After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."
Facebook has announced new policies that aim to prevent illegal gun sales through the social media website, following a petition campaign by gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In a March 5 posting, Facebook says it will post language where firearms transactions are set up that "clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations." Facebook will also limit postings about gun sales to users over the age of 18. Moms Demand Action reportedly entered into "formal discussions" with Facebook in February.
During the petition campaign, the National Rifle Association's media arm attempted to discredit Moms Demand Action by falsely claiming that the group's campaign sought to ban any gun-related speech on Facebook.
On the March 4 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company host Cam Edwards said it was "true" that Moms Demand Action was moving to "ban" pro-Second Amendment speech on Facebook. Edwards claimed that Moms Demand Action wanted to ban "a conversation" and suggested that the group sought to "ban fan pages or pages related to guns and the Second Amendment." Edwards concluded by claiming that Moms Demand Action are "not just anti-Second Amendment, oh no. Apparently they have issues with the First Amendment too."
On his radio show, also called Cam & Company, Edwards claimed on March 4 that there's a "real push" on "the left right now" for "a war on the idea of freedom of speech." He added, "For the left -- supposedly espouses tolerance and acceptance of others -- man there's a lot of oppression and intolerance I'm seeing these days."
Edwards' claims greatly mischaracterized the goals of the Moms Demand Action campaign. Furthermore the First Amendment constrains the government's restriction of speech, not a private company like Facebook. The social media network is free to create policies that seek to limit behavior it finds unacceptable, as it has already done through other community standards. (Right-wing media frequently misinterpret the First Amendment to accuse businesses of victimizing conservatives.)
The National Rifle Association's radio show and other conservative media are baselessly attacking an ABC News special that highlighted how gun accidents can occur when children access unsecured firearms.
The ABC News 20/20 special, hosted by Diane Sawyer and titled Young Guns, reported that 1.7 million children live in a home with an unsecured and loaded firearm, 98 children under the age of 18 died in accidental shootings in 2010, and 80 percent of accidental shooting victims are boys.
The January 31 Young Guns special centered on a psychologist-designed experiment that placed children in an empty classroom that contained an unsecured firearm. According to 20/20 "nearly all" of the 44 children in the experiment had been taught not to touch a gun and half of those children were shown the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program to reinforce the lesson. But when an unloaded firearm was left in the classroom, many of the children still touched and played with it. Some even pointed the weapons at themselves or other children and pulled the trigger. The NRA declined repeated requests by ABC to participate in an interview for the special.
A man who is facing charges he raped a minor was recently honored during a daily NRA News feature that highlights instances of self-defense with a gun. The segments promote the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime.
The January 17 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel celebrated the actions of Marlo Ellis during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment sponsored by firearms retailer CheaperThanDirt.com. Ellis broke up the armed robbery of an Orrville, Alabama Dollar General by fatally shooting the alleged robber with his concealed handgun.
During the segment Cam Edwards described Ellis' actions in detail and asked, "I wonder how many other media outlets will be reporting on this story?" Curiously Edwards never said Ellis' name, although he mentioned the name of the alleged robber and several witnesses. A web search for Ellis' name reveals he was arrested in 2013 for allegedly raping a victim "between the age of 12 and 16." Dallas County's district attorney reportedly confirmed that Ellis is facing charges related to the 2013 investigation. A local news outlet covering the Dollar General shooting updated its account to include this fact, which was also appeared in an account on Guns.com.
Right-wing media are citing the claims of a high-level Mexican drug cartel figure, who faces life in prison for narcotrafficking, to advance its latest conspiracy theory about a failed federal law enforcement operation to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
According to Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel figure known as "El Vicentillo" who will soon face trial in Chicago, the purpose of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was to arm the Sinaloa Cartel so that it would have the firepower to destroy rival drug cartels. Zambada-Niebla's testimony is not credible for a number of reasons, the most glaring being that he was arrested in March 2009, more than six months before the ATF even conceived of Fast and Furious.
Despite this red flag, Zambada-Niebla's claims have been repeatedly promoted on the National Rifle Association's radio and television shows, by Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and throughout the fringe conservative blogosphere.
Daily segments on NRA News that push the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime recently celebrated the actions of a shooter who police want charged with a felony and the case of a man whose murder conviction for shooting his tenant under disputed circumstances was recently overturned.
"The Armed Citizen File" and "Hero of the Day" are daily features on NRA News' televised show on The Sportsman Channel and radio show on SiriusXM, respectively. In both segments, host Cam Edwards shares media accounts of defensive gun use, which often conclude with the demise of alleged criminals. Online gun retailer ChaperThanDirt.com sponsors "The Armed Citizen File" segment.
NRA News host Cam Edwards attacked laws to prevent children from accessing guns by positing that there should be no criminal penalty even when an admittedly careless adult allows a child access to a gun that the child then uses to kill themselves.
On the January 6 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards attacked Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts for advocating for state laws that create a criminal penalty for adults that negligently allow children access to firearms. In an interview with USA Today, Watts cited the fact that only 15 states have child access prevention laws and contended, "This idea that a shooting that involves a toddler is accidental is asinine. If I was drinking and driving and hit my son, I would immediately go to jail. But if I left my firearm on the top of the refrigerator and he found it and shot himself, everyone says, what a horrible accident."
Edwards responded to Watts' USA Today interview by suggesting that if "you are careless with a firearm and one of your own children accidentally kills themself" that the "horror" of the incident alone would be sufficient punishment for the adult. But in arguing against laws that criminalize negligently allowing children to access guns, Edwards ignores that research has shown that these laws are associated with a reduction in gun deaths among children resulting from accidents and suicide.
Viewing gun rights as under attack after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its backers in conservative media spent 2013 using inflammatory rhetoric to attack critics and promote an uncompromising pro-gun agenda.
Both the NRA and its conservative media allies frequently attempted to draw modern-day parallels between Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during the Holocaust and the Obama administration's post-Newtown proposal to advance gun safety. One ugly event at the NRA's annual meeting saw the NRA's main political opponent illustrated as a Nazi, leading to condemnation from Jewish organizations.
Even victims of gun violence and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook could not escape the wrath of right-wing media, who insultingly called them "props" of the Obama administration, as if they were unable to think for themselves. The NRA similarly politicized the armed protection of President Obama's daughters in a widely criticized TV spot.
Ted Nugent, perhaps the best known member of NRA leadership, turned heads when he dubbed Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" after the deceased Florida teenager's killer was acquitted. Even given his past racially inflammatory rhetoric, Nugent shocked many by piling on his Martin comment with a weeks-long tirade in which he endorsed racial profiling and claimed that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence." The NRA declined to comment.
The year also featured a number of bizarre claims from the NRA, including the host of an NRA-produced television show comparing critics of his elephant hunting to Hitler, NRA head Wayne LaPierre's claim that gun ownership was essential to "survival," and NRA past-president Marion Hammer's comparison of an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination.
What follows are 12 lowlights from a year punctuated by extreme NRA rhetoric:
National Rifle Association board member Scott Bach wondered on NRA News how the mayor of Jersey City could support a gun safety survey because the mayor is a retired Marine and his grandparents survived the Holocaust.
On December 10, Associated Press reported that Jersey City, New Jersey Mayor Steven Fulop included a six question survey about gun safety in instructions for gun vendors to bid on contracts worth $350,000 to provide Jersey City with firearms and ammunition. Among the survey's inquiries are questions about whether the vendor sells assault weapons to the general public and if they take steps to prevent illegal gun trafficking.
Fulop told AP that he hopes other cities will follow his lead of inserting a "social responsibility component" into the bidding process for government contracts:
A 37-year-old former Marine, Fulop said he hopes larger cities will join the effort. Nearly every other industry, from construction to the garment industry, has some social responsibility component, he said, so why not gun manufacturers, dealers and vendors?
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that Glamour magazine's Women of the Year Awards had an "anti-gun agenda" and made "the world a more dangerous place for women" because the event honored victims of gun violence, including Pakistani education reformer Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban.
Glamour's 23rd annual award event held on November 11 also honored former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) -- who was wounded during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona -- and Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Kaitlin Roig-Debellis, who saved the lives of 15 first-graders during the December 2012 mass shooting at her school in Newtown, Connecticut. Yousafzai, who at age 15 was targeted for assassination by the Taliban for protesting a ban on female education, told the crowd, "I believe the gun has no power at all."
On the November 14 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company, guest Laura Carno, the founder of conservative non-profit I Am Created Equal, suggested that Yousafzai could have defended herself from the Taliban with a gun and later said that the award event should have invited Carno and other female gun rights activists.
National Rifle Association News defended the conduct of fringe gun group Open Carry Texas (OCT) after it intimidated four members of the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action (MDA) by displaying assault weapons as the four members met at a Dallas-area restaurant.
While MDA founder Shannon Watts said the MDA members and other restaurant patrons were "terrified" by the sight of a group of about 40 OCT members milling around the restaurant parking lot, NRA News host Cam Edwards said there was "no evidence" OCT engaged in intimidation.
Edwards' comments on the controversy came during a November 12 segment on Cam & Company that featured National Review Online writer Charles C.W. Cooke, who wrote a series of articles about the OCT protest that attempted to call into doubt MDA's claims that they felt intimidated by the armed protesters.
Following a tragic incident in Northern California where police fatally shot a teenager whose pellet gun was mistaken for an assault weapon, questions are being raised over the National Rifle Association's role in blocking a 2011 state legislative proposal to require BB and pellet guns to be brightly colored in order to avoid confusion.
On October 22, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot seven times by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa, California. The deputy, identified by media as a "gun expert", apparently believed that the pellet gun Lopez carried was an AK-47 assault weapon. Indeed, an image from a law enforcement press conference taken by The Press Democrat demonstrates the similarity between the pellet gun and an assault weapon. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department also released a photo of the pellet gun Lopez was carrying:
Photo Credit: Sonoma County Sheriff's Department
The tragic shooting, now under investigation by the FBI, could have been avoided if the NRA did not block a 2011 legislative proposal in California that would have required pellet and BB guns to be brightly colored to avoid confusion with real firearms. The NRA used its lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action, to fearmonger about the proposal, while NRA News repeatedly hosted an NRA lobbyist to attack the bill.
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, attacked an academic study on gunshot injuries to children by conspiratorially suggesting that the study was part of a "kids and anti-gun hype" movement to ban firearms. NRA News host Cam Edwards further dismissed teenage victims of gun violence by falsely stating that they are culpable for their injuries because of their supposed involvement in criminal activity.
The NRA is notorious for blocking scientific research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. During the 1990s, the gun rights organization successfully lobbied for legislation that prevented the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in practice, from researching gun violence. While the legislation -- which prohibited CDC funding "to advocate or promote gun control" -- did not technically ban research on firearms, it was widely acknowledged in practice to have a chilling effect on the CDC's research priorities. The Obama administration advocated for $10 million in funding for the CDC to study gun violence in January, noting that "research on gun violence is not advocacy."
An October 18 interview on NRA News demonstrated how the gun lobby handles scientific studies when they are actually forced to confront them. During that segment, Edwards hosted Dr. Timothy Wheeler, founder and director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), to attack a study in the November edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
DRGO often attacks research conducted by AAP, accusing the organization of being "motivated by deep-seated prejudice against gun owners." The organization told NBC News that its "mission is to expose the poor medical scholarship -- and the anti-gun bias behind it -- held out as truth by organized medicine and medical journalism." DRGO is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation, a group that recently caused controversy by announcing plans -- since altered -- to hold a "Guns Save Lives Day" on the one-year anniversary of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
During his appearance, Wheeler, along with Edwards, suggested that the Pediatrics study -- which chronicled nearly 30,000 gun fatalities and 155,000 serious gunshot wounds in children between 2001 and 2010 -- was part of an effort to "hype" child gun injury in order to ban firearms.
NRA News aired a special on the AR-15 military-style semi-automatic assault weapon -- ubiquitous for its use in recent mass shootings -- that provided false information about the power of the weapon and downplayed its dangerous features.
The October 7 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel featured a trip to the National Rifle Association's gun range where host Cam Edwards and National Review Online writer Charles C.W. Cooke fired a custom AR-15 assault weapon, .308 bolt-action rifle, .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and .357 caliber revolver. At the beginning of the segment, Edwards noted the weapons were provided by gun manufacturer and NRA corporate donor Ruger.
After firing the weapons, Edwards and Cooke advanced the notion that the AR-15 was less powerful than a handgun because the semi-automatic handgun produced larger holes in a paper target than the AR-15 assault weapon:
EDWARDS: Having shot now an AR[-15 assault weapon], what would you tell people who say, "Charles, it's too high-powered, it's too this, it's too that?"
COOKE: Well, I think I'd say what, sort of what you were pointing out. If you look at the targets and you asked people which is the scary AR, they wouldn't say -- much smaller holes, it's quieter, it's much more comfortable to hold, there's less recoil, you wouldn't presume -- in fact that gun is the easiest probably to shoot of all of them, and it's certainly the least scary really, it's just black.
But using bullet hole size as a proxy for wounding power is highly misleading, because assault weapons fire the round at a much higher velocity than a handgun.
According to a 2011 report by doctors who had performed autopsies on soldiers killed by gunfire in Iraq, "The velocity of the missile as it strikes the target is the main determinant of the wounding capacity" and "[t]he greater energy of the missile at the moment of impact the greater is the tissue destruction." Indeed, the study found that rounds with a velocity exceeding 2,500 feet per second cause a shockwave to pass through the body upon impact that caused catastrophic injuries even in areas remote to the direct wound.
Using popular ammunition brand Hornady as a comparison point, the ammunition available for the .45 caliber handgun fires at a muzzle velocity of no more than 1,055 feet per second. The .223 ammunition most often used by the AR-15 assault weapon, however, can achieve a velocity of 4,000 feet per second. Some AR-15s are designed to accept 5.56 NATO ammunition; a similar round to the .223 that has a velocity of up to 3,130 feet per second.
NRA News host Cam Edwards issued a correction the day after after Breitbart.com's A.W.R. Hawkins claimed on his show that the mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard "happened because Bill Clinton mandated that" military bases "be gun-free zones." In truth, the policy cited by Hawkins to support this claim allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances and was actually enacted during the George H.W. Bush administration.
The myth that a Clinton-era policy was responsible for the shooting, which claimed the lives of 12 victims, was the centerpiece of right-wing media's failed attempt to establish that the Navy Yard shooting took place in a "gun-free zone."
Edwards issued a correction during his September 18 broadcast, citing a Media Matters blog that addressed Hawkins' claim, during a segment with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller. After Edwards acknowledged that the policy was enacted under George H.W. Bush, Miller said, "Then I've written that wrong too," and she added, "Are you sure that's correct before I change it too? ... Because I don't believe anything Media Matters says."
Hawkins' claim in a Breitbart.com article about the supposed Clinton-era policy originated from a 2009 Washington Times editorial that falsely stated, "Among President Clinton's first acts upon taking office in 1993 was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases." Miller promoted that editorial on September 17 on Twitter.
After Edwards issued the correction, Miller attempted to downplay the importance of whether Clinton disarmed members of the military, suggesting that Hawkins' claim was inconsequential to the "public's knowledge of the issues." In reality, Miller was just one of many right-wing media figures who seized on Hawkins' false claims to politicize the mass shooting in its immediate aftermath.