Media reporting on the verdict that George Zimmerman is not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin suggested a misleading distinction between the defense attorneys' supposed use of "conventional" self-defense principles and Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will"), ignoring the fact that the sole justifiable homicide law in Florida incorporates "Stand Your Ground."
Conservative activist David Keene, who finished serving a two-year term as National Rifle Association president in May, will join The Washington Times as opinion editor. The conservative newspaper has often provided a platform for opponents of stronger gun laws and for the promotion of the NRA.
In April, after a Senate proposal to expand background checks on gun sales was blocked by a predominately Republican coalition of senators, the Times editorial board fawned over the NRA, which was credited with influencing the legislation's defeat.
According to the Times, the failure of the proposal was, "a decisive victory for the National Rifle Association (NRA), which led the fight to protect the rights of all." The April 18 editorial also employed the right-wing media canard that family members of victims of the December 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School who supported expanded background checks were used as "props" by the Obama administration "to make a political argument." The April 18 Times opinion page also featured an op-ed that began, "I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote."
Keene, an irregular contributor to the Times opinion page, has also used the Times to promote the interests of the NRA. In a March 27 op-ed, the then-NRA president complained about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Bass Pro Shops over the allegation that the hunting and fishing supply company engaged in a pattern of racially discriminatory hiring practices. Beyond misleading on the substance of the lawsuit -- Keene wrongfully described it as an attempt by the EEOC to force Bass Pro Shops to hire felons -- at no point did Keene mention the NRA's business relationship with Bass Pro Shops, which includes a collaborative effort to open a 10,000-square foot firearms museum.
Keene, in his capacity as NRA president, often used interviews with Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller to promote his organization's message. Miller authors a blog about guns for the newspaper and is a frequent guest on the National Rifle Association's news programming. The 2011 recipient of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund Harlon B. Carter - George S. Knight Freedom Fund Award, Miller also is a source of misinformation about gun violence. (She is reportedly "THRILLED about [her] new boss.")
Commenting on the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent labeled Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route."
In a July 14 column for conservative news website Rare, Nugent also claimed that the decision to prosecute Zimmerman was wrongfully influenced by "the race-baiting industry [that] saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers":
Based on all evidence available to them, the professional law enforcement officers did not hold George Zimmerman on charges later that night. They saw it for what it was: cut and dried self-defense.
And so it was for a few weeks until the race-baiting industry saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, et al, who then swept down on the Florida community refusing to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route.
Media figures are falsely claiming that Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In the wake of Zimmerman's March 2012 killing of Martin, media attention turned to the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will" statute). That law allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat as long as they are not engaged in illegality and are attacked in a place they have a right to be.The law also allows for a defendant to seek an expedited pretrial hearing on those grounds, and grants people who kill in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits.
The statute was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association. After Florida passed the law in 2005, it was adopted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council and nearly two dozen states passed similar legislation. Such laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims.
After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of Martin, gun violence prevention advocates again highlighted the role of Florida's self-defense law. But some in the media, due to a misunderstanding of the statute's breadth, have falsely claimed that the law played no role in the trial.
On the July 15 edition of CNN's New Day, co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan agreed that the law played no role in the case.
In fact, Florida's self-defense laws set the framework by which Zimmerman was tried, setting the standard by which the jury would have to determine if Martin's death resulted from the justifiable use of force. Indeed, the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force.
Last week in Salt Lake City, Glenn Beck hosted a three-day extravaganza featuring a spectacle-laden stage show, a history museum, speeches and presentations from prominent conservative figures, and a large exhibit hall. Below are scenes from Glenn Beck's latest get-together. First featured are scenes from the exhibit area maintained by the Beck-linked charity Mercury One. Following that are scenes from the main event, "Man in the Moon."
The Blaze Radio was broadcasting:
Lines for a meet and greet with Beck:
The official Man in the Moon store:
Beck's books were also on sale:
Other merchandise available at the event and scenes from Man In The Moon after the jump.
Zombie Industries, a firearms target company that produces "life-sized; three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them," has released a new target -- "Al" -- that is presumably inspired by MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton.
[Zombie Industries, accessed 7/9/13]
In May, Sharpton called a Zombie Industries' exhibition of a target that resembled President Obama at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting a "stunning, offensive display." The NRA asked Zombie Industries to remove the target from its display, although it is still available for purchase on the Zombie Industries website.
