In 2008, in the wake of mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted model legislation proposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that would have allowed any concealed carry permit holder to bring guns on college campuses.
The model legislation not only expressly permitted the carrying of concealed handguns on college campuses, but banned colleges and universities from restricting such activity. At the time, Utah was the only state in the nation that either expressly permitted guns on campus or banned public institutions from making their own restrictions.
In recent days, the media has shined a spotlight on ALEC's efforts to help the NRA promote Florida's "Kill at Will" self-defense law across the country. The NRA, reportedly a "longtime funder" of ALEC, presented the shadowy group with "proposed model legislation based on" Florida's law in August 2005. That model bill was endorsed by ALEC and distributed to its network of conservative legislative members, and similar measures were subsequently passed in more than 20 states.
Similarly, in May 2008, ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force "unanimously adopted a model "Campus Personal Protection Act," which the NRA says was "[b]rought forth" by their lobbying arm. The model bill was adopted by ALEC 30 days later with no objection from its Board of Directors.
The model bill contains sections to repeal state laws banning valid permit holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus, and further states:
Section 3. No governing body of a college or university or postsecondary vocational technical school shall have the authority to establish rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a person issued a valid concealed handgun permit recognized by this state to lawfully carry a concealed handgun on its campus. However, governing bodies of educational institutions may establish rules or regulations relating to the storage of firearms in campus dormitories.
According to a November 2008 report from the American Associate of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), "17 states attempted major reforms to campus weapon laws in 2008"; many of those efforts predated ALEC's endorsement of model legislation. According to the advocacy group Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, bills to increase access to firearms on college campuses were introduced "in at least 23 states" during the 2011 legislative session, passing in two.
AASCU "discourages the passage of new state legislation that would overturn or weaken concealed weapons bans on campus," stating that the "the safety and security of all members of the campus community must remain paramount." Likewise, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators says that there is "no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of students carrying concealed weapons would reduce violence on our college campuses" and that "concealed carry laws have the potential to dramatically increase violence on college and university campuses."
There are an untold number of issues to ponder when discussing the media's coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing. The Poynter Institute, for example, recently examined some of them, including looking at how the photos of Martin that media outlets are choosing to show can unconsciously reinforce certain stereotypes. But of all the issues surrounding the coverage of the killing, Fox News' media criticism show, Fox News Watch, chose to focus on this question today: "Was this a story for the national media?"
Host Jon Scott added: "No doubt a tragic story -- does it deserve the attention of national media?"
As this question demonstrates, Fox News Watch is not a serious media criticism program. This is the same program that repeatedly fails media ethics 101, whose host once reproduced a GOP press release -- complete with typo -- and passed it off as his own research. The program regularly ignores Fox News' own ethical problems in favor of bashing other news outlets.
But asking whether the Trayvon Martin killing is a national story must be the program's most amazing failure to date.
From the March 24 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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From the March 24 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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In recent days, a growing number of national pundits, columnists, and politicians have weighed in on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watchdog vigilante. Much of the commentary has centered around the controversial legislation that has kept George Zimmerman from being arrested: Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, known by its critics as "Shoot First," which has the effect of laying a heavy burden of proof not on the perpetrators of gun violence, but on prosecutors seeking justice for its (sometimes dead) victims.
Among the voices absent from the national debate over Florida's law are those of the major corporations and industry groups who provide the bulk of the funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy right-wing organization that adopted Florida's statute as a model for states around the country.
As Media Matters has reported, after Florida passed its law in April 2005, ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force and Board of Directors ratified nearly identical Castle Doctrine Act model legislation as their new gold standard and began promoting it through their nationwide network of conservative state legislators. The National Rifle Association (NRA) played a key role in both the bill's passage in Florida and its subsequent acceptance by ALEC, of which NRA is reportedly "a longtime funder."
Media Matters reached out to the corporations and groups like PhRMA and Verizon that were reportedly represented on ALEC's Private Enterprise Board at the time the organization adopted the model legislation, asking if they regretted their association with the bill. Every one denied responsibility, declined comment, or did not respond to repeated inquiries.
In the nearly seven years since the model legislation was adopted, at least 23 states have reportedly passed Florida-style "Shoot First" laws.
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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The controversy surrounding the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has played out, in some ways, contrary to the usual left-versus-right, shouting-match dynamic to which we've all grown accustomed. Calls for increased scrutiny of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law (often cited as the reason Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has thus far escaped charges) have come from both liberals and conservatives. That Zimmerman should be arrested and charged is a position shared by Al Sharpton and Rich Lowry.
But there is still that segment of the online right that is using the Martin controversy to stoke racial animus.
On March 19, Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, posted an article speculating that Martin, who was on suspension from school at the time of his death due to excessive tardiness, might have actually been suspended for any number of criminal acts, including arson, sexual battery, and murder -- an unsubtle implication that Martin had it coming. As Mother Jones' Adam Serwer pointed out, the article's original URL referred to Martin as the "aggressor."
Serwer also noted that The Blaze published a companion piece detailing the little-known New Black Liberation Militia's threat to take Zimmerman into custody. And last night, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle filed a story from Sanford, Florida on how "members of the New Black Panther Party ripped President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for not responding forcefully enough to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager."
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchel Reports:
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From the March 23 edition of NOW with Alex Wagner:
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On the March 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera reacted to the killing of 17-year-old, unarmed Florida resident Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman by claiming, "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman."
Rivera said: "I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted" but went on to claim Martin "wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way." From Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Let's talk about the Trayvon Martin case and what's going on in Florida right now.
GERALDO RIVERA: Well, I have a different take, Brian, on that. I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.
JULIET HUDDY (guest-host): What do you mean?
RIVERA: When you, when you see a kid walking -- Juliet -- when you see a kid walking down the street, particularly a dark skinned kid like my son Cruz, who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles. Take that hood off, people look at you and they -- what do they think? What's the instant identification, what's the instant association?
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Uh-oh.
RIVERA: It's those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid is wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it's a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta, you're gonna be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That's what happens. It is an instant reflexive action. Remember Juan Williams, our colleague? Our brilliant colleague? He got in trouble with NPR because he said Muslims in formal garb at the airport conjure a certain reaction in him or response in him? That's an automatic reflex. Juan wasn't defending it. He was explaining that that's what happens when he sees these particular people in that particular place.
When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation. Trayvon Martin's you know, god bless him, he's an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hand. He didn't deserve to die. But I'll bet you money, if he didn't have that hoodie on, that -- that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn't have responded in that violent and aggressive way.
DOOCY: What about the fact that -- I mean, the people of New York, a couple of nights ago, they had a "Million Hoodie March." You're not helping.
RIVERA: You can not rehabilitate the hoodie. You're not going to -- I understand that the reaction might be overzealous or even irrational in some extent, I mean, when you look at the statistics. It may be. But you're not going to rehabilitate the hoodie. You're not going to --
DOOCY: Just stop wearing it.
RIVERA: Stop wearing it! Don't let your kid -- you know the old Johnny Cash song, don't take your gun to town, son. Leave your gun at home. There is some things that are almost inevitable. I'm not suggesting that Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything, but he wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way and if he had been dressed more appropriately, I think unless it's raining out, or you're at a track meet, leave the hoodie home. Don't let your children go out there.
HUDDY: Perception is reality.
Update: Politico reported that when asked later whether he would retract his statement, Rivera replied "absolutely not." From Politico:
Asked whether he would take back his earlier comments on Fox News in light of the criticism, Rivera told POLITICO in an email, "Absolutely not," while citing his recently published column on Fox News Latino called, "Geraldo Rivera: Trayvon Martin Would Be Alive but for His Hoodie" that makes the similar arguments that the Fox News host made on the air.
Following the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin troubling questions about the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" legislation have emerged. The legislation expanded the circumstances in which people can claim use of deadly force was defensive, which some in the media have suggested could undermine an effort to prosecute Martin's killer George Zimmerman. Sanford, Florida's police chief has said that because Zimmerman claimed self-defense, under that statute he could not be arrested.
No figure has done more to promote the gun lobby's push to expand the boundaries of the legal use of deadly force than former NRA president and chief Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, who was the force behind the passage of Florida's statute. Martin's death hasn't caused her to rethink the wisdom of "Stand Your Ground." On Tuesday, she told the Palm Beach Post that Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) would "waste time" if he were review the legislation:
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, who pushed for the law, agreed [with Rep. Dennis Baxley's defense of the bill]. She said the call for action is premature, because the law allows an arrest to take place after an investigation. "So for law enforcement to rush to judgment just because they are being stampeded by emotionalism would be a violation of law," she said.
"This law is not about one incident. It's about protecting the right of law-abiding people to protect themselves when they are attacked. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the law. And if the governor wants to waste time looking at it he can knock himself out."
Hammer isn't just any NRA lobbyist. According to the NRA, Hammer "exemplifies activism" to the extent the organization annually gives out a "Marion P. Hammer Woman Of Distinction Award." Beyond her support for what critics have dubbed "shoot first laws," Hammer has expressed extremist positions and used inflammatory rhetoric during other legislative battles.
In 2005 Hammer successfully pushed "Stand Your Ground" through the Florida legislature, which was then the first state in the nation to pass such legislation. During the debate over the bill's passage, she repeatedly mocked opponents for engaging in "hysterics." The NRA's chief lobbyist Chris Cox was quick to credit Hammer's lobbying effort. In the NRA's American Hunter magazine Cox wrote:
Thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of our own former President Marion P. Hammer, law-abiding Floridians may now stand their ground and defend themselves against attack by violent criminals without fear of criminal prosecution or civil lawsuit.
Later that year, Hammer presented Florida's legislation before a task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC subsequently adopted Florida's bill as model legislation which they promoted throughout the country using their network of conservative state legislators. The effort was quite successful. According to the Legal Community Against Gun Violence, 24 states currently have "Florida-style" laws, with seven others having similar laws that allow expanded self-defense claims in specified locations.
Hammer's lobby efforts also attracted controversy last year as she successfully pushed NRA-authored Florida legislation that prohibited pediatricians from asking their patients about guns kept in their homes. The bill muzzled the ability of doctors to ask children and their parents about gun safety issues such as proper storage and other issues related to children's access to guns. Hammer objected complaining that pediatrician questions about guns constituted "privacy intrusions." The original version of the bill "fined physicians up to $5 million and sentenced them to up to five years in prison" before the Florida legislature made amendments.
Health care experts warned the bill would result in "more children injured and killed from firearms." In September U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, an appointee of George W. Bush, blocked enforcement of Hammer's doctor gun-related gag order on First Amendment grounds.
Other controversial actions by Hammer have been documented by MeetTheNRA.org, a website maintained by the Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence. Hammer has pushed to allow guns on university campuses and keep them from being banned in hospitals and nursing homes. In 1996, Hammer joked in a New York Times profile that a possible solution to ending the gun debate was to "get rid of all liberals."
In 1988, Hammer distributed a newsletter to members of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida--an NRA affiliate organization--accusing state legislators who favored closing loopholes in a concealed carry law of supporting "a modern-day Gestapo movement." One of the loopholes the legislation sought to correct allowed violent individuals to possess firearms pending a criminal judgment. Republican State Senator John Grant called for Hammer's resignation and said, "I think Marion Hammer has lost any effectiveness that she might have or any credibility she might have with legislators on both sides of the issue." Republican State Senator Malcolm Beard added, "I never have been for gun control. But this letter from a lobbyist is filled with half-truths." The Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Criminal Committee, Bob Johnson, said Hammer possessed, "the lowest standard of integrity I have ever seen for a lobbyist in Tallahassee."
From the March 21 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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On Monday, Media Matters noted the role of controversial Florida gun laws in the shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Martin was shot and killed as he returned to his father's house by Zimmerman, who told a 9-11 dispatcher that Martin was "a real suspicious guy."
Zimmerman has thus far successfully claimed the shooting was defensive amidst rapidly growing national attention to the incident and news that the FBI and Department of Justice have begun an investigation of the shooting. Thanks to Florida's NRA-backed "Stand Your Ground" legislation that expands the circumstances when people can claim self-defense, media outlets are questioning if the legislation effectively immunizes Zimmerman from prosecution.
While the NRA appears to have avoided discussing Martin's death, in 2005 the NRA's top leaders were breezily dismissing concerns about "Stand Your Ground" legislation.
Former NRA president and chief Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer went on Democracy Now to defend the legislation. Hammer boasted that she would debate Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence executive director Arthur Mayhoe again in 10 years after his concerns about the "Stand Your Ground" legislation were proven false.
HAMMER: Mr. Hayhoe, let's do this again in ten years where you will be proven wrong again, just as you are now proven wrong, when you said the same kinds of things when right to carry passed in 1987. It is nothing but emotional hysterics.
NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox did a victory lap after the passage of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" legislation in the NRA's American Hunter magazine. Touting the legislation as a "critical turning point in what has become our proactive approach to gun-rights activism" Cox dismissed concerns raised in a The Washington Post article on the legislation. Cox:
As NRA and its grassroots affiliates move forward with this initiative, no doubt you'll be hearing more about it-and not just from those of us committed to firearm freedom. The usual suspects among the anti-gun media are already suggesting what's become an all-too-familiar slant from them, that the law could give rise to a "Wild West revival, a return to the days of 'shoot first and ask questions later,'" (The Washington Post, April 26). [American Hunter 07/01/2005, retrieved via Nexis 3/20/2012]
Speaking to the Christian Science Monitor, NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre argued that these laws "make it very clear that the good guy has the advantage, not the bad guy." In the article referenced by Cox, LaPierre boasted that Florida's legislation was the "first step of a multi-state strategy."
Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, would like you to know that Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, might have been an arsonist. Or a kidnapper. Or even a murderer.
In an article attacking MSNBC's Al Sharpton for "exploiting" the "racial controversy" surrounding Martin's death, The Blaze editor Mytheos Holt writes that "we're also learning more about Trayvon Martin. According to reporters he had been suspended from school." Martin's English teacher said that he had been suspended for "tardiness," but Holt says he has "doubts" and listed every single offense that could have resulted in Martin being suspended from school for 10 days -- to include arson, kidnapping, and murder:
Or possibly even of the following, each of which carries a minimum suspension of ten days:
• Aggravated assault
• Aggravated battery against a non-staff member
• Armed robbery
• Assault/Threat against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business
• Battery or Aggravated battery against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business*
• Making a false report/threat against the school*
• Sexual battery
• Possession, use, sale, or distribution of firearms, explosives, destructive devices, and other weapons.
But whatever the reason, it's a case that you'll probably be hearing more about in the future.
This is a not-too-subtle implication that Martin might have had it coming. After all, he could have been a kidnapping arsonist. Or a murdering armed robber.