Rarely has the National Rifle Association's paranoia been more clearly on display than during yesterday's NRA News segment featuring Cato Institute fellow Daniel Mitchell. Mitchell was pretty straight forward: you need guns as a bulwark against the increasingly likely possibility of the world plunging into a "Mad Max dystopia."
Mitchell's recent Forbes article explaining his fears is surely destined for greatness on par with "Boston on Surviving Y2K," and his reportage appears so far to have been ignored by Alex Jones, so it's understandable why NRA News felt the need to amplify his message.
Mitchell's argument is largely based on talking to rich Europeans at a recent economic conference. The European elite, Mitchell reports, are gassing up their private jets in preparation to flee Europe in the event of societal collapse. Mitchell proposes people without the financial ability to leave Europe would be much better off in countries with high levels of gun ownership like Switzerland than they would in countries with more restrictive gun policies such as the United Kingdom. Mitchell on NRA News:
Based on my travels in Europe I started thinking, well, the Swiss are probably in good shape. I've been in lots of Swiss homes and people show me their guns, but if you're in the U.K. or a place like that where there's really no individual rights for firearms ownership.
I mean, imagine if society breaks down and the welfare state collapses into some sort of Mad Max dystopia, which we all hope of course never happens, but if it does where would I rather be Switzerland or England?
Examining Mitchell's core example of successful gun interventions you quickly see the hollow nature of his argument. Along with NRA News host Ginny Simone, Mitchell touts Korean shop owners defending their shops during the Los Angeles riots and contrasts that with shop owners during the London riots that were unarmed. Did more guns make the Los Angeles riots safer for citizens?
The numbers suggest the opposite. During the British riots 6 deaths were associated with civilian criminal activity. Of the two victims killed by gunfire one is believed to have been a looter himself. By contrast during the Los Angeles riots 53 people were killed, 35 by gunfire (10 of those by law enforcement or the National Guard).
Yet in the alternate reality presented by NRA News the Los Angeles riots are cited as a success story and the British riots as a travesty.
The plain subtext of Mitchell's argument is that economic collapse will be caused by politicians not following his preferred economic policies. Mitchell in Forbes:
If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.
So to review: invest in guns, cut social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
"Enforce the laws on the books already before passing more" is the plea of the National Rifle Association (NRA) when proposals are made to strengthen guns laws. In April NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "We support all kinds of behavioral requirements, restrictions ... there are dozens of laws on the books that we support. The problem is they're not being enforced."
So what happens when a state starts enforcing gun laws at gun shows? Long-winded jeremiads complaining of "entrapment" by the "anti-gun cabal." Maybe it's time to change the slogan to "enforce the laws on the books, but make sure it's not a law we don't like you jack-booted thugs."
On Wednesday New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the arrest of ten people for selling guns at a gun show without performing a background check on the buyers as is required by state law. Mirroring previous undercover gun show investigations, Schneiderman reports that the sales happened even after indications were made that the buyer couldn't pass a background check, saying at a press conference: "I'm very sorry to report that every gun show they visited, undercover investigators who explicitly stated that they could not pass background checks were able to obtain firearms."
Only hours after the announcement NRA News was hosting a gripe session with Tom King of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association in a segment they titled "Bloomberg's Bogus Gun Show Sting". King told NRA Radio host Ginny Simone that the sting was "entrapment," it's purpose to "foster a political agenda" by a "anti-gun cabal." King's depiction of "entrapment" included such tricky methods as asking if the guns were for sale and saying they were looking to buy those types of guns.
King also told Gannett Pressconnects, "I guarantee you there's not a gun owner in New York state who was aware of that law before today." Contradicting King's depiction of the law was Budd Schroeder of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, who told a reporter for The Buffalo News that he's seen security guards at every gun show he'd attended check to see if gun buyers had proof that they'd undergone a background check. Hopefully moving forward the New York gun lobby will get it together and decide if the law is highly obscure or rigorously enforced.
