Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry argued that the 2016 presidential race provides "the perfect backdrop to talk about the economy" and asked, "Why are people getting pulled into other issues like gun control right now in the wake" of the June 17 gun attack on a Charleston church "and not talking about the economy, which is what matters most to people?" But the Charleston attack is just the latest mass shooting to shock Americans, and with more presidential candidates stepping forward every day, it appears Henry is unaware a national conversation about gun laws is already underway.
Henry questioned the need to talk about gun laws during a discussion about national economic issues with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) during the June 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
HENRY: But senator, here we have the perfect backdrop to talk about the economy, a presidential campaign that everybody is really starting to pay attention with. A lot of candidates on the Republican side, less on the Democratic side, but perhaps some competition now with Bernie Sanders gaining at least a little bit on Hillary Clinton. Bottom line question for you, if this is so important, why are people getting pulled into other issues like gun control right now in the wake of this tragedy and not talking about the economy, which is what matters most to people?
But there are innumerable reasons why Americans are talking about national gun laws:
From the June 22 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
From the June 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media outlets are using the mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church to push myths about guns and criticize President Obama for highlighting the need for responsible gun safety legislation.
National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton wrote that the victims of a mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina church died because of Reverend Clementa Pinckney's advocacy for gun safety laws.
Pinckney, along with eight others, was killed by a gunman during a June 17 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 2013, Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina State Senator, introduced legislation to require more comprehensive background checks on gun sales and supported several other gun safety measures during his career as a legislator.
In a post on an online forum for Texas supporters of the concealed carry of handguns, Cotton wrote, "he [Rev. Pinckney] voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
At the bottom of Cotton's post was an image that promoted NRA membership:
Cotton, who is active in Texas NRA affiliate group Texas State Rifle Association, faced criticism in February for his assertion that corporal punishment for children could prevent him from "having to put a bullet in him later." According to Talking Points Memo Cotton wrote:
"I'm sick of this woman and her 'don't touch my kid regardless what he/she did or will do again' attitude," Cotton wrote in a thread titled "HB567: Corporal punishment in schools."
"Perhaps a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet in him later," he added.
Cotton is listed in the NRA's magazine as a member of the board of directors, with his term expiring in 2017.
According to NRAOnTheRecord.org, Cotton has served on the NRA board for more than a decade and has also served on the Board of Trustees of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that guns are "banned" in South Carolina churches to blame the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on "gun-free zones."
On the evening of July 17, a gunman opened fire during a bible study meeting at the church, killing nine people.
Lott, who invented the debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis and is a frequent source of conservative misinformation on gun violence, quickly blamed "gun-free zones" for the shooting. On the website of his group, Crime Prevention Research Center, Lott wrote, "Not surprising that yet another mass public shooting has taken place where guns were banned. Yet, again, the ban only ensured that the victims were vulnerable." Lott titled his article, "Another Shooting in a Gun-free Zone: Nine Dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina."
Lott then offered a "synopsis" of South Carolina law - taken from an article on CriminalDefenseLawyer.com - that suggested guns cannot be carried in churches and some other locations.
Lott's synopsis linked to S.C. Code Ann.§ 23-31-215, which says that individuals with concealed carry licenses can bring guns into churches with the permission of a church official. Here is what the actual law says:
M) A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a:
(8) church or other established religious sanctuary unless express permission is given by the appropriate church official or governing body;
In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Lott similarly mischaracterized South Carolina law, writing, "the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns." Lott also speculated that gun policies formed the shooter's motive, writing, "Churches, like the one in Charleston, preach peace, but the killer there probably chose that target because he knew the victims were defenseless."
Fox's Sean Hannity gave 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush a platform to claim that the gun policies he supported as governor of Florida helped create "a less violent society," even though he signed the nation's first "Stand Your Ground" law, which studies show has actually contributed to more violence.
Bush appeared on the June 16 broadcast of Hannity for a wide-ranging interview in front of a studio audience. Hannity asked, "Should citizens, if they are law-abiding, no records, have the right to carry a weapon?"
Bush responded, "Absolutely, and in Florida, you know who leads the nation in concealed weapons permits by far? Over a million. It's Florida. It creates a ... less violent society and crime goes down when law-abiding citizens that don't commit crimes have guns."
But experts say controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws, like the one the jury used to acquit George Zimmerman of killing unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, make society more violent.
Fox News host Steve Doocy questioned why a gunman who attacked Dallas police headquarters was able to legally purchase an armored van but ignored questions about how the gunman acquired an arsenal of firearms and bombs.
Authorities say James Boulware attacked police headquarters in Dallas in the early hours of June 13. The New York Times reported that "officers narrowly escaped injury and death as they dodged bullets" when Boulware opened fire on the headquarters building and vehicles in the parking lot. Boulware also placed pipe bombs outside of the building, at least one of which exploded. Boulware fled in an armored van he had recently purchased online, and following a chase and a standoff, he was killed by a police sniper.
But on the June 15 broadcast of Fox & Friends, the focus was on Boulware's van -- a modified 1995 Ford he bought in Georgia that was advertised online as a "full armored zombie busting vehicle." Doocy asked, "Just how did that Dallas police shooter over the weekend get his hands on an armored car that gave him enough protection when he opened fire on cops?" (Reports say Boulware was actually "on foot" when he initially attacked the headquarters.)
Doocy also said, "You would think that selling an armored car just to anybody is not safe," and, "The question is whether or not this stuff, once it's military surplus, should wind up in the hands of private individuals, because we saw over the weekend that can turn out bad."