A description of the target on Zombie Industries' website describes how "Poor Al he was a Sharp guy" was attacked by zombies while he "complained about complete nonsense" to a truck driver who offered him a ride:
... as Al complained about complete nonsense, when all of a sudden a rotten, maggot infested face appeared from above the cab of the truck. The trucker slammed the brakes and jolted the wheel, causing the truck to tip over and its contents sprawled over the countryside. Both the driver and poor Al were still stuck in the cab when they saw them coming... nowhere to run, no one to call, they shook in fear and poor Al even cried... but sadly within minutes it was over. Once their screams for help were silenced, they were now one of them... the brainless ones.
Zombie Industries has engendered controversy for other zombie target designs. As noted by Think Progress, the company sold an "ex-girlfriend" mannequin that bled when shot and currently offers a zombie target in the likeness of a "gun control lobbyist." Zombie Industries is reportedly advertising the lobbyist target with an image that includes a photograph of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Dan Gross and gun violence prevention advocate Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in the Virginia Tech massacre.
A series of articles about one women's month-long experience owning a gun that was spiked by Ms. magazine after it sparked criticism from pro-gun activists will now be posted by the Daily Beast.
Daily Beast Senior Editor Harry Siegel would not say exactly when the series by freelance writer and gun violence prevention advocate Heidi Yewman would be posted, but confirmed it would run "presumably some time pretty soon," adding, "I think it's a good thing to run."
Ms. posted the first article in the series on June 12, which detailed Yewman's experience easily getting a concealed weapons permit and buying a gun without knowing how to use it. Three subsequent articles were set to run each following week detailing her experiences carrying and then disposing of the gun, but were canceled by the online outlet of the famed feminist magazine after the first due to outrage from pro-gun activists, Yewman said in an interview Monday.
"They ran the first one and they got a huge response, over 70,000 hits and over 2,000 comments immediately," recalled Yewman, who serves on the board of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and is author of the 2009 book, Beyond the Bullet. "So it was overwhelming to them. They moderate their comments so it became an overwhelming situation for them and a lot of the comments were real negative, how I'm an idiot, how I'm stupid."
Yewman said she was contacted by Michele Kort, a Ms. editor, via email on June 17 and told the magazine was not getting the response it had expected and was cancelling further installments in the series.
"She emailed me and let me know they weren't going to run it because it was too overwhelming ... they weren't trying to attract guns rights guys and that's who they were seeing was commenting," Yewman said, noting many of the online comments were abusive. "I think that there were a lot more people looking at their site than the gun guys. I disagree with their editorial policy, but they get to do what they want to do."
Joe Nocera of The New York Times published excerpts of Kort's email in a blog post on June 21 that criticized Ms., stating, "Ms. published something the N.R.A.-types didn't like; they responded by bullying Ms. online, and Ms. folded."
UPDATE: After the publication of this post, Ms. issued a statement denying that they had "allow[ed] ourselves to be bullied by pro-gun commenters" and saying they had offered to post the remaining pieces but had not heard back from Yewman. In an interview with Media Matters, Yewman said that she was "disappointed" that it had taken Ms. so long to come to that conclusion and said she has "an exclusive" with the Daily Beast to run the rest of the series.
Internet radio host Adam Kokesh, who obtained notoriety this year for organizing armed marches with the goal of overthrowing the federal government, appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show to revive his call for protestors who wish to "end the federal government" to march on Washington, D.C., on Independence Day 2014.
From the July 8 edition of The Alex Jones Show:
In May, Kokesh cancelled plans for a similar July 4 armed march on Washington, and instead called on his supporters to organize marches at state capitols nationwide in order to effectuate an "orderly dissolution of the federal government."
Kokesh has since reinstated his original plans, hoping that a "critical mass" of protesters will allow him to organize a march from nearby Northern Virginia into Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2014.
Kokesh laid out plans for the 2014 march, stating, "It's time to plant the flag for next year and Alex, I know a lot of people in your audience will join us in this, and I hope you will endorse it too, because it's going to happen with or without me now. We invite anybody to join us who for whatever reason wants to end the fed entirely, to join us on Independence Day of next year." According to Kokesh, the route would be the same as the tabled 2013 march, with plans to pass by the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court and the White House.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller compared proposals to tax firearms for the benefit of victims of gun violence to poll taxes, which were used to deny African-Americans the right to vote.
Miller, who writes a gun blog for the Times, is the latest conservative commentator to compare the processes involved in gun ownership to racial discrimination.
Poll taxes are prohibited by the Twenty-fourth Amendment and have been found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court.
Most commercial firearms and ammunition sales are already subject to an excise tax which funds conservation programs. Recently, a number of states have proposed levying additional taxes on firearm and ammunition sales in order to set aside money for victims of gun violence, fund mental health initiatives and pay for the implementation of firearm licensing programs.
From the June 27 edition of the National Rifle Association News' Cam & Company:
MILLER: Chicago passed a law this year that adds a 25 dollar tax to firearm sales in Chicago, and obviously that's meant to discourage people to buy guns. Puts them out of range or reach for some people, cost wise.
Well now it's about eight states that are following suit with ideas of taxing ammo and guns as high as 50 percent in Maryland on ammo and in Connecticut on ammo. Massachusetts has a tax on guns and ammo in its main bill that is going through the legislature at pretty rapid speed on gun control. So Congressman Graves in the House, Sam Graves, has a bill that would eliminate the ability of these states and jurisdictions to basically tax your Second Amendment, which is pretty much a poll tax.
So his bill would say that Congress has authority under its ability to regulate interstate commerce, because guns and ammo are manufactured and sent interstate, that Congress can intervene and say you can't add taxes onto them, these states and cities. So that has been introduced and will go through the Judiciary Committee and I think that is a really positive move for Congress to do because it is -- I can't believe it will be held up in court that you can tax guns and ammo, you can tax the Second Amendment. I mean I'm sure these things will be eventually taken to court and I would bet they get overturned.
Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist who is the source of a debunked claim that critics say dramatically exaggerated the frequency of defensive gun use, recently served on a committee tasked by the federal government with creating a potential research agenda focusing on ways to minimize gun violence.
The committee, formed by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to an executive order President Obama signed in January following the Newtown school shooting, recently issued its report, titled "Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence."
The committee of 14, led by Alan I. Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was tasked with developing "a potential research agenda focusing on the public health aspects of firearm-related violence-- its causes, approaches to interventions that could prevent it, and strategies to minimize its health burden." The report calls for a research program to be implemented by the CDC and other agencies and private foundations and "designed to produce impacts in 3-5 years" that focuses on the characteristics of firearm violence and risk and protective factors, among other issues.
Kleck is best known for his 1995 study with Marc Gertz that claims that up to 2.5 million incidents of defensive gun use occur every year. Media figures and the National Rifle Association frequently cite this study to bolster their claims that owning firearms makes people safer.
But critics point to the study's "serious methodological difficulties" -- it extrapolates a very rare event, the slightly more than one percent of respondents to a survey that said they had used a gun in self-defense over the past year, to the entire population of 200 million adults. This means that even slight deficiencies in the accuracy of the survey, whether due to false positives or a sample that is not perfectly indicative of the overall population, can lead to large differences in the result. Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director David Hemenway has labeled Kleck's result "an enormous overestimate" and pointed out that the results require one to believe, for instance, that "burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100% of the time."
Contra Kleck, data from the National Crime Victimization survey produced by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that there are roughly 100,000 instances of defensive gun use per year.
Right-wing media have pointed to the report's citation of Kleck's research to claim that it proves that "guns actually save lives." In fact, the report's treatment of the criminologist's work is more complex, typically contrasting his results with other studies that show dramatically different results. For example, the report states (emphasis added):
Estimates of gun use for self-defense vary widely, in part due to definitional differences for self-defensive gun use, different data sources, and questions about accuracy of data, particularly when self-reported. The NCVS has estimated 60,000 to 120,000 defensive uses of guns per year. Based on data from l992 and l994, the NCVS found 116,000 incidents (McDowall et al., 1998). Another body of research estimated annual gun use for self-defense to be much higher, up to 2.5 million incidents, suggesting that self-defense can be an important crime deterrent (Kleck and Gertz, 1995). Some studies on the association between self-defensive gun use and injury or loss to the victim have found less loss and injury when a firearm is used (Kleck, 2001b).
Similarly (emphasis added):
Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996; Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the other hand, some scholars point to radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field. The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys. The former estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.
A spokesperson for the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council would not comment on Kleck's controversial presence on the committee, but explained that the committee was selected by staff based on "folks that are nominated" with an eye toward providing "enough expertise to address all of the questions" at issue as well as "these different perspectives and points of view with the expertise." She stressed that the slate was approved by the president of the National Academy of Science and that all members must sign off on the report before its release.
Kleck and Leshner did not respond to requests for comment.
Some of the country's top news editors are criticizing a new Louisiana law that punishes journalists who publicly identify gun owners with concealed weapons permits.
At the American Society of News Editors annual conference being held this week in Washington, D.C., several major newspaper editors spoke out against the law during interviews with Media Matters, with some saying that it appears unconstitutional.
"It seems absurd on its face," said Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman said. "In fact, it seems to me on the surface it is a prior restraint issue."
"Prior restraint" is government action that prohibits speech, and with few exceptions has been found by the Supreme Court to violate the First Amendment.
The Louisiana law, signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 19, sets penalties of fines of up to $10,000 or six months in jail for those who publish "any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit." The law includes exceptions for cases in which the concealed handgun holder is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun.
The law stems from the controversial decision by The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., to publish names and addresses of those who had conceal carry permits in their area last year. The information was obtained legally through open public records; in Louisiana, such records are closed to the public.
Journalists in the state have spoken out against the bill, arguing that it chills and criminalizes journalists for doing their jobs. That argument found support at the ASNE convention.
"The reporting of factual information in the public interest is something I support," said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, who added that it must be handled carefully, but should not be outlawed.
Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, also said he would not necessarily publish such information, but opposes legal restrictions.
"I don't think media organizations should have to pay a price," he said. "It is up to the news organization to decide if it should be published. I think that is for every individual news organization to make that decision on their own."
Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times and former editor of The Buffalo News, said "I am not in favor of punishing newspapers who serve the public by getting information out there."
Major newspapers and cable and broadcast media have ignored Louisiana's passage of a law that makes it a crime for journalists to publicly identify concealed handgun permit holders or applicants.
On June 19, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed a bill that sets penalties of up to six months in jail and $10,000 for those who publish "any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit." The law includes exceptions for cases in which the concealed handgun holder is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun.
Supporters cited as their rationale for proposing the law a New York paper's controversial December publication of a Google map that featured the names and addresses of local handgun permit holders, saying that the legislation was necessary to prevent local media outlets from publishing similar information. Most states, including Louisiana, have laws that make such information confidential, but Alabama is the only other state that currently makes publication of that information illegal subject to a penalty.
The law's passage comes during a furious debate over whether the federal government infringed upon freedom of the press by naming a reporter as a co-conspirator in a leak case; the journalist was never charged with a crime.
Louisiana's law, explicitly passed in order to chill and criminalize journalism, has not received national attention. According to a review of the Nexis and Factiva databases*, major newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today have not mentioned the law. Neither have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News. The Associated Press produced several articles as the bill moved through the legislative process and became law, reporting on June 19:
Despite criticism it would violate the First Amendment, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes it a crime for journalists or anyone else to publicly identify concealed handgun permit holders or applicants.
Carl Redman, the executive editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate and chairman of the Louisiana Press Association's Freedom of Information Committee, offered a stirring defense of freedom of the press in opposing the Louisiana law at a May 7 state Senate committee hearing. He called it "very ironic that the very people who screamed the loudest about attempts to limit their Second Amendment rights are here eager to limit my First Amendment rights."
Other advocates for freedom of the press joined him in opposing the bill.
Frank Borelli, a frequent guest on NRA News, noted the excuse used by Nazis who operated concentration camps that they were "just following orders" to applaud sheriffs who would "selectively enforce" Maryland's new gun violence prevention laws.
On May 16, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and a handgun licensing scheme.
Borelli, who is the editor of the law enforcement news site Officer.com and is a regular guest on NRA News, made the Nazi comparison as a counterpoint to an editorial by Maryland House of Delegates member Jon S. Cardin that criticized a Maryland sheriff who said he would not enforce the new laws.
From the June 20 edition of Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: The Baltimore Sun is very upset, particularly Jon Cardin is incensed that there are sheriffs in the state of Maryland who say that they will not be enforcing the new gun control laws against otherwise legal law-abiding gun owners. He says this is a horrible idea, in a country dependent on the rule of law, he says, to protect civil rights and public safety this is dangerous and distressing. I'm curious, what's your take, Frank?
FRANK BORELLI: I'd like to ask Mr. Cardin one question. Does he feel that when Nazis working the death camps used the excuse of, I was just following orders, was that an acceptable excuse and did it exempt them for moral turpitude for their actions? And I'd like to hear him justify that.
These sheriffs have stepped up, again this is my opinion, these sheriffs have stepped up and said you know what, we don't [sic] feel these laws are unconstitutional therefore we're not going to enforce them. They're saying, hey, this isn't a lawful order. These laws aren't enforceable. We choose not to enforce them. I commend them for their courage to do so.
The National Rifle Association's news show inaccurately portrayed a California program that seeks to recover guns from felons and other prohibited individuals as a means of placing law-abiding gun owners in danger of firearm confiscation.
The June 20 special targeted a California law enforcement program that works with the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), a database of individuals who are no longer legally allowed to possess guns. The database works by combining gun registration records with the records of individuals who are barred from owning a firearm because of a felony conviction, restraining order or adjudication of serious mental illness.
According to Pacific Standard magazine, the database includes 20,000 people who possess at least 38,000 handguns and 1,600 assault weapons.
Setting up the segment, NRA News' investigative reporter Ginny Simone said that the special would tell the story of a person who was "wrongly targeted," despite the fact that the person featured is prohibited by federal law from owning a gun. NRA News host Cam Edwards also claimed that "there are so many issues right now for the law-abiding in California because you got lawmakers going after their rights, meanwhile the criminals are getting put back out onto the streets, and it sounds like you've got a government that is in many ways just out of control."
The recent bloody headlines out of Chicago relayed the sad tale of the city's deadly weekend, where seven people were killed in shootings and more than 50 were victims of gunfire. Thanks in part to news coverage, America's third largest city has become synonymous with runaway gun violence, and especially deadly weekend shootouts.
Sadly, that type of shooting spree isn't restricted to Chicago. Just this month in New York City, which has experienced an historic reduction in crime in recent years, 25 people were shot over a single weekend; six of the victims died.
Nonetheless, the Chicago news triggered the usual response from conservative gun advocates, who love to mock the city's homicide rate. In recent years Chicago gun victims have served as a macabre punch line for NRA fans as they scoff at the alleged futility of the city's gun safety laws. (Chicago banned handguns decades ago, and has retained strong gun laws following the 2010 overturning of that ban by the Supreme Court.)
Conservative conspiracists such as Rush Limbaugh even claim Democratic politicians, including Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel, want the city's murder rate to remain high so they can use the killings to advocate for stronger gun laws.
But mostly, firearm defenders simply ridicule Chicago's murder count. "Slaughter in Gun Control Chicago," blogged Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich in the wake of last weekend's gun attacks, while a Breitbart writer on Monday insisted city officials had "little to show" for their efforts to curb violence.
But note what these commentators are careful not to mention while using the killings to make a political point: They didn't mention that homicides in "Gun Control Chicago" are down dramatically this year; a trend that undermines the attack that the Second City stands as the ultimate symbol of gun enforcement failure.
In early May, the Chicago Police Department released figures indicating the city marked a 43 percent decline in the number of murders over the first four months of this year, as compared to the same period last year. For the first quarter of this year, Chicago registered 93 murders, its lowest January-to-April tally since 1963.
Then this month came news that Chicago experienced a 31 percent decrease in shootings for the month of May, which meant that through May of this year the city's murder count had declined 34 percent from last year. Chicago homicides still outnumber those in larger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles; it suffers from weaker gun laws in both its home state and surrounding states than those two cities, allowing criminals easier access to guns purchased elsewhere.
It's true that Chicago's crime is certain to spike in the coming summer months, and with it will come more heartbreaking headlines about tragic gun murders; killings that will inevitably involve young victims. But statistically, violent crime almost always goes up in warm weather months. So the question is, will Chicago's murder rate go up more this year than during last year's summer months? Or will the city be able to maintain its pattern of reduced gun violence throughout 2013?