On February 1 the National Rifle Association will commence its inaugural hosting of one of the largest gun shows in the United States with the weeklong Great American Outdoor Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The show promises attendees nearly 1,000 exhibitors displaying wares for hunting, fishing and other outdoors activities as well as "concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!"
But behind the NRA's sponsorship of the show is the backstory of how the NRA led a 2013 coup against the previous organizers of "the largest outdoor show in America" at the Farm Show Complex over a dispute about the sale of assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. With its takeover of the event -- which will now also be used as an NRA fundraising tool -- the NRA is consciously injecting its Second Amendment absolutism into an annual outdoors show that has been a Harrisburg fixture for more than 60 years.
Here are five reasons why the NRA's Great American Outdoor Show is different from your typical hunting and fishing enthusiast expo:
1. NRA Ousted The Previous Owners For Refusing To Allow Assault Weapons Post-Newtown
Following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman used an assault weapon to take 26 lives, Reed Exhibitions -- which in recent years had organized the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the annual hunting and fishing show held since 1951 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex -- announced that it would not allow assault weapons to be displayed or sold at the 2013 show. In response, sellers of assault weapons and other vendors staged a boycott of the show. The NRA entered the fray, backing the boycott and effectively killing the show, which was subsequently cancelled by Reed Exhibitions. Local officials estimated the cancellation caused an $88 million revenue loss in the Harrisburg area. In April 2013, the NRA announced that it would organize the 2014 show, renamed as the Great American Outdoor Show, after beating out 16 other potential organizers who submitted bids to put on a gun show at the Farm Show Complex.
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.
Recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coverage of the electoral defeat of two Pennsylvania mayors who were members of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) demonstrates how media cherry-pick data to falsely suggest mayors risk losing their jobs by joining the group.
MAIG, a coalition of more than 1,000 mayors, is best known for its Demand Action campaign in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and recent partnership with the 130,000 member grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In recent months the Tribune-Review has suggested that Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane and Butler Mayor Maggie Stock lost their re-election campaigns because of their MAIG memberships. The paper hasn't mentioned the MAIG memberships of any of the mayors who won reelection in 2013; 95 percent of Pennsylvania MAIG members were reelected.
National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesman Ted Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and argued that he and other liberal politicians should be punished for treason.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mongrel as "a dog with parents of different breeds."
Nugent made the comment during a January 17 interview with Guns.com at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), an annual gun industry trade show that draws 60,000 firearms industry professionals. Nugent was representing the Outdoor Channel, which airs his hunting show Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild. Nugent and Outdoor Channel recently announced a multi-year endorsement deal where Nugent will make "talent appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events." In announcing the deal, Outdoor Channel's CEO said that Nugent "symbolizes everything that is right in our industry."
The National Rifle Association pushed a false history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s views on firearms in order to promote gun ownership in a video commentary released on the national holiday commemorating the slain civil rights hero's birthday.
Gun rights activists frequently distort history by citing a 1956 attempt by King to acquire a gun permit as evidence that King favored gun ownership. This ignores that King later repudiated his earlier action, concluding, "How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection?"
In a January 20 video, Colion Noir -- one of several commentators hired by the NRA to produce videos for NRANews.com -- claimed that King would have "happily struggled with envy" over Noir's concealed handgun permit. Noir then related King's attempt to acquire a gun permit and falsely claimed that after failing in that endeavor, King filled his house with people carrying guns:
NOIR: Dr. King was a nonviolent man, but even he understood the realities of self-defense and protecting his home and his family in the face of life-threatening violence. This is why he tried to apply for that gun permit when the house where his wife and daughter lived was firebombed. When Dr. King was denied, he did the next best thing and surrounded himself with people with guns. Which was evidenced by one of Dr. King's advisors describing his home as an "arsenal."
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.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared film executive Harvey Weinstein, who is Jewish, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels over Weinstein's plan to make an anti-NRA film.
Weinstein recently appeared on Howard Stern's radio show and announced he was planning to take the NRA "head on" with a new film project involving Meryl Streep.
Appearing on the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company on January 16, Nugent said viewers of Weinstein's film "will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky is alive in the form a fat punk named Harvey Weinstein and as he tries to destroy the NRA it will backfire on him."
Nugent also called Weinstein a "subhuman punk," a "brain-dead idiot," "a descendant of the ultimate putz," and added, "I don't know if Harvey Weinstein has had a lifetime of drug and substance abuse, but he certainly sounds like it. You have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nuremberg [Germany] in 1938 are a desirable condition." He concluded, "Harvey Weinstein is on the side of criminals. The NRA is on the side of innocent victims protecting themselves from criminals."
Fox News' defense of the gun lobby passed into the realm of fiction when host Martha MacCallum told viewers that what usually thwarts school shootings is "when there's a gun introduced into the situation." She followed up this myth with the long-debunked claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if Hitler hadn't confiscated citizens' firearms.
On the January 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion between radio host Mike Slater and Fox contributor Jehmu Greene about a new anti-NRA film being produced by Harvey Weinstein.
During the segment, MacCallum broke into the debate to declare that "in most cases" the harm from mass shootings has been mitigated by adding more guns into the fray, saying the shootings generally end "when there's a gun introduced into the situation that stops [the shooters] from what they're doing."
MacCallum -- echoing a Washington Times column by senior opinion editor and pro-NRA activist Emily Miller -- later intimated that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the citizenry were armed, but "their guns were all confiscated under German law at the time."
Though MacCallum's statistic is clad as a statement of fact, it is anything but -- a study completed by Mother Jones found that "not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped" by an armed civilian.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed that African-Americans must "admit to the self-inflicted destructo-derby they are waging" in order to honestly celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Nugent, who recently became Outdoor Channel's spokesman, made this claim in his regular column for birther website WND. In a column titled, "What Would Dr. King Say About Black Culture?" Nugent sought to tie a viral video of a 2-year-old Omaha, Nebraska toddler being cursed at by adults to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is on January 20:
A truly disturbing and disgusting profanity-laced video of a 2-year-old little boy made national headlines recently after the Omaha Police Union posted the video on its website.
The street thugs who made the video and the little boy are black. This is important to note as the nation gets ready to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20.
Nugent cited this single example of bad parenting as "the tip of the black gangster iceberg" and suggested that "[s]hould the boy ever be reunited with his family of gangsters, he will either end up in prison like his grandparents or dead like his dad."
New York Post state columnist Fred Dicker described the December 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators as "a little convenient massacre" on his radio show Live from the State Capitol.
On the January 13 edition of his radio show, broadcast on Talk AM 1300 in the Albany, New York, area, Dicker claimed that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had "promised" not to support stronger gun laws "but then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him." In January 2013, New York enacted a comprehensive gun safety package that Cuomo described as "the toughest gun laws in the nation."
News of Dicker's comment was first reported by New York Daily News, but did not include the audio of the remark which can be heard here:
January 14 kicks off a four-day gun industry trade show that gathers firearms industry professionals from around the country to unveil new weaponry and stand against the regulation of firearms.
The 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), put on by the gun industry lobby group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), is billed as "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and is held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The NSSF promises nearly 11 football fields of exhibition space at the 36th annual SHOT Show for an expected crowd of 60,000 gun industry professionals. Because it is a trade show, the event is closed to the general public, although 2,500 members of media -- many affiliated with outdoor and gun publications -- are expected to attend. The estimated 1,600 exhibitors will represent every facet of the gun industry, although a list of exhibitors suggests like in past years the event will heavily promote an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines. The trade show will be capped by a speech from NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti on the gun industry's "year of resiliency" in 2013, presumably a nod to backlash against the gun industry following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
While the National Rifle Association's annual meeting typically draws more media scrutiny compared to SHOT Show, both events are important to understanding the direction and goals of the gun industry. Here are five facts about this year's SHOT Show:
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.
The Outdoor Channel announced the "expansion of its strategic partnership with the National Rifle Association" and a new "multi-year talent and endorsement agreement" with inflammatory NRA board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent, pointing to the network's effort to eclipse its competitors as the channel of choice for the gun lobby and firearms enthusiasts.
Outdoor Channel announced an expansion of its relationship with the NRA including two new NRA shows to air on Outdoor Channel and sponsorship of the NRA's 2014 annual meeting in a January 6 press release. The new programs include NRA All Access presented by Taurus, which promises to "take a comprehensive look at the role the NRA plays in important Second Amendment issues and the outdoor lifestyle." NRA News' Cam & Company currently airs on rival network The Sportsman Channel, which recently announced an upcoming show to be hosted by former Alaska Governor and current Fox News contributor Sarah Palin.
In a separate press release Outdoor Channel, which has long aired Nugent's hunting show Spirit of the Wild, said that Nugent will work on behalf of the network "through traditional, digital and social media promotional initiatives, in addition to making talent appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events" and also announced a weekly podcast featuring Nugent.
Nugent will represent Outdoor Channel at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in January, the largest gun industry annual gathering, and at the NRA's new Great American Outdoor Show. At last year's SHOT Show, Nugent created controversy by suggesting that it was time to violently overthrow the federal government because of an attempt to re-implement "tyranny" by the Obama administration.
Outdoor Channel President and CEO Jim Liberatore heaped praise on Nugent's character in his channel's statement, claiming that the NRA board member "symbolizes everything that is right in our industry":
"Ted Nugent symbolizes everything that is right in our industry and represents our viewers as an outspoken patriot, a skilled outdoorsman and a devoted family man; we are proud that he can be found exclusively on Outdoor Channel," said Jim Liberatore, President and CEO of Outdoor Channel. "His programs have a powerful, zealous fan base with unmatched engagement levels. And, under this agreement, we will join forces with Ted to become advocates for all enthusiasts who love and live in the outdoors."
The recent firing of a prominent gun journalist for publishing a column arguing that gun ownership is subject to at least some regulation is representative of a firearm publication industry norm where gun makers exercise editorial control over publications, The New York Times reports.
In a January 4 article, Times reporter Ravi Somaiya reports on the circumstances surrounding Dick Metcalf's firing from Guns & Ammo magazine. Metcalf authored a column for the December 2013 edition of Guns & Ammo that stated, "[W]ay too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be." Following outrage from the gun rights community, Metcalf was fired and Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette, who had approved the column for publication, apologized to readers and announced his own resignation.
According to the Times, Metcalf -- who also faced death threats and had his television show cancelled -- lost his job after "two major gun manufacturers" told his editor "in no uncertain terms" that they would no longer do business with Guns & Ammo publisher InterMedia Outdoors (IMO) if Metcalf continued to work at the publication. IMO is the publisher of 15 sportsman themed magazines and owns The Sportsman Channel which is known for its Ted Nugent hunting specials and airing of the National Rifle Association's daily news show.
In his Times article, Somaiya also interviewed several former and current editors of Guns & Ammo who explained that gun publications will often cede editorial control to gun manufacturers who buy advertisements. While claiming Guns & Ammo has editorial independence, Garry James, a current senior editor, nonetheless told the Times, "advertisers obviously always have power, and you always feel some pressure."