No mention was made of questions surrounding how Boulware acquired the firearms he used in the attack or whether he was legally allowed to possess them. Boulware, who reportedly acted out of anger over a court decision in a custody dispute, was subject to "numerous temporary restraining orders granted to his son's mother," according to court documents viewed by Crooks & Liars.
From the June 11 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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Conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) are fearmongering over a supposed "new" Obama administration regulation to limit the ability of convicted domestic abusers to buy firearms.
In reality, the regulation would simply implement a 1998 law and has been under consideration for the past 17 years, including during the entire eight years of George W. Bush's administration.
The conservative opposition campaign to what is in fact a long-standing proposal began with a flawed May 30 article in The Hill headlined, 'Administration preps new gun regulations," that claimed, "The Justice Department plans to move forward this year with more than a dozen new gun-related regulations, according to [a] list of rules the agency has proposed to enact before the end of the Obama administration." The article described the regulations listed in the Department of Justice's semi-annual Unified Agenda (a periodic list of proposed or recently completed rules) as "new," when in fact several of them date back to prior administrations.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly lashed out at "the left wing press" for highlighting comments she made about a viral video showing police officer Eric Casebolt manhandling a teenage girl at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. But Media Matters correctly described Kelly's June 8 comments where she claimed that the teenage girl attacked in the video shared some of the fault for the actions of the officer, arguing that the girl was "no saint either" because she didn't follow the officer's instructions. Kelly's remarks sparked widespread outrage in liberal and conservative media.
On the June 10 edition of her show Kelly said that "some of the left-wing press continue to use this incident to dishonestly push their own agenda." She claimed that Salon.com "repeat[ed] a Media Matters lie" that Kelly leapt to Casebolt's defense "by saying that this teen was, quote, 'no saint either.'"
But Media Matters included the full context of Kelly's comments in a June 8 post detailing Fox News personalities' reaction to the controversial video:
Fox News host Megyn Kelly responded to the brutal video showing a teen girl being manhandled by a Texas police officer by commenting that "the girl was no saint either. He had told her to leave, and she continued to linger. And when the cop tells you to leave, get out." She followed this by saying "I'm not defending his actions, let me make that clear."
Conservative media outlets also criticized Kelly's coverage. The Washington Examiner reported that "Megyn Kelly defends Texas cop's aggressive response to McKinney teenagers," noting that "Kelly claimed that while she was not defending Casebolt, [the girl] was not completely blameless either." Reason.com also criticized Kelly in a post, writing:
Some conservatives, unfortunately, are falling over themselves to defend the police--the one kind of public employee who can do no wrong in the eyes of all-too many people on the right. Media Matters compiled a disheartening list of Fox News personalities raising baseless hypotheticals that could (maybe) justify Casebolt's rash actions.
From the June 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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The Daily Caller misrepresented an academic essay Hillary Clinton penned in 1973 to suggest that the former secretary of state views marriage as a valid comparison to slavery. However, the context of Clinton's essay makes clear she was discussing the evolving legal status of various groups such as women, slaves and children over time.
Clinton's 1973 essay for the Harvard Educational Review "raises serious questions about what kind of America Clinton foresees," The Daily Caller claimed on June 9, because in it Clinton "compared the institution of marriage and the dependency of childhood to slavery." As evidence, the conservative blog pointed to where Clinton discussed how the "basic rationale for depriving people of rights in a dependency relationship is that certain individuals are incapable or undeserving of the right to take care of themselves" and noted:
Along with the family, past and present examples of such arrangements include marriage, slavery, and the Indian reservation system.
To claim Clinton was comparing the institution of marriage to slavery is a gross misrepresentation of the essay, which highlighted how the legal status of minorities like women, slaves, and Native Americans evolved over time as an example for how children's rights might evolve.
Clinton's article examined "the changing status of children under the law" and focused in part on the "specific direction [children's right's] reform might take." Contemplating how the law might logistically abolish minority status, Clinton referenced how the "abolition of slavery and the emancipation of married women" did not automatically bestow these groups with full-citizenship rights, citing Henry H. Foster, Jr. and Doris Jonas Freed, who argued that the children's rights movement presented "the same arguments that were advanced over the issues of slavery and the emancipation of married women." The full context of Clinton's article (emphasis added):
Age may be a valid criterion for determining the distribution of legal benefits and burdens, but before it is used its application should be subjected to a test of rationality. Assessing the rationality of age classifications could be expedited by legislative abolition of the general status of minority and adoption of an area-by-area approach (as has already been done to a degree, for example, in the motor vehicle statutes).
It could also be accomplished by judicial declaration that the present classification scheme is over-inclusive, after which the state would bear the burden of justifying its restrictions on infants. As Foster and Freed point out, "... the arguments for and against perpetuation of minority status have a familiar ring. In good measure they are the same arguments that were advanced over the issues of slavery and the emancipation of married women." The abolition of slavery and the emancipation of married women did not automatically invest previously "inferior" persons with full adult citizenship rights, but the state at least had to begin to rationalize its treatment of those groups. The abolition of minority, more justifiably, need not mean that children become full-fledged miniature adults before the law. Their substantive and procedural rights could still be limited or modified on the basis of supportable findings about needs and capacities at various ages.
The Daily Caller's misrepresentation of Clinton's essay is a decades-old attack. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out in 1992, Clinton's reference to marriage referred not to women's rights in the modern institution, but to women's historical struggle for legal identity outside that of her husband:
At various times in history--including ancient Greece, some of the years of the Roman Empire and even 19th-Century England--a wife was considered in the power of her husband, usually incapable of making contracts or governing her financial affairs.