and distortions from the media and politicians suggesting that the majority of NRA members support the expansion of gun control laws as clearly and unequivocally we do not." Polling indicates that the public -- including self-described NRA members -- overwhelmingly support at least one proposal to strengthen gun laws, the expansion of the background check system.
Speaking on behalf of the resolution, Knox claimed it was necessary to establish that "the members here gathered soundly and solidly oppose any and all new restrictions on our Second Amendment rights." John Fafoutakis of Sheraton, Wyoming, seconded Knox's resolution, saying that "we will not compromise. To all those gun-grabbers in Washington, to all their members of the lapdog presstitute news media, and to the gun-grabbers of the United Nations who want to disarm all law-abiding Americans, I have these kind words for you: fill your hand you son of a bitch."
After voting to strike a clause of the resolution requiring its text be published in the NRA's magazine, the membership in attendance passed it unanimously.
In the midst of the most promising time for the gun violence prevention debate in decades, the National Rifle Association will name a new president at their annual meeting May 3-5.
Alabama lawyer Jim Porter will replace current NRA President David Keene, whose two-year term is expiring.
Here's what the media should know about Porter, a conspiracy theorist who calls the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" and represents more of the same for the organization:
1. Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss. Don't expect Porter to be a breath of fresh air bringing with him a new way of doing things. As is traditional, Porter will come to the presidency following two years as first vice president and two years as second vice president of the organization. He has also been the head of the NRA's legal affairs committee and a trustee of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund. Porter's father was the NRA's president from 1959 to 1961 and chaired the 1977 annual meeting at which hardliners took over the organization and began transforming it into the no-compromise lobbying powerhouse the group remains today.
2. Porter Believes "Un-American" Eric Holder And Hillary Clinton Tried To "Kill The Second Amendment At The United Nations." Porter said during a June 2012 speech at the New York Rifle & Pistol Association's Annual Meeting that Attorney General Eric Holder, who he termed "rabidly un-American," was "trying to kill the Second Amendment at the United Nations" with the help of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He attributed this to the proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which he claimed would "make it illegal for individuals all over the world to own firearms." This is a blatant misrepresentation of the treaty, which deals with the international arms trade, not private ownership.
The Daily Caller discounted the experiences of some victims of gun violence who have promoted stronger gun laws by claiming they suffer from "hoplophobia," a fake psychological disorder defined by the gun rights movement as "the morbid fear of guns."
This baseless attack found in the featured article of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section is the latest salvo from a conservative media that have launched vicious attacks on survivors of gun violence who support reforms to current gun laws.
The Daily Caller article purported to examine "hoplophobia" as an actual psychological condition, asking, "Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?" However this "disorder" is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and instead is a term coined by the late National Rifle Association board member and famed shooting instructor Jeff Cooper.
In the May 1 article, the authors singled out Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and prominent gun violence prevention campaigner Sarah Brady as allegedly suffering from psychological problems due to their direct experience with gun violence. The article further claimed that the promotion of gun violence prevention is "perilous" to the public:
At least three of the most virulent anti-gun-rights crusaders in the nation suffered extreme gun trauma before entering the fray: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (discovered Harvey Milk's body), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (husband shot dead on commuter train) and Sarah Brady (husband disabled in assassination attempt on President Reagan). Are there others? Have they received counseling for the gun trauma they experienced? And to what extent, if any, does hoplophobic displacement influence and skew what otherwise seems like politics as usual? The biggest question here would be: Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?
The debate over the precise nature of the condition is likely to continue for a long period of time. This is normal in the psychiatric and mental-health field. The more pressing concern, it seems to us, is the scope of the condition, the numbers of people who may be afflicted, and the extent to which they sublimate their fear by pressing politicians to act in denying the rights of their fellow citizens. That, it seems to us, is intolerable -- the idea that a festering and untreated psychological condition may have more influence over the acts of Congress than does intelligent consideration of life-or-death issues.
In seeking to quell their own turmoil, those so afflicted project their own fears and rage onto others. This is a fairly normal method for handling overwhelming fear and anger, but in doing so, politically active hoplophobes infringe on the rights of healthy law-abiding citizens and the stability of our society. This makes hoplophobia not only unique among all phobias, it makes it perilous. [emphasis in original]
The National Rifle Association's annual meeting on May 3-5 will feature a number of conservative media figures -- including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Ted Nugent -- who often use violent rhetoric and promote gun-related conspiracy theories.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin incorrectly wrote that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is proposing to "ban explosive powder" as a response to the Boston Marathon bombings when in fact Reid has proposed requiring a criminal background check for individuals who buy explosive powder.
The Senate proposal, originally sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), but being shepherded by Reid in his absence, would require a background check to "purchase black powder, black powder substitute, or smokeless powder, in any quantity." Furthermore the legislation would allow the Attorney General to stop explosives sales to suspected terrorists. Under current law inclusion on the terrorist watch list alone does not prohibit individuals from buying explosives or firearms.
While Rubin's apparent aim was to make Reid's response to the Boston bombings seem ridiculous -- explosive powder has many legitimate uses -- explosive powder is a common component in domestic bombings. Furthermore, because of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, it is currently legal to purchase up to 50 pounds of black or smokeless powder without undergoing a background check.
Decades before the Boston bombings -- where the perpetrators reportedly may have used black or smokeless powder -- explosive powder has been known to be regularly employed by domestic bombers. According to a 1980 report issued by the Office of Technology Assessment, a now defunct office of Congress, in incidents involving both successfully detonated and undetonated bombs, "black and smokeless powders and cap sensitive high explosives all occur with high frequency." A 2005 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) found that "because black powder is relatively inexpensive (between $5 and $15 per pound), it is the most common explosive used in pipe bombs." The report also found that explosive powders were present in the most fatal of bombings between 2002 and 2004:
According to National Repository data, 8 people were killed and 49 people were injured by explosives from January 2002 through December 2004. Explosive powders, which may be obtained legally in quantities up to 50 pounds without a license or permit, were the largest cause of deaths and injuries. Over 50 percent of those killed and injured during this period were victims of explosive devices containing black powder. Twenty-five percent of those injured were victims of improvised explosives devices, many of which containing common chemicals.
Still the NRA has spent decades lobbying against the regulation of black and smokeless powder -- which can be components of gunpowder -- and is largely responsible for the current background check exemption for purchasers of up to 50 pounds of explosive powder.
Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto questioned the authenticity of a New York Times op-ed authored by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by claiming that the op-ed appeared online too quickly to have been written by someone "who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions."
Giffords' April 18 op-ed was written in response to the failure of expanded background checks legislation. On January 8, 2011, Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent meeting in an attack that killed six and left 13 wounded.
Taranto's comments occurred on the April 19 edition of the National Rifle Association's news show, Cam & Company, where he said it was "odd" that the Times op-ed, which Taranto described as "Giffords' personal reaction as somebody who's been wounded by gun violence," was published approximately five hours after the Senate voted on background checks. Taranto cast doubt on the idea that Giffords had authored the piece, commenting, "So we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words and put in an appearance in the White House in the course of it."
From Cam & Company:
TARANTO: One fascinating thing about this is this piece was published no later than 9:03 PM on Wednesday evening, because that's when it first appears on the New York Times' Twitter feed. The last Senate vote on amendments to the gun bill was a bit after 6 [PM]. Giffords appeared at the White House at 5:35 [PM] when we saw that enraged rant by the president. The Manchin-Toomey [background check] provision was the first vote. That was at 4:04 PM. So if you read this piece it's presented as a cry from the heart, as Giffords' personal reaction as somebody who's been wounded by gun violence to the betrayal of these Senators. So we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words and put in an appearance in the White House in the course of it. So I think that's a little bit odd.
Taranto offers no evidence for his offensive insinuation that Giffords would not have been capable of authoring the piece herself. He also ignores the possibility that Giffords could have authored the op-ed ahead of time in expectation of the widely-predicted outcome - hardly an unusual practice.
Conservatives in media gloated and launched political attacks in reaction to a coalition of largely Senate Republicans blocking a package of stronger gun laws, including compromise legislation on expanded background checks for gun sales -- a legislative proposal supported by roughly 90 percent of Americans.
Before, during, and after President Obama delivered a speech from the Rose Garden on April 17 vowing to continue the dialogue on gun laws, conservatives in media offered triumphal comments and launched vicious attacks on advocates for gun violence prevention, including family members of Newtown victims and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
As Politico noted, conservative bloggers "claimed victory ... saying that their ideology and principles were the keys to their success." The right-wing reaction, however, went beyond basic policy arguments:
In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro opined that family members of Newtown victims -- many of whom advocated for the passage of stronger gun laws -- did not deserve to be heard because of his apparent belief that background checks infringe on the Second Amendment. Shapiro previously accused Obama of attempting to implement socialism in a piece for The New American, the magazine publication of the far-right John Birch Society. From Shapiro's April 18 op-ed:
I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.
It may sound harsh and uncaring, but even the greatest tragedies are not a valid reason to disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States. If they were, our free speech and our rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against self-incrimination would have all been abolished long ago amid every crime wave in American history.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, making it clear that guns in "common use" were constitutionally protected. Nevertheless, President Obama recently flew several family members of Sandy Hook victims to Washington on Air Force One to pressure congressional legislators to enact new gun laws.
The National Rifle Association is distorting a survey that experts say already uses questionable methodology to claim that the vast majority of police don't believe background checks will reduce violent crime.
The Washington Post's website is currently displaying an NRA ad which states, "80% of police say background checks will have no effect on violent crime."
But the poll in question, conducted by the law enforcement news portal PoliceOne, does not ask respondents whether they believe background checks will have an effect on violent crime. As Slate's William Saletan has noted, the only question in the survey that produced results similar to the ones the NRA cited was the question, "Do you think that a federal law prohibiting private, non-dealer transfers of firearms between individuals would reduce violent crime?" The bipartisan background check amendment currently under discussion in the Senate would not impact private, non-dealer transfers; it would only require background checks for commercial sales.
Moreover, the survey's methodology raises questions about its results. It is not a random sample, but rather a survey completed by the 3 percent of registered current and former law enforcement officers who are members of PoliceOne and chose to respond.
Academic polling experts who Media Matters contacted said this approach is questionable, because the self-selection of respondents can bias the sample. University of Michigan Professor Michael Traugott, for example, told Media Matters that "one issue that would be of particular concern is that the survey was completed by self-selected respondents," which the Public Opinion Quarterly editor said could have skewed the results.
Other experts highlighted that the survey examines only members of PoliceOne. "How representative of all police officers are PoliceOne's members to begin with?" said Columbia University professor Robert Shapiro, a co-author of award-winning books on public opinion research. "And how does the sample compare with all police officers demographically?" Temple University's Christopher Wlezian, another editor at Public Opinion Quarterly, likewise commented that the problem with the survey is "the fact that we don't know whether the sample of respondents is representative of the population of police officers."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed the heroic response to the Boston Marathon bombings "represents" the NRA before attacking the "anti-Americanism" of the Obama administration for allegedly seeking to eliminate the Second Amendment.
Nugent's comments occurred during the April 16 broadcast of NRA News where he described the heroics of people who ran towards the scene of the bombings before claiming "that represents what the NRA is":
NUGENT: Those uniformed heroes of the military charged in with the uniformed heroes of law enforcement, the first responders, the EMTs, and quite relative to my opening statement today, citizens, just people, American citizens knowing that two bombs had gone off, limbs had been blown off of peoples' bodies, massive amounts of blood and terror and trauma. And where did civilians and heroes of professional organizations and law enforcement and military, where did they run? Straight into the danger. That's the America that I pray every day that represents what the NRA is.
Nugent then said that Americans "will charge into the most dangerous times when the top officials in the American government really want to eliminate the Second Amendment" and claimed that "anti-Americanism" exists in the Obama administration:
NUGENT: It's families, it's mom and pop America, working hard playing hard America who understand what makes America special and unique that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the guiding light to the greatest quality of life in the history of the world and we will charge into the most dangerous times when the top officials in the American government really want to eliminate the Second Amendment, when [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] says I would take away all of their guns if I could. She said it on film, Cam.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Yeah.
NUGENT: Where the Attorney General [Eric Holder] says we need to brainwash people. I know that that kind of anti-Americanism exists, but why can't we communicate with those who we oppose on the gun control issue, on the tax issue, on the court system, on the welfare issue, ad nauseum? Why can't we somehow, and I believe we can if we continue to communicate and turn up our activism heat, why can't we create an America that is united constantly like we're united when terror strikes?
Nugent's use of the heroics of the Boston Marathon bombing as a platform to attack the Obama administration comes a week after he said on NRA News that not enough was done to stop the reelection of President Obama before asking, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he was "not recommending shooting anybody."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent will reportedly appear tonight on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss firearm policy, despite his history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. In February, OutFront featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that host Erin Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
Nugent's appearance comes just days after he doubled down on his infamous comments that he would be "dead or in jail" because of President Obama's gun policies. During that interview on NRA News, Nugent also complained that not enough was done to stop the reelection of Obama, asking, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody."
Nugent is not a credible figure in the debate over gun laws.
In a February 13 column for birther website WND, Nugent revived false reports to allege that the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used handguns rather than an assault weapon during his attack. Nugent's claim was based on an erroneous news report often cited by individuals promoting the conspiracy theory that the mass shooting was a hoax. In that same column, Nugent also downplayed the damage done by assault weapons by falsely claiming the AR-15 has more in common with a "squirrel rifle" than a military assault rifle.
In addition to his long history of hateful rhetoric on the topic of race, Nugent has compared the alleged plight of gun owners to civil rights icon Rosa Parks and blamed gun violence on "leftist stooges." By contrast, Nugent has also compared Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder to serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer after they were chosen to lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts. No stranger to violent rhetoric, Nugent claimed in January that the Obama administration "is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George" and that "if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies."
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that Buzzfeed promoted the views of Al Qaeda by reporting on a video of an Al Qaeda spokesperson encouraging terrorists to use gun shows to obtain weapons without a background check. This claim comes as a deal has reportedly been struck for legislation that would require a background check for all sales at gun shows.
Edwards also downplayed the well-documented patronage of gun shows by terrorists and other dangerous individuals.
On the April 10 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company, Edwards accused reporter Andrew Kaczynski of "approvingly citing Al Qaeda to bolster gun control arguments," and asked, "I wonder when Buzzfeed is going to start citing Al Qeada's pop culture criticism of the United States too?"
EDWARDS: So Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski is now approvingly citing Al Qaeda to bolster gun control arguments. Remember the chairman of Buzzfeed has said I'm not going to give money to any Democrat candidates who don't vote for gun control. Kaczynski has a piece at Buzzfeed right now, "Even Al Qaeda Thought America's Gun Background Check System Was Weak." Right. I wonder when Buzzfeed is going to start citing Al Qeada's pop culture criticism of the United States too. Kaczynski gives this example of [American Al Qaeda spokesperson] Adam Gadahn who said back in 2011, "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" Now Al Qaeda was wrong about our gun laws. But hey, they actually repeated this, you know, President Obama made the same incorrect statement about fully automatic firearms. What the heck. Everybody gets it wrong I guess. It's just weird that Buzzfeed is like, "Well see look Al Qaeda said our gun laws are weak so we should totally change our gun laws." 17 Al Qaeda Cats.
Despite the fact that Americans, including gun owners and Republicans, are lending historic levels of support to President Obama's endorsed proposal to expand background checks for all gun purchases, the list of Republican senators vowing the filibuster any such bill expanded this week: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell became the 14th Republican to pledge not to allow a vote on any proposed gun legislation to take place on the floor of U.S. Senate.
In the end, it seems the attempted blockade to halt debate on the legislation has failed. But the Republicans' obstructionist strategy was no surprise, considering the party quickly coalesced around that dead-end tactic in early 2009. It's an unprecedented approach they've adopted to essentially proudly oppose anything endorsed by the White House, including, cabinet nominees and emergency relief packages.
That's now a given. What continues to shock is the extent to which the press in the weeks leading up to the pending gun vote played along with the Republican intransigence. What's distressing is how Beltway pundits largely gave Republicans a free pass and instead focused its blame on Democrats for failing to change Republicans behavior; for getting "cocky" and missing "their window" following the school massacre in Newtown, CT. And for "grasping at straws."
Routinely, we saw gun narratives that found fault primarily with the president: If only Obama had acted sooner, or proposed different legislation, or talked more often to Republicans, or not held public events in support of new gun laws. If Obama had just done everything differently, pundits suggested, he would've been able to win substantial Republican support and been able to easily secure passage of new gun control legislation.
That's because, despite four years of relentless obstruction, much of the press still hasn't budged from its preferred, naïve premise that, collectively, Republicans are routinely open to compromise, that they're honest brokers, and that it's Obama's job to just figure out how to get them to say yes. (Why won't he just lead?)
In the end, Democrats in the Senate this week may succeed in brokering a deal on gun legislation. As of now, Democrats will at least be able to bring the issue up for discussion in the Senate, which actually constitutes a major victory amidst the Republicans' blanket of no. But it's odd Democrats have so often been the focus of the press' attention, when Republicans are the ones standing in the way.
By the way, how radical of a shift is today's GOP behavior on guns? In 1999, 31 Senate Republicans voted in favor of mandating background checks at gun shows. And in 1994, 42 House Republicans voted for President Bill Clinton's crime bill, which included a ban on assault weapons.
But little of that matters now.