Right-Wing Media Can't Find The Trigger In Attempted Smear Of Gun Safety Ad

Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.

According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.

The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."

Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":

But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":

Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.

Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.

According to the NRA, "the fundamental NRA rules for safe gun handling are":

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.

2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.

3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does. [emphasis in original]

Miller alleges that the man is pointing the gun in an unsafe direction, and claims that "the man should be pointing the muzzle in the air or at the ground." The NRA actually advises, however, that "[c]ommon sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances." Given the cropping of the shot in the ad, it is impossible to say what common sense would have dictated in that situation, making Miller's criticism entirely speculative.

Miller also claimed that the man in the ad broke "[t]he third NRA safety rule ... always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use," although she noted two paragraphs later that "it is impossible to know if [the gun] is loaded."

Despite the flaws in Miller's argument, her claims were parroted during the March 26 edition of Fox & Friends, with host Steve Doocy and contributor Laura Ingraham alleging that the man in the ad had violated all three of the safety rules mentioned by Miller, with Doocy claiming that "as you can see, the finger's right there on the trigger":

During the segment, Fox showed a still from the ad which they falsely claimed showed the man in the ad with his finger on the trigger:

NRA News host Cam Edwards also trumpeted false claims about the MAIG ad during the March 25 edition of Cam & Company on Sportsman Channel. Edwards stated he was going to give New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who chairs MAIG, "a freebie" on gun safety before claiming that the man's finger is "awfully darn close to the trigger there."

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