During an appearance on the August 22 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, guest Anthony Gregory, a research fellow for the Independent Institute, said he finds "it troubling that right after" mass shootings, people would want "an explanation as to why it happened, or how it could be stopped." According to Gregory, mass shootings only constitute only an "occasional tragedy" that cannot be prevented in "an open society."
CAMERON GRAY: You wrote an article in the Washington Times, "Gun control and the security illusion: Laws don't prevent crimes." Of course NRA News we talk about this subject, you know, on a nightly basis. You made points about the Sikh temple shooting, the Aurora, Colorado shooting, and of course every time mass shootings like that come up there is the gun control policy debate that rises up in this country. Tell us about the thesis of your article first of all. And tell us about, you know, what you say to people every time this national debate comes up, whether we need to be banning guns after a mass shooting like this.
ANTHONY GREGORY: Well first of all I tend to find it troubling that right after a massacre like this everyone wants to have an explanation as to why it happened, or how it could be stopped. There is always this big public policy discussion that begins right away. It's not even a few days that people wait before they delve into this.And of course guns are a target in this discussion. Although I was careful in my article to point out that even many pro-gun people can sometimes overstate the case and overstate how much of a panacea ownership might be to prevent these massacres. Because, unfortunately, in an open society you're going to have an occasional tragedy like this, and I don't think there is any way to eliminate them 100 percent. But surely gun control doesn't stop them either. And there are many other problems with gun control. I think gun control exacerbates these types of tragedies. But they have all these other costs to society that I think are very horrible. The biggest one of course being the cost to individual liberty.
After arguing that mass shootings are a necessary cost of liberty, Gregory suggested that gun violence prevention, which he claimed involves "jailing people for owning guns, putting them in prison [and] prosecuting them," is "itself a form of gun violence."
During the August 17 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards teased a segment about a new University of Colorado policy to place students who wish to possess guns on campus in separate housing from other students by stating, "Segregated dorms. Yes. How progressive. We are back to segregation now."
After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the University of Colorado could not prohibit students from possessing firearms on campus, the university announced on Friday that gun-carrying students who wished to use on-campus housing must live in a designated dorm located at a secondary campus in downtown Boulder.
That night Edwards, and guest James Manley -- an attorney who helped overturn the campus gun ban -- were quick to draw a false equivalence between the university policy and racial segregation during the 20th century in America.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: The ban was struck down and today the University of Colorado announced what they are going to do with concealed carry holders who want to live on campus. Basically they are not going to be able to live in the regular dorms; instead the campus is going to push them off to a number of family housing units. Right?
JIM MANLEY, MOUNTAIN STATES LEGAL FOUNDATION: Right. It's sort of a policy of "separate but equal." If you want to exercise your Second Amendment rights you have to live in a segregated dorm essentially.
Far from the sinister motivation behind "separate but equal," the rationale cited by CU for its new policy is the avoidance of "potentially dangerous living situations."
School officials believe this new policy will prevent potentially dangerous living situations on-campus because many students who live in the dorms are under the age of 21 and can't legally carry a gun.
"With the potential of having a roommate that may appropriately have a concealed carry permit and then the gun being mishandled by another student or friend or something like that," said [Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Deb] Coffin.
As the university has noted, the vast majority of students who live in the dorms are under the age of 21, and thus ineligible to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
If the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most powerful interest group in Washington, then why did its poster boy in Congress, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), lose a Republican primary this week? According to an analysis of NRA power by The American Prospect contributing editor (and former Media Matters staffer) Paul Waldman, the result should not come as a surprise. Waldman studied congressional races in the four most recent election cycles and concluded that, despite the NRA's tenancy to puff itself up, both the organization's endorsement and campaign contributions offer no real benefit to congressional candidates.
In a campaign ad released in June, Rep. Stearns touted his endorsement by the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF). Earlier this week, the NRA's website listed its endorsement of Rep. Stearns, although now the page is no longer accessible. NRA-PVF also gave Rep. Stearns $4,950 in contributions this election cycle, tying him for the seventh biggest recipient among Republicans in the House of Representatives so far.
He also did the NRA's bidding in Congress. In February 2011, Rep. Stearns introduced the NRA-backed National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822). The bill sought to loosen restrictions on the carrying of firearms in public by forcing states to recognize the validity of concealed carry permits issued by other states.
Rep. Stearns had been praised by the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) as early as January 2009 for supporting the idea. In August 2011, as the legislation moved through Congress, the NRA-ILA issued a press release expressing strong support for H.R. 822 and credited Rep. Stearns with introducing the bill. In October 2011, the NRA-ILA issued a press release providing a progress update on H.R. 822 that referred to the legislation as "Stearns' gun bill." In November 2011, H.R. 822 was passed by the House.
The NRA and Rep. Stearns were clearly on the same page, but he lost anyways. According to Waldman the NRA simply doesn't give its candidates enough money to have a meaningful impact on their elections.
National Rifle Association board member Grover Norquist undermined the NRA's conspiracy theory that President Obama would use his second term to destroy the Second Amendment during a radio appearance on Monday. The NRA has used that claim as the centerpiece of their election efforts.
Citing the ability of Congress and the Supreme Court to check the power of the Executive Branch, Norquist stated, "So if Obama was king would he go after your guns? Probably. He ain't king." Norquist's comments came during the inaugural edition of Media Matters' new radio program, The Agenda:
ARI RABIN-HAVT, HOST: Now according to the [NRA's] CEO Wayne LaPierre, this is has all been part of -- and this is a quote -- "a massive Obama conspiracy" to quote "lull gun owners to sleep" so he can eliminate the Second Amendment in his second term. You know, you're a very reasonable guy. Frankly that statement seems unreasonable, that it's all part of a secret plot. Do you agree with Wayne LaPierre on that? That Barack Obama is trying to lull America to sleep so he can ban guns in his second term? Something I don't think is even legislatively possible at this point?
GROVER NORQUIST: I think in his heart of hearts Obama is not a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and would limit gun rights to the extent that he can. Now the good news for people who care about the Second Amendment is that the House and the Senate have strong support for the Second Amendment. So one of the reasons Obama has been reasonable is that he doesn't have the votes to do something other than be reasonable. And the Supreme Court has also come down on the side of an individual right to be armed. So if Obama was king would he go after your guns? Probably. He ain't king.
Norquist's statement that Obama "ain't king" stands in sharp contrast to the musings of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who has been warning NRA adherents about an Obama plot to end private gun ownership. The theory was first aired out at a political rally in September 2011, when LaPierre suggested that the president's inaction on the gun issue evidenced a "massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country." He went on to claim:
We see the president's strategy crystal clear: get re-elected, and with no other re-elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom. Erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and exorcise it from the U.S. Constitution. That's their agenda.
The theory has been widely ridiculed since its conception. Jon Stewart characterized it as "so crazy, it's f--king crazy." MSNBC host Rachel Maddow summed up the outlandish nature of the theory nicely in October 2011, stating, "The NRA says the way you can tell Obama is coming for your guns, is that he's not coming for you guns. It's genius! That is the insane paranoid message from the NRA this year." Hardball's Chris Matthews reacted to LaPierre's speech by calling him "another strain of the crazy far right."
SALT LAKE CITY -- You won't see signs for the country's sweetest travel-club deal in the window of your local travel store. To join the American Legislative Exchange Council, your peers must first elect you to statewide office. If you win as a Republican or conservative Democrat, your ALEC state chair will approach with terms of membership you'll find generous, if not impossible to resist. A token $100 buys the opportunity to attend all-inclusive events on ALEC's busy calendar of summits, conferences, and academies, where you and your family can enjoy some of the country's finest resorts and destination hotels. Joints like Utah's Grand America, site of ALEC's just concluded national conference and proud bearer of AAA's "Five Diamond" rating.
It was on the eve of this conference that I first glimpsed the privileges and perks of ALEC membership. I was sitting in the Grand America's Viennese style lobby café, pondering the primrose bush courtyard outside as a young harpist plucked out Fur Elise, when an ALEC staffer appeared and began placing laminated cards on the tables. She was followed by groups of women, the wives and daughters of ALEC state legislators and lobbyists, sitting down to enjoy a British Full Tea of sweets, scones and jams, laid out on an elaborate spread of fine china. I picked up one of the laminated cards and read: "Enjoy your 'ALEC-SNACKS'!" Beneath the text were the logos of Americans for Prosperity and the American Insurance Association, two ALEC sponsors. As ALEC snacks were served, the tables grew atwitter. "This is so nice," said the wide-eyed wife of a Virginia state representative.
Not long after, the china was taken away and the café grew busy with attendees getting down to business. A hundred or so legislators, corporate representatives, and think tank staff greeted each other and ordered cocktails, filling the room with an ambient babble of right-leaning schmooze and networking. I've had to deal with those same damn unions.... We've got a few big tort reform bills in the pipe.... I'd love for you to come visit the plant .... Are you with Goldwater or Heritage now?
Before ALEC grew into an influential national force over the last two decades, few state-level politicians ever knew corporate pampering at swank hotels thousands of miles from their home districts, the scope for which all but disappeared with the introduction of post-Watergate ethics rules. Unlike their federal counterparts, state reps have generally tracked closer to the old republican ideal of the citizen-politician -- middle-class, part-time public servants who keep their day jobs as teachers, accountants, lawyers, farmers. Some of them have always been targeted and feted by special interests, but it was ALEC that innovated a private sector mechanism for corralling state representatives en masse to posh locations like the Grand for long weekends of cozy corporate lobbying and blunt-force ideological indoctrination.
For much of its four decades, the corporations and rightwing foundations that provide all but a thin slice of ALEC's current $7 million budget have succeeded in exerting pressure on the direction of the people's business in 50 statehouses. Unlike the National Council of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments, to which it often compares itself, ALEC is driven to an extraordinary degree by its private sector sponsors. It also aggressively hides from the press and the public the proceedings of its closed-door task force meetings, where corporate representatives vote on equal footing with elected legislators on model bills, who rarely identify the origins of ALEC bills when they are later introduced to become law.
Most Americans live under at least one product of these meetings, as the group has been very effective in turning one state's notorious right-wing bills into model legislation that can be pushed across the country. Arizona's infamous "Show Me Your Papers" law (SB 1070) took this path, with similar model legislation subsequently passed by ALEC's criminal justice task force, which the for-profit prison behemoth Corrections Corporation of America once co-chaired and had long been a member. So did the National Rifle Association's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law; ALEC used legislation passed in Florida as a template for a model bill that was eventually passed in two-dozen other states. ALEC's role in pushing reportedly discriminatory voter ID bills has followed a similar pattern.
ALEC's various Task Forces have altogether produced thousands of pieces of model legislation that have little to do with organic movements inside the states and everything to do with top-down nationwide attacks on workers' rights, environmental and other industry regulations, as well as pushes to accelerate the privatization of public education, federal lands, and the criminal justice system. The group has proven to be an ingenious multi-purpose tool for expanding corporate power. Like any lobby shop, it is pay-to-play. Corporate memberships run between $7,000 and $25,000, which buys full voting rights on Task Forces that function as bill mills for national and multinational corporations, industrial trade associations, and right-wing think tanks. Just as $100 is a steal for legislators, $25,000 is a bargain on the private sector side. As early as 1995, an article sent to ALEC's private sector members boasted of the group's growing effectiveness. "With our success rate at more than 20 percent [of bills passed] I would say that ALEC is a good investment," then-executive director Samuel Brunelli told corporate backers. "Nowhere else can you get a return that high."
The ultimate return sought by ALEC is nothing less than the rollback of the state and the establishment of unfettered corporate rule over everything from vast tracts of American wilderness to K through 12 education.
According to an e-mail sent by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Mark O'Mara, the defense attorney for George Zimmerman, will speak at the SAF-sponsored Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC), which will begin September 28. The conference will be held, for the first time in its 27 year history, in Florida.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida on February 26. The conference will take place at an Orlando hotel less than 25 miles away from the site of the shooting.
According to a GRPC flyer, the event will provide attendees with the "once a year chance to network, get an insider's look and plan pro-gun rights strategies for the coming year." Whether O'Mara will divulge any new information about the ongoing criminal case remains to be seen. So far the Florida attorney has largely remained mum about the specifics of Zimmerman's self-defense claim, other than to indicate that that Florida's controversial "Kill At Will" self-defense law, called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents, will likely play a significant role in his client's defense.
Although the guest list has not been finalized, it is likely that O'Mara will get the chance to rub elbows with some of the most ardent defenders of "Kill At Will." The invitees include Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, discredited gun rights "researcher" John Lott and unnamed representatives from Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the National Rifle Association, and Gun Owners of America.
For years a mutually advantageous relationship has existed between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and firearm manufacturers. The gun industry donates huge chunks of cash -- as much as $38.9 million from 2005 to 2011 -- to the NRA, and the gun rights organization in turn engages in hysterical fearmongering to promote gun sales. One hand washes the other. And now the Daily Caller is joining the action by offering its readers discounted NRA memberships.
It was only a matter of time before the gun-loving Daily Caller recognized the benefit of shilling for the gun industry and its unofficial PR wing, the NRA. In recent months the online publication has been heavily promoting the NRA while offering its readers perks in the form of a weekly handgun giveaway.
But as material published this week demonstrates, increasingly unabashed promotion of the NRA and FMK Firearms calls the Daily Caller's credibility as a news source further into question.
On Wednesday Mike Piccione, editor of the Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section -- which features firearms advertisements, NRA press releases, and other pieces of dubious gun "reporting" -- announced that Daily Caller readers were eligible to purchase discounted NRA memberships. Piccione offered a number of childish reasons for signing up, including, "Joining the NRA is the equivalent of giving [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg the finger."
The ethical implications of a journalism outlet directly helping to fill the coffers of special interest group are certainly weighty. How can one trust the Daily Caller's reporting on the NRA -- which gets itself into the headlines all the time -- when it accepts advertising money from the group and urges its readers to purchase memberships?
The Daily Caller is clearly unconcerned. Nor does it see any problems in publishing columns by Jim Pontillo, who donates the guns for the weekly giveaway from his company FMK Firearms. Pontillo was probably happy for the exposure considering that in previous columns for other online outlets he offered casual racism aimed at the President and defended the Confederacy.
In a Daily Caller column published on Tuesday, Pontillo took umbrage with comments that President Obama made about small business owners (which were taken out of context by Fox News and other right-wing outlets). In his column, Pontillo made clear his feelings about people receiving government assistance:
How much of my success can I attribute to my hard work? Do I owe thanks to the welfare recipients you enrich at my expense? While they sit in government-subsidized housing, talking on their iPhones, viewing Netflix movies on their plasma TVs and eating dinners purchased with government food stamps, I sweat 80 to 100 hours a week trying to make my small business succeed.
Such uninhibited bashing of the needy might (or at least should) embarrass a reputable publication. Other publications might think to avoid mainstreaming a racist crackpot. But the Daily Caller wants to keep giving away guns, so they're sticking with Pontillo for the time being.
In a July 26 column for the Washington Times, prominent Mitt Romney endorser and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent labeled supporters of Keynesian economics "socialist" before comparing the idea of government playing an expanded role in the economy to "Jerry Sandusky managing a little boys' football team."
Fedzilla is growing fatter, less accountable and less transparent by gorging itself on our tax dollars. Instead of tightening Fedzilla's fiscal belt, government bureaucrats just buy him bigger belts and suspenders, and he gets fatter and smellier each day. The only good pig is a dead pig.
Regrettably, there are way too many intellectually stunted Americans who support this gluttonous and irresponsible spending curse. They are called socialists. Socialists believe in Keynesian economics, which supports government control and meddling in our economy. It's akin to Jerry Sandusky managing a little boys' football team. Another, more accurate name for Keynesian economics is Kamikaze economics.
On June 22, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for Penn State University, was convicted on 45 counts related to sexually abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period. He faces life in prison.
Nugent's comments are just the latest bizarre outburst from the outspoken right-wing activist.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is continuing to offer false or misleading commentary on last week's tragic mass shooting in Colorado in order to undermine a push for stronger gun violence prevention laws.
During an appearance yesterday on Glenn Beck's radio show, Nugent again denied that the alleged shooter had been armed with an assault weapon, while theorizing that the Aurora theater shooter could have done "more damage with a single shot or bolt action [rifle] because he had 20 minutes." In fact, police were reportedly on the scene between 60 and 90 seconds after the first 911 calls were made.
NUGENT: And remember, Glenn, this monster in Aurora took 20 minutes to do his evil. In 20 minutes you don't need an assault weapon, you don't need a machine gun, which he didn't have either of, but you could do more damage with a single shot or a bolt action because he had 20 minutes.
Single shot rifles and bolt action rifles must be reloaded after each shot is fired. Reload time has been a critical factor in other mass shootings. During the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and gravely wounded then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the shooter was only stopped when he was tackled as he paused to reload.
The three semi-automatic weapons reportedly used by the shooter fired a bullet each time the trigger was pulled. One of the weapons used, a Smith & Wesson assault weapon equipped with a drum magazine possessed the capability to fire 50 to 60 shots a minute with no need to reload until after the 100 round drum was expended.
Nugent also doubled down on a previous statement that there were "no assault weapons used in the CO shooting only universally proven sporting & self defense firearms."
NUGENT: And let me state as if fact that I know for a fact that most of the damage done by this devil in Aurora was done with the number one pheasant shotgun in the world, a Remington 870. His AR-15 Smith & Wesson rifle is now the most popular sporting rifle in America. It is the number one competition, number one in self-defense; it's the number one sporting rifle for big game and small game. And if they keep calling it an assault weapon, I may have that aneurysm.
Nugent's attempt to mainstream assault weapons as common hunting implements is misleading. Paul A. Smith, outdoors editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has stated that while assault rifles "have gained favor among some hunters and sport shooters in recent decades, they constitute a small fraction of deer hunting rifles in use today."
Indeed, the assault weapon allegedly used in the theater shooting may have been illegal to purchase under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. The hundred-round magazine would have been banned under that law.
Washington Times columnist, National Rifle Association board member, and prominent Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent is speaking out on last week's horrific mass shooting in Aurora, CO, declaring that there were "no assault weapons used in the CO shooting only universally proven sporting & self defense firearms."
Nugent also praised the "brave warriors who saved lives" during the massacre adding, "IF only they would hav had a good gun."
Last night, Nugent tweeted:
This afternoon, he added:
One of the guns the alleged shooter carried was an AR-15-style semi-automatic assault weapon, which reportedly may have been illegal to purchase under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. The alleged shooter used a high-capacity 100-round drum magazine that would have been illegal under that statute.
The gun industry trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation frowns on the use of terminology like "assault weapon" and "assault rifle," preferring the term "modern sporting rifle." Even some gun bloggers find such language ineffective and "O[r]wellian."
For months the National Rifle Association and Fox News have been pushing the fringe conspiracy theory that a proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty puts Second Amendment rights at risk. Now Mitt Romney is bringing that claim to the presidential campaign, parroting it on the stump.
As ThinkProgress reported, during a town hall event in Ohio yesterday, Romney said:
ROMNEY: Turning to the United Nations to tell us how to raise our kids, or whether we can have the Second Amendment rights that our Constitution gave us, I mean, that is the wrong way to go, right? Do not cede sovereignty. I'm happy to talk there. I'm not willing to give American sovereignty in any way, shape or form to the United Nations or any other body. We are a free nation. We fought for freedom and independence. We are going to keep freedom and independence.
But contrary to the conspiracy spun by the NRA and Fox and now repeated by Romney, the ATT only seeks to regulate the international import and export of conventional and small arms, and is not aimed at domestic gun regulation governed by U.S. sovereignty. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State has stated that it will not enter into any treaty that contains "restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution. There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law."
The idea that the United Nations can determine "whether we can have the Second Amendment rights that our Constitution gave us" germinated at the National Rifle Association in the mid-1990s when CEO Wayne LaPierre began to speciously warn of "global gun grabbers."
But despite an utter lack of explanation by its pushers about how the U.N. could use a treaty to trump the United States Constitution, the conspiracy has survived over the years and has reached its zenith as ATT negotiations are finalized.
In the first week after negotiations began on July 2, Fox News featured seven appearances by opponents of the treaty compared to zero appearances by proponents. Instead of offering a cogent critique of the ATT, each guest has instead delved into conspiracy theory. Indeed, there are stark similarities between Romney's Wednesday warning and the commentary of Fox News contributor Dick Morris who claimed on July 5 that the ATT "will take the gun control issue away from the Congress and give it to the United Nations as part of an international treaty."
Romney's ATT comments were not the first time that Fox News served as the conduit between factually vacant right wing theories and the Republican presidential campaign. On Monday, Fox News deceptively edited and then hysterically promoted comments made by President Obama about small business owners. The false narrative found its way into Romney's campaign by Tuesday afternoon.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have eliminated the task force responsible for doing the National Rifle Association's bidding, but that hasn't stopped the coordination between the right-wing groups. In the latest example of their friendly cooperation, the NRA plans to hold a trap shoot in conjunction with ALEC's annual meeting later this month.
In a missive to state legislators published by the Center on Media and Democracy, which researches ALEC, NRA director of state and local affairs Charles H. Cunningham invites state legislators to attend the "annual shoot," promising that it "will prove to be just as fun as in years past." According to CMD: "For the past several years, on the Saturday of ALEC's annual meeting, the NRA has regularly hosted an outing for ALEC legislators and lobbyists to go shooting together -- with complimentary guns and ammo plus plenty of food and drink (this time it is a barbeque)."
In April, as corporate sponsors fled their organization in the face of pressure from liberal activists angry with the group's support of "Kill at Will" self-defense laws and voter ID bills, ALEC announced that they were disbanding their Elections and Public Safety Task Force, which worked on those issues. At the time, that task force's chair told Media Matters that such issues were no longer a priority for ALEC.
The NRA was reportedly extremely unhappy with ALEC's reaction to public pressure regarding the "Kill at Will" laws, which spread to dozens of states after ALEC adopted a model bill based on the Florida statute that was cited as an influence in the case of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. An NRA representative reportedly criticized the group for dismantling the task force during a meeting of conservative leaders, warning other participants that ALEC could flee from their issues as well.
But the continuation of the NRA's annual shoot at ALEC's annual meeting suggests that the two conservative groups have patched up their differences and are again working together to promote right-wing legislation.
In April the NRA vowed to defend "Kill at Will" laws across the country.
THE UNITED NATIONS -- It was during one of several extended delays on day five of the Arms Trade Treaty talks that the chief of the British delegation, a jovial veteran diplomat named Jo Adamson, turned to me and wanted to know if I'd ever watched The Benny Hill Show.
"You know the musical theme when Benny gets chased around by the police and they speed up the film?" she asked. "I want to make a video of that song playing over Tuesday's scene of musical chairs."
The idea was a happy diplomatic warrior's response to the comedic low-point of the negotiations' disastrous first week, in which 193 national delegations, eager to begin a long-planned attempt at regulating the global conventional arms trade, were forced to choreograph a globe-spanning seating shift to accommodate two Palestinian observers, debate over whose status had made a train wreck of the agenda and preempted the speeches of several foreign ministers in town for the opening session. Adamson wasn't the only UN diplomat with experience taking such chaos in stride. Anyone who has been around Turtle Bay and Geneva long enough knows the ATT won't be the last UN effort to strengthen global security to be threatened by soul sucking stretches of procedural purgatory.
The fact that the ATT conference's first week lent itself so easily to Benny Hill spoofs is a good place to begin considering the massive gulf separating the actual treaty being negotiated by consensus at the UN this month, and the Iran-directed Second Amendment-eating Golem of conservative imagination. The hysterical screeching of so much right-wing opposition to the ATT is the product of many things, but direct experience with the inner workings of the UN system does not appear to be among them.
"Everyone who has spent any time here knows we're lucky if we can get a time frame for debate worked out," said Robert Zuber of Global Action to Prevent War, who has 20 years experience with the UN and supports the passage of a treaty. "This idea that a UN treaty concerning international arms flows could somehow override the Constitution or the Supreme Court, this idea that it will lead to UN police marching down the streets taking people's guns away -- everyone here knows it's beyond ludicrous."
That the ATT is no opening salvo in a global gun-grab -- a charge made in various forms recently by National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, The Washington Times, Dick Morris, and a number of others appearing on Fox News -- does not mean the talks are without stakes. National delegations and NGOs are gathered in New York through July 27 to address a lack of common international standards guiding the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms and munitions. As Amnesty International activists have dramatized by handing out bananas in Times and Trafalgar Squares, more rules govern the inter-state trade of fruits and vegetables than tanks and machine guns. Just over 50 nations regulate international arms dealers inside their territory according to the Arms Control Association; only half of those have any sort of penalties for breaking national laws. ATT proponents maintain that a treaty is the first step in shrinking the booming international black and grey market arms trade that fuels civil conflicts, arms warlords and criminal syndicates, and facilitates the breaking of arms embargos. According to an Oxfam report, countries operating under arms embargoes have succeeded in importing more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition since 2000.
The Obama administration is a relatively conservative actor on the ATT spectrum, and its reversal of the previous government's rejection of the ATT was predicated on the final treaty language being approved by consensus. U.S. presence at the conference is supported by major human rights and development NGOs, leading U.S. defense contractors, active and retired senior military staff, and a number of civic and religious groups such as the National Council of Churches.
Among the array of U.S. civil society and industry groups involved in the ATT process, the National Rifle Association has distinguished itself by issuing a decade-long stream of misinformation that has clouded Americans' understanding of the issues. It is a pattern of willful obfuscation that has defined the gun group's posture as an international actor since before plans for the talks were announced under the Bush Administration. Indeed, the rebirth of the NRA as a profitable organization following its brush with bankruptcy in the mid-90s tracks closely with the history of UN activity around the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
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."