Additionally transcripts of the purchases showed the seller suggested an illegal straw purchase saying, "I can sell it to you, and you can give it to him" after being informed that one of the undercover investigators couldn't pass a background check because of a domestic abuse incident.
Failing to perform a background check at a gun show is currently a misdemeanor offense in New York state.
The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Apparently there are those who find National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's exhortation that there is a "massive Obama conspiracy" in which President Obama is planning to follow up his re-election by somehow eliminating the Second Amendment just a touch too subtle.
In an ad emailed out to the list of WorldNetDaily this afternoon, the good people at USAAmmo explain that President Obama is "secretly conspiring to strip American Citizens of the right to bear arms"... just like Hitler. The sane response to this dastardly conspiracy is, of course, to stock up on military-grade assault weapons and ammunition, which the patriots at USAAmmo have helpful put on sale, presumably in honor of Cyber Monday or the impending dictatorship.
While warning that gun control is "One Election Away!" USAAmmo manages to compare Obama to any number of dictators (see update):
Clicking on the ad redirects readers to a web video posted by the company. The first half features haunting music and images of the various dictators who allegedly "established gun control" and the victims who, "unable to defend themselves, were imprisoned, enslaved, and annihilated." In case, you missed the point, the music swiftly shifts to heavy metal as on-screen text warns viewers that "Governments render their citizens defenseless with GUN CONTROL!" because "The defensless [sic] are subject to enslavement, imprisonment and annihilation."
Declaring that "An unarmed American is a subject... an armed American is a citizen," the website urges viewers to "Get armed at USAAmmo.com," then shows images of the AR- and AK- variants and ammo on sale at the website. The video closes with the cheery/chilling statement, "Get them something they'll love! BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!"
It's not unusual for gun manufacturers, sellers, or advocates to promote firearms sales by fearmongering about impending gun control measures. But this is a little blunt even for them.
Sorry Fox and Friends, in the race to gin up political controversy following the arrest of suspected White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Cam and Country was the clear winner. Maybe it's time to send a Fox News talent scout to check out their operation.
Wednesday evening, hours before Fox and Friends attempted to smear the Occupy movement by referring to Ortega-Hernandez as the "Occupy shooter," NRA radio host Cam Edwards was using the White House shooting to attack gun control groups. Not surprisingly neither Fox and Friends or Cam and Company had their facts straight.
Edwards spent the beginning of yesterday's show interviewing PJ Media contributor Bob Owens and asked him about a recent blog post in which Owens reported that Ortega-Hernandez "was suspected of being at Occupy DC."
After complaining about press coverage of an anti-Obama protester that showed up to an August 2009 Obama rally with an AR-15 rifle, Cam suggested that Ortega-Hernandez shows gun control groups are ignoring "left-wing insurrectionists".
EDWARDS: I noticed that even the gun control groups like Violence Policy [Center] and others, they love to talk about the right-wing insurrectionists, but when a guy who has been hanging out at Occupy DC is now accused of taking a shot at the White House, I don't see anything in their timeline about those crazy left-wing insurrectionists.
OWENS: Well, of course not. And being one of the crazy right wing insurrectionists that Media Matters has cited on more than one occasion, I'm not surprised at all. They have a message and a narrative that they have been working on for years and years and they aren't going to let a little thing like a fact get in the way of that narrative.
But there's simply no evidence linking Ortega-Hernandez to Occupy DC. While there were reports that the Secret Service searched the Occupy tents on Monday, the Washington Post reported Wednesday afternoon that investigators "have found no connection between him [Ortega-Hernandez] and the Occupy protesters." Speaking on Fox and Friends, Michelle Malkin offered her thoughts on Ortega-Hernandez saying, "the guy was just completely off his rocker and had nothing to do with any coherent sense of political ideology."
Edwards references the Insurrectionism Timeline that is maintained by the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence, not the Violence Policy Center. It's ridiculous to ask them to add Ortega-Hernandez based on Edwards own imagined connection between Ortega-Hernandez and left-wing politics.
As for Owens' inclusion in Media Matters research on violent and insurrectionist rhetoric, we'll let Owens words speak for themselves:
Yesterday long discredited gun researcher John Lott took to FoxNews.com to push the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act, which the House of Representatives is voting on this afternoon. The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act would force states that issue residents permits to carry concealed guns to accept permits from any other state regardless of how weak the standards used by that state.
Lott's main argument was the idea that forcing states to recognize permits to carry concealed guns from other states was just like states recognizing out of state driver licenses. Generally the idea that permits to carry concealed guns are like driver licenses is absurd. Licensing, insurance, training, enforcement and registration requirements are vastly different for driver licenses and permits to carry concealed guns.
Beyond that broader concern, issues with Lott's comparison include the fact that his description of Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey's recent congressional testimony completely misrepresents the facts behind Ramsey's objections to the National Right-Carry Reciprocity Act.
In testimony before the House in September, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey raised two concerns.
First, he gave an example where a Pennsylvania resident with a misdemeanor conviction had been obtained a concealed handgun permit in Florida. However, his example overlooks that because the conviction was quite old, the person could have obtained a Pennsylvania license if he had so chosen.
Commissioner Ramsey also raised a hypothetical case: "How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date?" The answer is: the same way as for a driver's license -- via computer.
This is an amazingly inaccurate description of the case Ramsey cited. Ramsey cited the case of Marqus Hill, who is currently under indictment for murder after shooting a car burglar 13 times. Lott's assertion that Hill could have gotten a Pennsylvania permit is expressly contradicted by the facts. As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer Hill lost his Pennsylvania permit and an appeal to have his permit restored:
When police stripped Marqus Hill of his permit to carry a gun in Philadelphia after a 2005 confrontation with officers, Hill didn't let that stop him: He just applied for a firearms license from Florida.
Though police said Hill had lost a 2008 appeal to win back his Philadelphia permit and reacted by assaulting a police officer in court, Florida mailed him a gun license last year.
Also Hill pled guilty to disorderly conduct related to his outburst at the hearing in 2008, whereas Lott suggests his only conviction was "quite old."
In the fourth and final part of our series on the surge of right-wing extremist activity in the Flathead Valley region of Montana we look into the recent arrival of anti-government Patriot movement adherents, most notably Chuck Baldwin, a fundamentalist Baptist preacher identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the most important figures in that growing movement.
God told Chuck Baldwin to move to Montana. Specifically, to Kalispell. God did this, according to Baldwin, sometime in the summer of 2010.
For 35 years Baldwin, a fundamentalist Christian, had lived and preached in Pensacola, Florida, railing in a syndicated column in recent years about U.N. gun control conspiracy theories, tyranny-minded globalists and FEMA internment camps.
Chuck Baldwin, a leader of the right-wing extremist
Baldwin is now one of the leading figures in the Patriot movement, which has grown explosively since the U.S. economic meltdown and election of President Obama in 2008. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, the number of Patriot groups in the country skyrocketed from 149 in 2008 to 824 in 2010. The SPLC describes such groups as comprised of "people who generally believe that the federal government is an evil entity that is engaged in a secret conspiracy to impose martial law, herd those who resist into concentration camps, and force the United States into a socialistic 'New World Order.'"
Baldwin first aligned himself formally with the Patriot movement when he ran for Vice President on the far-right, anti-government Constitution Party ticket. After that his rhetoric, both from behind the pulpit and in his prolific writings, became increasingly militant and more concerned with gun rights and battling with globalists than with gay rights and the Rapture, previously his favorite topics.
Then in September 2010, Baldwin abruptly announced that he was pulling up stakes and moving to Kalispell along with his grown children and their spouses and homeschooled offspring.
At the time Baldwin and his brood of 17 resettled, unprecedented numbers of white supremacists were migrating to the region to support the Pioneer Little Europe movement, which seeks to establish a whites only homeland in northwest Montana. Baldwin's dire warnings of a looming epic battle between Patriots and "Big-Government globalists" in the U.S. mirrors in key ways longstanding white supremacist predictions of a war against ZOG, or Zionist Occupation Government.
"We believe America is headed for an almost certain cataclysm," Baldwin wrote in a September 2010 column titled, "Why We Are Moving to Montana."
This cataclysm, Baldwin wrote, "...will almost certainly include a fight between Big-Government globalists and freedom-loving, independent-minded patriots. I would even argue that this fight has already started. And as this battle escalates (and it will most assuredly escalate), only those states that are willing to stand and fight for their independence and freedom will survive--at least in a state of freedom. And we believe that God has already put the love of liberty deep into the hearts of the people of the Mountain States; and we further believe that God is already calling (and will continue to call) many other freedom lovers to those states. One thing is for sure: we know He called us!"
The third part of our series on the Pioneer Little Europe movement details a series of recent threats made by longtime neo-Nazi organizer Karl Gharst. This section also provides background information on Gharst and other key PLE activists and reports on the Montana Creators, a PLE-allied branch of the neo-Nazi Creativity Movement whose members have repeatedly been spotted in recent months at gun shows near Kalispell, buying firearms while dressed in clothing displaying their group's neo-Nazi insignia.
Neo-Nazi Karl Gharst has declared Media Matters a
Media Matters for America is under indictment for treason to the white race. So is the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Council of La Raza, the Anti-Defamation League and the Montana Human Rights Network.
This news arrived in a series of bizarre emails sent earlier this year over a six-week period by Karl Gharst, a neo-Nazi organizer who moved to Kalispell, MT as one of the of the most notorious members of the Pioneer Little Europe movement, which encourages white supremacists to form a community in the area. Gharst has a long history of making violent threats.
"I will see justice come to those who lay traps, slander and otherwise persecute good white people for exercising their God given rights," Gharst wrote in his email to Media Matters. "I promise!" Media Matters had previously contacted Gharst for comment on this series.
In the so-called grand jury ruling he emailed to Media Matters in late October, Gharst used arcane language typical of adherents to sovereign citizen ideology, a pseudo-legal system of beliefs, founded upon elaborate conspiracy theories, that is widely popular with members of the antigovernment Patriot movement as well as neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Sovereign citizens hold themselves above laws; typically the only legal authority they recognize is their own (illegitimate) common law jury system.
The Gharst email declared Media Matters and the other groups "Jewish criminal organizations" and "illegal operations of whom their intent and demonstrated actions are constitutional violations also violating the sovereignty of Montana by working against and contrary to the lawful and rightful citizens of the SState [sic] of Montana."
Gharst singled out by name and threatened several "agents" of Media Matters, the ACLU and an Alabama-based immigration rights organization, citing their "treason to the white race." "I and my appointed/sworn representatives will do all in my/our power...to ensure that [employees of Media Matters, ACLU and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama] are brought to justice at a time and place of our choosing."
At Mother Jones, iWatchNews reporter Rick Schmitt details the chilling tale of a journalist who got on the wrong side of Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio gun rights group closely tied to the National Rifle Association.
Matt Westerhold is the managing editor of the small Ohio daily the Sandusky Register. Westerhold tells Schmitt that after Ohio passed a bill legalizing the concealed carry of firearms, he received numerous requests from readers who wanted to know if their neighbors had applied for carry permits. After three years of such requests, Westerhold began publishing the names and birth dates of permit holders on the paper's website (permit holder data was publicly available at the time).
Gun rights activists were not pleased. Westerhold says that he received numerous death threats, and that Buckeye Firearms responded by publishing a wide variety of personal information about Westerhold, as well as "information on how one might find out which public school Westerhold's 12-year-old daughter attended, which bus she took there, and how a photo of the girl from her school yearbook could probably be found in the local library":
The reaction was fast and furious. "I was getting phone calls from all over the country, hundreds of phone calls," Westerhold says. "There were so many nut jobs. There were so many threats: 'I am going to kill you' and 'You should die slowly'."
Then the Buckeye Firearms Association got involved, Westerhold says, "in a very pro-active way." Using public records, the group posted on its website Westerhold's auto records, a traffic citation, a partial Social Security number, an address for property he owned, and details about his divorce and ex-wife. It also included information on how one might find out which public school Westerhold's 12-year-old daughter attended, which bus she took there, and how a photo of the girl from her school yearbook could probably be found in the local library.
"I never experienced anything like that in my life," Westerhold says. He says he consulted an attorney and took the information to a local prosecutor, who found no grounds to take action.
Buckeye Firearms chairman James Irvine told Schmitt that he "did not publish the information about Westerhold to be vindictive, but rather to show the editor how easily a 'bad guy' might get information on any one of the people on the list that the Sandusky Register had published." That seems like the sort of message that could have been conveyed privately instead.
If Buckeye Firearms' goal was to intimidate a reporter, it worked. Westerhold says he has "never sought to follow up or do anything with the list."
To hear the spokesmen of the National Rifle Association tell it, American gun owners [[rights]] are constantly under siege. In their world, even President Obama's lack of action on gun violence prevention measures indicates that he's on the verge of destroying the Second Amendment. The United Nations is waiting right behind him with plots for gun confiscation. And of course, "jack-booted thugs" are everywhere.
In a lengthy report, the Center for Public Integrity details how gun activists across the country are using similar tactics, creating a cult of victimhood:
Borrowing organizing and advocacy techniques from the civil rights movement, these activists are casting gun owners as victims, denied the right to defend themselves and their families against violence, even as the parameters of that right under the Second Amendment remain far from clear under current Supreme Court precedents.
CPI explains that gun groups have used these talking points to conduct a nationwide campaign to expand access to concealed carry permits:
In just the past three years, 22 states have weakened or eliminated laws regulating the possession of concealed weapons, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a public-interest law firm in San Francisco that supports more restrictive gun laws.
These measures are easing testing and eligibility requirements for obtaining a permit, opening up new public and private places where people can have concealed weapons, and giving new legal clout to those who use guns to defend themselves.
Many states now give concealed carry permit holders the right to have their guns in parked cars at work -- and some have extended the right to parents picking up their children in school zones. Landlords are being told they can no longer refuse to lease property to someone who owns guns.
The liberalization of concealed carry laws in the states is also helping drive legislation on Capitol Hill for a federal concealed carry law that would require states to recognize each other's permits. The measure, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, is slated for a House vote as early as today.
In this second installment of our four-part series on the Pioneer Little Europe movement, which seeks to create a homeland for white supremacists in northwest Montana, we gauge the numbers of the PLE movement and examine its origins, strategies, and goals, which include promoting Holocaust denial.
Last month Media Matters e-mailed April Gaede, the spokeswoman for the Pioneer Little Europe movement, to ask whether she considered PLE a racist endeavor.
April Gaede, seen here during a 2005 interview with ABC, is urging
"Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white," she replied. "If a group of Jews wanted to move to an area that had a high concentration of Jews already, would that make them Jewish supremacists? If Blacks choose to associate and work with other Blacks to form a 'black racial community,' is that racist? Apparently only White people cannot work for the advancement of their race, while groups like La Raza are accepted as 'cultural groups.' What if the 14 words said 'We must secure the existence of our race and a future for Native American children ' instead of 'We must secure the existence of our race and a future for White children?' Would human rights activists call that racist?"
The "14 words" is a popular white nationalist slogan coined by David Lane, a member of the 1980s right-wing domestic terrorist group The Order. The group committed armed robberies, including a $3.6 million armored car heist, in part to fund the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, whose founder, Richard Butler, called for the mass migration of white supremacists to the northwestern United States after headquartering Aryan Nations in a northern Idaho compound in the 1970s. He branded the concept the Northwest Territorial Imperative. (Aryan Nations was crippled by a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit in 2000; it has all but disintegrated since Butler's death in 2004.)
The current Flathead Valley-based PLE movement is the latest manifestation of the longstanding dream of white supremacists to carve out their very own piece of America. Gaede and other PLE activists targeted the Flathead Valley for some of the same demographic reasons Butler picked northern Idaho: historically its population is more than 95 percent white and politically conservative with a strong libertarian streak.
"Around here we have a live and let live mentality," says Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher. "That leads to some individuals with fringe beliefs finding refuge in the Flathead Valley."
In a four-part series released over the next two days, Media Matters will report on the recent influx of white supremacists and Patriot group members to the town of Kalispell, Montana, which has made the region the hottest flash point of right-wing extremism in the country.
At first glance the Pioneer Little Europe website seems like it could be the work of the Montana Office of Tourism. Photographs depict the rugged beauty of the Flathead Valley region near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.
One image shows a young blond-haired girl playing in a meadow overlooking Kalispell, the largest town in the area, with a population around 20,000.
The site also features short news items about the Northwest Montana State Fair and a wildflower beautification program along with Kalispell job postings.
But then there's this: A scan of a full-page advertisement in a recent edition of the Flathead Beacon, the local paper, with photographs of 47 babies newly delivered in the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. All but one are fair-skinned with light-colored hair. "Wonderful white babies being born in Kalispell," the website reads. "What do the babies look like being born in your town?"
Pioneer Little Europe spokeswoman April Gaede's website asks,
Another item on the Pioneer Little Europe site depicts white families relaxing on the shore of a lake. A caption reads,"This is how white our beaches are, and I'm not talking about sand."
And that little girl in the meadow? Her name is Dresden Hale. That's Dresden for the German city firebombed by the Allied forces in World War II, and Hale for the 1990s leader of the neo-Nazi group World Church of the Creator, Matt Hale, who's doing 40 years in prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
Dresden Hale is the youngest daughter of Kalispell resident and neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, the public face of the Pioneer Little Europe (PLE) movement. Launched in 2008, PLE invites "racially conscious" white Americans to relocate to the Flathead Valley to help create a heavily-armed Aryan homeland.
(Gaede's other two daughters, Lynx and Lamb, are identical twins who gained widespread media attention by performing neo-Nazi folk ballads as the musical act Prussian Blue. They have since renounced white supremacism.)
The PLE movement has brought dozens of white supremacists to the Flathead Valley. They are increasingly making their presence known by staging public events, openly recruiting and distributing racist literature, stocking up on firearms at area gun shows while dressed in neo-Nazi clothing, working for local anti-gun control and anti-abortion campaigns (according to Gaede), and issuing violent threats to perceived enemies, including Media Matters, which is now under "indictment" for treason to the white race.
The growing numbers of PLE white supremacists in the Flathead Valley parallels a recent influx to the area of ultra right-wing "Patriot" movement leaders and their followers. Their combined forces are rapidly transforming the region into the hottest flash point of right-wing extremism in the country.
In the latest example of their conspiratorial and irresponsible coverage of the topic, this morning Fox News asked whether the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Fast and Furious operation was "an act of treason." Fox offered no evaluation of their immensely serious and factually unsupported suggestion that American law enforcement officials were possibly guilty of conspiring against the country.
On America's Newsroom, Fox "straight news" anchor Bill Hemmer read a viewer's question about whether Fast and Furious "constitute[s] a treasonous act." He then asked Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), "is this treason, what's the definition?" Gosar declined to define or make any assessment on the matter, saying only "we're trying to get all the facts on this" before explaining the actions Congress can take to remove government officials. Hemmer then moved on to Gosar's efforts to get Attorney General Eric Holder to resign.
During the segment, Fox aired a caption which asked, "Is Fast And Furious An Act Of Treason?"
Merriam-Webster defines treason as follows:
The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family.
There is simply nothing that suggests that the mistakes in Fast and Furious were part of any effort to overthrow the government or do anything similar. Any suggestion otherwise is grossly irresponsible.
On October 4 it was revealed that during the Bush Administration an ATF operation named Wide Receiver included the controversial "gun walking" tactic that was used during the more recent Fast and Furious investigation. The failed Fast and Furious operation resulted in many guns falling into the hands of Mexican cartels and has been at the heart of the National Rifle Association's ongoing calls for Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation as well as a chorus of conspiratorial accusations against the Obama administration.
Right-wing bloggers responded to the news that something similar might have happened during the Bush years with an immediate and sustained scramble to deny that Wide Receiver was anything like Fast and Furious. Using a more creative dodge Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse dealt with the possible embarrassment of Bush-era gun walking by just suggesting operation Wide Receiver happened at "about the same time" as Fast and Furious in Fox News segment last week.
Today La Jeunesse continued the knee-jerk defense of Wide Receiver by omitting key facts about the case in a segment that aired on Happening Now.
Discussing today's Senate Judiciary hearing where Holder testified about gunwalking allegations and other issues, La Jeunesse pushed defensive talking points about Wide Receiver:
LA JEUNESSE: Democrats went back to 2007 to blame gun walking on President Bush first and they failed to say however that Operation Wide Receiver was similar but different then Fast and Furious in that we told Mexico it was happening and agents tried but often failed to surveil the weapons and then they stopped the operation. John as know in Fast and Furious there was no attempt to stop it. Only with the death of Brian Terry did they and we did not tell Mexico.
The defense of Wide Receiver comes even though internal Department of Justice e-mails confirmed Wide Receiver involved the controversial tactic of letting guns "walk."
La Jeunesse is simply wrong that "there was no attempt to stop" Fast and Furious. In January indictments were issued for 20 Fast and Furious suspects. La Jeunesse suggests this just this was only in reaction to the murder of border agent Brian Terry, which were brought considerable attention to Fast and Furious after it was revealed that 2 guns associated with the operation where found at the murder scene. But recently disclosed e-mails show that before Terry was murdered, prosecutors had already planned to issue indictments within weeks.
In the e-mail written on December 14, 2010 at 1:21 p.m., Patrick Cunningham, chief of the criminal division for the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office, asks if the indictments of Fast and Furious suspects were still planned for January 6 and 7, indicating previous plans to make arrests in the case. Terry was murdered that evening.
ATF whistleblowers involved with Fast and Furious have suggested that similar indictments could have been issued much earlier, but that doesn't mean there was no never any intention to indict the suspects in Fast and Furious.
Last year, the National Rifle Association identified what was to them a crisis: "certain military base commanders, exercising arbitrary authority given them under military law and regulations, have issued orders violating military personnel's Second Amendment rights." NRA was particularly worried about restrictions on privately-owned firearms that soldiers kept off-base.
In response, NRA pushed a law which top military commanders fear puts U.S. troops in greater danger of suicide. Under the law, adopted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, the Defense Department may not "prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm" by a member of the Armed Forces.
According to the Army's second-highest-ranking officer, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, this prevents commanders from engaging in important discussions with soldier about weapons safety, which may put them at higher risk of suicide:
"I am not allowed to ask a soldier who lives off post whether that soldier has a privately owned weapon," [Chirarelli] says.
While commanders are permitted to ask troops who appear to be a danger to themselves or others about private firearms - or to suggest perhaps locking them temporarily in a base depot - if the soldier denies that he or she is thinking about harming anyone, then the commander cannot pursue the discussion further.
Nearly half of all soldiers who commit suicide use a firearm, General Chiarelli points out. He added that "suicide in most cases is a spontaneous event" that is often fueled by drugs and alcohol. But "if you can separate the individual from the weapon," he added, "you can lower the incidences of suicide."
The problem, Chiarelli said, is that "we have issues in even being able to do that."
Active duty Army suicide rates have more than doubled since 2004. According to a new report from the Center for a New American Security, "[f]rom 2005 to 2010, service members took their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours."
Chiarelli's analysis is backed by public health experts who say that some suicides are preventable. According to Harvard School of Public Health professor David Hemenway, "Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide."