Following reports of a .50 caliber sniper rifle attack on U.S. Border Patrol agents, Fox News hosts immediately recognized the threat the high-powered "battlefield weapon" poses to law enforcement. Criticism of the gun on Fox, however, stands in sharp contrast to the National Rifle Association's longstanding campaign to prevent the regulation of .50 caliber weapons, which are manufactured by one of its board members.
On July 20, FoxNews.com reported that U.S. Border Patrol agents working near the Rio Grande River came under fire from a .50 caliber weapon during the evening of July 18. According to the report, "Border Patrol sources said the rounds were clearly identifiable because .50- caliber weapons make a distinctive noise when fired." No agents were wounded in the attack.
In most of the United States the .50 caliber sniper rifle is regulated no more strenuously than a typical hunting rifle, thanks to efforts by the gun lobby. But Fox News personalities covering the border incident were quick to recognize the rifle's extremely dangerous capabilities and the threat it poses to law enforcement.
Fox News host Heather Nauert opened the July 20 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday by citing the .50 caliber rifle incident as evidence that "there is an all-out war on at our southern border." Throughout the show, Nauert's co-hosts repeatedly returned to the capabilities of the .50 caliber rifle. Fox's Jon Scott described the rifle as "a weapon of war," noted that, "The slugs a .50 caliber weapon fires are so big that body armor really won't do you much good," and called it a "battlefield weapon."
A new video commentary released by the NRA references the Holocaust and other instances of persecution to advance the baseless claim that "the government is collecting more and more gun registration data which could be used against gun owners in the form of full confiscation."
The July 18 commentary was published by NRA News and is part of the gun group's recent efforts to reach a younger, more diverse audience. In the video NRA News commentator Chris Cheng sets up his claim about government-sanctioned gun confiscation by citing recent reports of the persecution of Jewish people in Eastern Ukraine, as well as "what happened to our Jewish friends during World War II":
CHRIS CHENG: Masked men in Eastern Ukraine recently handed out fliers in front of a synagogue which told Jews to register with pro-Russian militants. I don't even need to go into detail about world history and what happened to our Jewish friends during World War II. So here's why government registration of a protected right is a bad thing.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent demonized those in poverty, describing them as "stupid" and having "no one to blame but themselves," while attacking their access to "luxuries" such as "air-conditioning," "bling-bling," and "clean water."
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for Outdoor Channel, wrote in a July 16 column for WND, "America's Whining 'Poor' -- And Other Conundrums," that "the squawking poor just keep on getting poorer, and as is always the case, they have no one to blame but themselves. Stupid is as stupid does."
He went on to complain that "America's so-called poor live a life far better than do real poor people around the world and have luxuries they can only dream of," citing access to clean water and other supposed "luxuries":
As the Democrats continue to get away with their crimes, the squawking poor just keep on getting poorer, and as is always the case, they have no one to blame but themselves. Stupid is as stupid does. Brainwashing only works if you give up your brain and your soul to the brainwashers.
Another mind-boggling conundrum is the fact that America's so-called poor live a life far better than do real poor people around the world and have luxuries they can only dream of.
With their cell phones, automobiles, microwave ovens, air-conditioning, new clothes, manicures and pedicures, bling-bling, clean water, more food than they can eat, pretty much redistributed everything handed to them, they still whine how America should be more like those other countries.
A new profile of Larry Pratt, the odious executive director of fringe group Gun Owners of America (GOA) documents Pratt's lengthy history of extremism while noting that he is still treated by media as an authority in the gun debate.
The Pratt profile, authored by The American Independent Institute (TAII) fellow Alexander Zaitchik, was published July 14 as part of a RollingStone.com package, "America's Gun Violence Epidemic." Other articles in the series include an interview with former New York City mayor and gun violence prevention advocate Michael Bloomberg, a message from Richard Martinez, whose son was murdered in the recent Isla Vista, California mass shooting, stories from gunshot wound survivors, and an interactive map on gun violence in America.
Interspersed with accounts of Pratt's association with anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups, his call for the quarantine of AIDS victims, his support for the death squads of a genocidal dictator, and his longstanding engagement with bizarre anti-government conspiracy theories, Zaitchik recounts how Pratt is regularly called on by mainstream media outlets to participate in the debate over gun laws.
Indeed, a Media Matters analysis of cable news and major newspapers finds that media regularly turns to Pratt despite his place in the far-right wing fringe. Since the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Pratt has appeared during evening and Sunday programming on CNN seven times and three times each on MSNBC and Fox News.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that some people who supported President Obama "defiled the sacrifices and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spat on his grave" because they voted for Obama "based on the color of his skin instead of the content of his character."
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for Outdoor Channel, added in his July 9 column for conspiracy website WND that Obama's election represented "the worst case of racism I have ever witnessed in my lifetime":
We have all seen the roving reporter man-on-the-street interviews. I'm sure we all have some friends, acquaintances, even family members and others who have uttered the painful statement. I don't know about anyone else, but when I first heard people say that they voted for Barack Obama because he was black, or that it was "time" for a black president, my skin crawled.
I am well aware that that statement of mine will be isolated and made out to be "racist" by the dishonest media and the maniacally boneheaded Saul Alinsky gang over at the Huff-n-Puff Post and beyond, but the real horror is that the worst case of racism I have ever witnessed in my lifetime was the indecent choice en mass by millions of Americans who defiled the sacrifices and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spat on his grave when they actually admitted that they voted for this president based on the color of his skin instead of the content of his character.
In a later section of his column that sought to downplay racism in the United States, Nugent claimed he has "never personality witnessed" it in his lifetime:
Does racism still exist in America today? I'm guessing that is does, but in my nonstop world travels over a lifetime, being the ultra-gregarious chap that I am, enjoying the friendships of many good people, performing more than 6,500 concerts around the globe, diligently pursuing diverse peoples and places, I have never personally witnessed racism or hatred of any kind with anyone I have ever met.
A new commentary from the National Rifle Association claims that laws relating to the buying, owning, and carrying of firearms are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws that created legal racial discrimination in the United States.
The July 7 commentary was published by NRA News and is part of the gun group's recent efforts to reach a younger, more diverse audience. While discussing his interpretation of the Second Amendment, NRA News commentator Dom Raso said, "So just because someone makes a law that says you can't buy, own, or carry a weapon, doesn't make it lawful. Jim Crow laws were also passed and enforced and those were equally as unconstitutional. Too many Americans don't think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue and that's dangerous because all of those rights together define freedom."
Although the comparison is absurd on its face -- gun ownership laws cannot be compared to a pernicious body of law that legitimized a "racial caste system" in the United States -- Raso fails to appreciate that gun laws routinely face legal challenges, but are almost always upheld as consistent with the Second Amendment.
The landmark 2008 Supreme Court Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that many restrictions on firearms are lawful and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
The National Rifle Association's media arm issued a video bemoaning that Elliot Rodger, who murdered six during a recent killing spree in California, is referred to by media as a "gunman" or "shooter."
19 people were killed or wounded by Rodger near the campus of UC-Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, California on May 23. Reportedly motivated by a hatred of women, Rodger fatally stabbed three in his apartment before going on a public shooting spree. Of 11 hit by gunfire, three died. Rodger also struck four people with his car, and one person suffered an undetermined injury.
In a June 30 video published on the NRA's "commentators" webpage -- a project that is part of the NRA's efforts to attract a younger and more diverse audience -- NRA News commentator Billy Johnson claimed that media coverage of the killing spree only told "half the story," adding, "Yes, the Santa Barbara murderer had a gun, and yes he killed three people with that gun. But he also killed three people with a knife and injured several others with his car." (Johnson never mentioned those who were wounded by gunfire but survived.)
Undermining their own point, the NRA originally released the video with the title "Santa Barbara Shooting" (as captured by Media Matters below), but has since changed the title to "Santa Barbara Stabber":
CNN host S.E. Cupp baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton's support for a ban on assault weapons is bad politics by promoting the myth that the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives was fueled by the passage of an assault weapons ban that year.
In fact, political scientists say tax increases and a fight over healthcare reform better explain the Republican takeover. But conservative pundits often incorporate the 1994 assault weapons ban into the media myth that it is politically unwise for politicians to support gun reform and that the National Rifle Association has the ability to use the gun issue to determine election outcomes.
During a June 17 town hall forum on CNN, Clinton expressed support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as expanded background checks on gun sales. On the gun debate, Clinton added, "we need a more thoughtful conversation, we cannot let a minority of people ... hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people."
Appearing on CNN's The Situation Room after the town hall discussion, Cupp suggested political danger in Clinton's position, stating, "Democrats really suffered, and Hillary Clinton knows this, Democrats really suffered the last time they enacted an assault weapon ban. There were a lot of Democrats who were thrown out of office the last time that passed."
In a January 17, 2013, US News article headlined "Gun Control Laws Weren't Primary Reason Dems Lost in 1994" political scientists and 1994 election experts Philip Klinkner and Gary Jacobson are quoted arguing that assault weapons ban legislation was only one of several controversial votes leading up to the midterm elections but that a "mythology" was formed around the gun vote. Klinkner and Jacobson instead pinned the electoral success of the Republican Party on the failure of health care reform and tax increases:
While the '94 election proved Americans wanted Democrats out of congressional power (more than 50 Democratic seats were lost), it's less clear if the weapons ban, or any one issue, was the primary reason for their loss.
"This is a mythology that has developed," says Philip Klinkner, who edited a book about the '94 elections. "That narrative stretches things way too far."
The truth, political scientists say, is that it can be attributed to a combination of factors, and the "assault weapons" ban was just one of several controversial votes that led to the loss.
With Democrats in charge of the House, Senate and White House, the 103rd Congress tackled a long, progressive wish list. The White House pressured legislators to take on healthcare reform (unsuccessfully), pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and raise taxes through a deficit reduction act, which was fraught with political land mines for congressional Democrats. None of the policies helped earn legislators points back home among their more conservative constituents.
"The vote for gun control mattered, but the vote for the tax increase and healthcare were more important," says Gary Jacobson, who has done a statistical analysis of what votes affected the outcome of the 1994 election.
According to Jacobson's analysis, the 1994 election results were largely due to a political realignment, with voters no longer splitting their tickets and instead voting for Republican congressional challengers in districts in which President Clinton had lost in 1992. Jacobson concluded, "Republicans won the House in 1994 because an unusually large number of districts voted locally as they had been voting nationally."
Noir -- a weekly program aired by the National Rifle Association as part of its efforts to reach a younger audience -- has run two segments that fetishize an assault weapon as an attractive woman.
Over the past year the NRA has launched a number of initiatives to engage with women, minorities, and younger Americans. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by popular gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir, is packaged for a Millennial audience, although the show has been widely mocked by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging.
A segment during the June 15 edition of Noir opened with a black-and-white scene of a stylishly-dressed woman standing in an alley. Doing voice-over work, Noir appeared to describe the woman, ranging from her clothing ("Her Jimmy Choo's can't be comfortable, but you'd never know it"), to her intellect ("Chess, yeah it's a men's game, but when she plays, men pay"), to her actions ("Flirts more than you can handle too. She's the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink").
In the final shot, the woman is seen holding a Heckler & Koch MR556 assault weapon and Noir reveals he was talking about the firearm the whole time:
NOIR: Why is she alone on this dark street? On this cold night? You care, but she doesn't. Her Jimmy Choo's can't be comfortable, but you'd never know it. Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There's got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something. She's taller than you can handle. Flirts more than you can handle too. She's the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink. And Chess, yeah it's a men's game, but when she plays, men pay. Say you don't like her, until she looks your way. She's not easy and she's not flawless. But she's never wasted her time thinking about it. She is the HK MR556.
CNN is adopting flawed right-wing media logic that seeks to downplay the numbers of school shootings in the last 18 months.
Following an incident at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a 15-year-old student armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and a handgun killed a fellow student before taking his own life, gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety circulated a graphic that identified the locations of 74 school shootings since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
How Everytown reached the 74 school shooting figure is no mystery. On its website, the gun safety group clearly explains its methodology: "Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings."
The right-wing media has sought to debunk this statistic in order to downplay the prevalence of school shootings. Criticism of Everytown's graphic began on June 10 with a lengthy series of tweets from conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson that purported to debunk many of the 74 shootings as "fake shooting[s]."
Shootings that Johnson believed had been mischaracterized as school shootings included incidents where, in his own words, "A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally," "Honors student shoots self in front of class," and, "Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus":
Another fake shooting listed by everytown. A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally. http://t.co/Q5M4iS3hhF-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by everytown. Honors student shoots self in front of class. http://t.co/8BHLTASxyT-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by Everytown. Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus. http://t.co/RwwVbPmbL5-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
According to Johnson, "It's not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It's a shooting that happens to take place at school."
National Rifle Association board member John Cushman alleged that the number of shooting victims in New York City is up over the past month because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "wanted them up."
Cushman appeared on NRA News program Cam & Company on June 10 to discuss a recent New York Post article that reported the number of shooting victims in New York City is up 43 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Overall the Post reports that shootings are up in New York City 13 percent this year. A Reuters article further noted that in New York City, "the murder rate is on track to hit a 50-year low, a statistical paradox that experts said reflects quick medical response." While any increase in shootings is a serious issue that should be addressed, the uptick will not threaten New York City's status as "the safest big city in America." In 2013 PolitiFact found New York City to be the safest among the 25 most populous cities in the United States.
New York City has some of the most rigorous gun laws nationwide, which were championed by former mayor and prominent gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg and continue to receive support from de Blasio. In 2013 the number of shootings and gun homicides in New York City reached "historic lows."
During Cam & Company host Cam Edwards and John Cushman both blamed the increase in shootings on what Edwards termed "New York City's gun laws that make it prohibitive in a lot of cases, and outright impossible in some cases, for law abiding folks to own a firearm for self-defense." (Actually Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010 held law-abiding people have a right to keep a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.)
Cushman charged that the number of reported shooting victims went up because de Blasio "wanted them up." Referencing de Blasio and Bloomberg, he added, "They are all out for some reason to disarm everybody with this screwboy notion that if we take guns away from everybody, we will cut crime."
Following reports of an active shooter at a high school near Portland, Oregon, the hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered offered baseless predictions that mental health was to blame for the shooting, false characterizations of past school shootings, attacks on "anti-gun nuts," and calls for more guns in schools.
Many details about the shooting are still unknown or unconfirmed, although it has been confirmed that the incident has ended and the shooter and at least one victim are dead. Though Outnumbered co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle explained to viewers that the network was "awaiting breaking news details about the circumstances of exactly what happened," the lack of information didn't stop Guilfoyle and her co-hosts from speculating wildly.
Although no biographical details of the shooter were known at the time, Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow said on the June 10 edition of Outnumbered, "I predict again that we'll find that yet another person who used a gun was compromised by one or more psychological or psychiatric illnesses that could have been detected." Ablow also attacked "anti-gun nuts" who he said would blame the shooting on firearms.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is alleging that a shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada that left two police officers and another victim dead was "absolutely staged" by the federal government.
On June 8, a married couple identified in news reports as Jerad and Amanda Miller ambushed and killed two police officers at a restaurant and killed a third person before taking their own lives in a "suicide pact" at a nearby Walmart. Witnesses say they heard the shooters state "this is the start of a revolution," after the officers were shot. The slain officers were allegedly draped in Gadsden flags by the shooters, a symbol commonly associated with the Tea Party. Law enforcement officials believe the couple held extreme anti-government views and Jerad Miller reportedly claimed to have participated in the standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
On the June 9 edition of The Alex Jones Show, Jones claimed "the country is being purposefully imploded right now," before calling the shootings "absolutely staged." Jones continued stating, "There is so much proof of this being staged yesterday, when I first read about it, and this morning, that my mind exploded with hundreds of data points, and quite frankly it's conclusive." He then claimed that the shooting bore out some of the "hundreds of predictions" that he had made "since the Bundy ranch situation," including a scenario where a shooting is blamed on the Tea Party. Towards the end of the segment, Jones named Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and referenced actions by the Obama administration in purporting to identify the actual parties responsible for the Las Vegas police ambush. He concluded, "I kept telling, they're getting ready to false flag, and it happens right in Harry Reid's district, right in his state, right in his city, with his police department":
From the June 4 edition of MSNBC's The Reid Report:
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Eleven days after a 22-year-old California man killed six in a shooting and stabbing spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara, the National Rifle Association responded, placing "the blame" for the tragedy on gun safety efforts.
On May 23 Elliot Rodger, apparently motivated by hatred of women, went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California, stabbing three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. Several other people were injured by Rodger's car.
The NRA typically goes silent in the wake of mass shooting incidents, and the Isla Vista killings were no different. As The New York Times noted after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, "Over the years the N.R.A. has perfected its strategy for responding to mass shootings: Lie low at first, then slow-roll any legislative push for a response." (Slate's Dave Weigel has noted that when the NRA finally does weigh in, its response is nearly identical to past incidents.)
During a June 3 appearance on the NRA's radio program Cam & Company, NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox addressed the Isla Vista killings, stating, "The blame needs to be placed on the politicians in California who time and time again their answer to these issues are more and more gun control laws."
Cox also claimed that not enough attention had been paid by the media to the victims who were stabbed to death, adopting a similar argument used in a May 30 NRA commentary video that attacked media for using the word "shooting" when describing murders committed with guns.
From the June 3 edition of Cam & Company: