Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association's media outlets are undermining the organization's political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker's Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts "as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!" The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women -- in a series titled "Good Guys" -- promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of "Mom and Dad"; one stars a woman emphasizing the "courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to "keep your hands off our guns."
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that "guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women," falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN's S.E. Cupp, The Blaze's Dana Loesch, and Fox News' Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA's annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Cam Edwards, host of the National Rifle Association's news show, claimed that after Hurricane Katrina residents of the New Orleans neighborhood Algiers "were looking out for each other by walking the streets armed with firearms." But according to a federal hate crimes indictment and numerous media reports, after Katrina white gun-toting vigilantes in Algiers targeted African-Americans with racially motivated violence.
Edwards made the comments about Algiers during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment on his news show Cam & Company that uses anecdotal accounts of self-defense with a gun to create the false impression that guns are used more often to prevent rather than commit crimes. The Katrina comparison came during a discussion of a recent self-defense shooting in Algiers. Edwards praised locals' "attitude of being able to protect yourself and the ones you love," and claimed that individuals used firearms after Katrina to make sure "there was no looting, no robbing, no burglaries."
According to an expose published in The Nation, after Katrina some residents of the largely undamaged Algiers Point -- an affluent "white enclave" in the "predominately black" Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans -- shot African-Americans who passed through the neighborhood while fleeing the historic storm's destruction:
The National Rifle Association has once again drawn condemnation from a Jewish group after one of its lobbyists invoked the Holocaust to attack a Washington state ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales. Despite regular denunciations from Jewish groups for misappropriating the history of Holocaust, the NRA routinely uses this type of rhetoric to demonize its opponents and gun legislation it dislikes.
According to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, recently released audio captured NRA lobbyist Brian Judy attacking Seattle businessman Nick Hanauer's support of Initiative 594 -- which would expand background checks in Washington -- because of Hanauer's Jewish background. Calling Hanauer "stupid," Judy argued that "he's put half-a-million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out of Germany by the Nazis."
Judy went on to mock the intelligence of anyone who is "anti-gun" and Jewish:
JUDY: You know, it's staggering to me, it's just, you can't make this stuff up. That these people, it's like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think: Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened?
And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them. And now you're supporting gun control -- you come to this country and you support gun control. Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place? Hello. Is anybody home here?
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has called for Judy's resignation and asked that the NRA "make clear that it rejects his ignorant and unproductive dialogue."
The National Rifle Association is trying to smooth over the extreme ideas presented in a recent video suggesting children should have to receive mandatory gun training "to advance to the next grade" by mischaracterizing the video and airing a deceptively cropped version of it on NRA News.
In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" as a requirement to advance in school:
JOHNSON: Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.
Johnson's suggestion children would have to become proficient with a gun to move on in school was widely ridiculed. Now the NRA is responding to critics with the misleading suggestion that Johnson was merely talking about the importance of teaching children gun safety.
Johnson appeared on the July 24 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel to defend his video. Host Cam Edwards started the conversation by saying, "One of the things that specifically the anti-gunners are flipping out about is [Johnson's] suggestion that if we had a national gun policy, that again, embraced our right to keep and bear arms, one of the things we might be talking about is educating kids about how to be safe and responsible with a firearm, regardless of whether or not their parents were gun owners. That thought ... has really got people on the anti-gun side of the equation freaked out. They're saying that you're demanding compulsory education of firearms training for kids, they are wondering why on earth any child would need to know how to be safe and responsible with a firearm and I find it fascinating because they're ignoring the fact that there are already hundreds of thousands of kids across this country who are safely and responsibly learning about firearms."
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association suggests we can live up to the Founding Fathers' ideals by creating "gun-required zones," and making gun training for children "necessary to advance to the next grade."
In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy" that is based on "the assumption that we need to protect people from guns" and "that guns are bad or dangerous."
Instead Johnson wondered what gun policies the United States would have "if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns -- that guns make people's lives better." Johnson then made the following recommendations that would "encourage" and might "reward" people "to keep and bear arms at all times."
According to Johnson, "Gun policy, driven by our need for guns would protect equal access to guns, just like we protect equal access to voting, and due process, and free speech." While acknowledging that his ideas may be seen as "ridiculous," -- even by "Second Amendment advocates" -- he argued his proposal "does justice to [the Founding Fathers] intentions."
A new video commentary released by the NRA references the Holocaust and other instances of persecution to advance the baseless claim that "the government is collecting more and more gun registration data which could be used against gun owners in the form of full confiscation."
The July 18 commentary was published by NRA News and is part of the gun group's recent efforts to reach a younger, more diverse audience. In the video NRA News commentator Chris Cheng sets up his claim about government-sanctioned gun confiscation by citing recent reports of the persecution of Jewish people in Eastern Ukraine, as well as "what happened to our Jewish friends during World War II":
CHRIS CHENG: Masked men in Eastern Ukraine recently handed out fliers in front of a synagogue which told Jews to register with pro-Russian militants. I don't even need to go into detail about world history and what happened to our Jewish friends during World War II. So here's why government registration of a protected right is a bad thing.
A new commentary from the National Rifle Association claims that laws relating to the buying, owning, and carrying of firearms are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws that created legal racial discrimination in the United States.
The July 7 commentary was published by NRA News and is part of the gun group's recent efforts to reach a younger, more diverse audience. While discussing his interpretation of the Second Amendment, NRA News commentator Dom Raso said, "So just because someone makes a law that says you can't buy, own, or carry a weapon, doesn't make it lawful. Jim Crow laws were also passed and enforced and those were equally as unconstitutional. Too many Americans don't think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue and that's dangerous because all of those rights together define freedom."
Although the comparison is absurd on its face -- gun ownership laws cannot be compared to a pernicious body of law that legitimized a "racial caste system" in the United States -- Raso fails to appreciate that gun laws routinely face legal challenges, but are almost always upheld as consistent with the Second Amendment.
The landmark 2008 Supreme Court Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that many restrictions on firearms are lawful and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
The National Rifle Association's media arm issued a video bemoaning that Elliot Rodger, who murdered six during a recent killing spree in California, is referred to by media as a "gunman" or "shooter."
19 people were killed or wounded by Rodger near the campus of UC-Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, California on May 23. Reportedly motivated by a hatred of women, Rodger fatally stabbed three in his apartment before going on a public shooting spree. Of 11 hit by gunfire, three died. Rodger also struck four people with his car, and one person suffered an undetermined injury.
In a June 30 video published on the NRA's "commentators" webpage -- a project that is part of the NRA's efforts to attract a younger and more diverse audience -- NRA News commentator Billy Johnson claimed that media coverage of the killing spree only told "half the story," adding, "Yes, the Santa Barbara murderer had a gun, and yes he killed three people with that gun. But he also killed three people with a knife and injured several others with his car." (Johnson never mentioned those who were wounded by gunfire but survived.)
Undermining their own point, the NRA originally released the video with the title "Santa Barbara Shooting" (as captured by Media Matters below), but has since changed the title to "Santa Barbara Stabber":
National Rifle Association board member John Cushman alleged that the number of shooting victims in New York City is up over the past month because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "wanted them up."
Cushman appeared on NRA News program Cam & Company on June 10 to discuss a recent New York Post article that reported the number of shooting victims in New York City is up 43 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Overall the Post reports that shootings are up in New York City 13 percent this year. A Reuters article further noted that in New York City, "the murder rate is on track to hit a 50-year low, a statistical paradox that experts said reflects quick medical response." While any increase in shootings is a serious issue that should be addressed, the uptick will not threaten New York City's status as "the safest big city in America." In 2013 PolitiFact found New York City to be the safest among the 25 most populous cities in the United States.
New York City has some of the most rigorous gun laws nationwide, which were championed by former mayor and prominent gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg and continue to receive support from de Blasio. In 2013 the number of shootings and gun homicides in New York City reached "historic lows."
During Cam & Company host Cam Edwards and John Cushman both blamed the increase in shootings on what Edwards termed "New York City's gun laws that make it prohibitive in a lot of cases, and outright impossible in some cases, for law abiding folks to own a firearm for self-defense." (Actually Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010 held law-abiding people have a right to keep a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.)
Cushman charged that the number of reported shooting victims went up because de Blasio "wanted them up." Referencing de Blasio and Bloomberg, he added, "They are all out for some reason to disarm everybody with this screwboy notion that if we take guns away from everybody, we will cut crime."
Eleven days after a 22-year-old California man killed six in a shooting and stabbing spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara, the National Rifle Association responded, placing "the blame" for the tragedy on gun safety efforts.
On May 23 Elliot Rodger, apparently motivated by hatred of women, went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California, stabbing three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. Several other people were injured by Rodger's car.
The NRA typically goes silent in the wake of mass shooting incidents, and the Isla Vista killings were no different. As The New York Times noted after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, "Over the years the N.R.A. has perfected its strategy for responding to mass shootings: Lie low at first, then slow-roll any legislative push for a response." (Slate's Dave Weigel has noted that when the NRA finally does weigh in, its response is nearly identical to past incidents.)
During a June 3 appearance on the NRA's radio program Cam & Company, NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox addressed the Isla Vista killings, stating, "The blame needs to be placed on the politicians in California who time and time again their answer to these issues are more and more gun control laws."
Cox also claimed that not enough attention had been paid by the media to the victims who were stabbed to death, adopting a similar argument used in a May 30 NRA commentary video that attacked media for using the word "shooting" when describing murders committed with guns.
From the June 3 edition of Cam & Company:
Although the National Rifle Association is refusing to comment on the recent mass murder in Isla Vista, California, the group has released a video complaining the media "race[s] to label anything with a gun as a shooting."
On May 23 a young man apparently motivated by hatred of women went on a killing spree where he stabbed three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. In the ten days since the killing spree, the NRA has declined to issue a comment, a common tactic of the gun group.
Without mentioning the Isla Vista killings by name, on May 30 the NRA published a video commentary called "Propaganda," in which "NRA News Commentator Dom Raso exposes the inaccuracy of the media - especially regarding their reports of mass shootings."
During a critique of the media, Raso warned viewers of a "trick" where media figures "race to label anything with a gun as a shooting, because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word." According to Raso, the media use the word "shooting" so that viewers are being "subconsciously told to think about the tool they used" instead of the perpetrator.
Right-wing media have seized on the robbery of a restaurant that does not allow patrons to bring guns to claim that places with such policies invite attacks, but research has found no evidence that places that do not allow guns attract crime.
According to local news reports, three gunmen broke through the back door of The Pit restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and demanded money. A manager gave the robbers a "small cash box," while employees at the front of the store shepherded 20 customers to safety. Two employees sustained minor injuries.
Conservative media have directed ridicule and scorn at the store's owner because The Pit has a sign in its front window letting guests know that firearms are not welcome. (No evidence has been presented that the sign played any role in the robbery.)
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards joked that it was "the weirdest thing" that The Pit had been robbed, considering the no guns sign, and added, "This sign on the door didn't stop those armed robbers from coming inside." Guest Dave Kopel of the NRA-funded Independence Institute said that if the robbers "paid any attention" to the sign at all, "it likely enticed them to pick that place to rob."
Conservative website Rare wrote, "Don't bring a gun to The Pit -- unless, of course, you plan on robbing the restaurant," while Western Journalism asked, "Did this restaurant just ask to be robbed?" The Washington Times reported that the robbers "ignored" the sign disallowing firearms -- although no evidence has been presented that the robbers were even aware of the sign.
In North Carolina, businesses that do not want guns carried on their premises must post a conspicuous sign disallowing the practice; otherwise individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons are free to enter the business with a firearm, even in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington D.C.'s Fox affiliate, fabricated quotations to claim Hillary Clinton recently said, "Nobody should have guns" and "There's too many guns." In fact, Clinton expressed the opposite sentiment, referencing "the right of people to own guns."
During a May 19 appearance on FOX 5, Miller twisted Clinton's recent remarks at the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in order to suggest that the former secretary of state has held inconsistent positions on gun regulation. Miller claimed that Clinton had "talked about hunting and fishing and all that stuff, now she is like, 'We need to pull back guns, nobody should have guns'":
NRA News host Cam Edwards tied the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorist organization Boko Haram to the National Rifle Association's recent annual meeting. According to Edwards, the girls' would-be rescuers are not "Pajama Boy" or fans of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, but instead are men "who look like they just came from the NRA annual meeting."
The NRA frequently interjects itself into seemingly-unrelated situations involving heroism or sacrifice to enhance the NRA's brand. Just days after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, NRA board member Ted Nugent claimed that the heroism of first responders to the attack "represents what the NRA is." A January 2012 NRA fundraising email marked the anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and also featured an image of President John F. Kennedy with the assassinated president's quote, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it." The NRA also used the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks to solicit donations.
From the May 8 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company:
The National Rifle Association has used its media arm to dissuade gun owners from embracing "smart gun" technology through falsehoods and the promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government.
Advances in technology that uses RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other measures to ensure that a gun can only be fired by authorized users have been in the news following a Maryland gun store's failed attempt to bring a smart gun to market.
Engage Armament, a gun store in Rockville, MD, planned to begin sales of the Armatix iP1 handgun -- the first U.S. market-ready smart gun -- but later changed course and apologized for being involved with smart gun technology after receiving death threats from pro-gun activists. An earlier plan by a California gun store to offer the iP1 suffered a similar fate.
In a separate development, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has promised to repeal New Jersey's smart gun law -- which makes adoption of the technology mandatory once smart guns come to market -- if the NRA promises to not interfere with the retail sale of smart guns nor target manufacturers who develop smart gun technologies.
While Armatix produced the first smart gun ready for sale to the public, a 2013 Department of Justice report identified 13 entities -- including gun manufacturers, universities, and other research entities -- working to develop smart gun technology. In its 2015 budget request, DOJ asked for $2 million "to support the Administration's challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology." Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor, has also announced a $1 million competition for the development of "technology that reliably authorizes approved use -- and blocks the unauthorized use -- of firearms."
That the NRA is attacking smart gun technology -- and by doing so putting negative pressure on companies that would develop the technology with the hope of selling guns -- is ironic given the organization's philosophy on firearm sales. In an unhinged February 2013 op-ed that urged NRA members to "stand and fight" against gun safety measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged gun owners to "buy more guns than ever." And during a paranoid 2014 address at the NRA annual meeting LaPierre said, "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want."