A recent opinion piece appearing in the Daily Caller which suggests that the federal government is purchasing large amounts of ammunition with the purpose of killing American citizens is so deranged that even the conspiracy-peddling National Rifle Association has debunked the claim.
In the piece, which appears in Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section, retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry wrote that "[p]otentially each hollow nose bullet" purchased by the Social Security Administration for its law enforcement arm "represents a dead American."
He then asked, "If so, why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest? Or is the purpose to kill 174,000 of the nation's military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special security forces, forces loyal to the [Obama] Administration, not to the Constitution?"
Turning to other ammunition purchases by the federal government, Curry wrote (with emphasis added):
In March DHS ordered 750 million rounds of hollow point ammunition. It then turned around and ordered an additional 750 million rounds of miscellaneous bullets including some that are capable of penetrating walls. This is enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen. Is this something we and the Congress should be concerned about? What's the plan that requires so many dead Americans, even during times of civil unrest? Has Congress and the Administration vetted the plan in public.
Obama is a deadly serious, persistent man. Once he focuses on an object, he pursues it to the end. What is his focus here? All of these rounds of ammunition can only be used to kill American citizens, though there is enough ammunition being ordered to kill, in addition to every American citizen, also every Iranian, Syrian or Mexican. There is simply too much of it. And this much ammunition can't be just for training, there aren't that many weapons and "shooters" in the U.S. to fire it. Perhaps it is to be used to arm illegal immigrants?
According to the NRA, which recently responded to Internet rumors about the intended purpose of the ammunition purchases, there is nothing unusual about the amount or type of ammunition being procured by the federal government.
In an August 24 press release, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) compared the decision by the University of Colorado to house students who wish to carry guns on campus in separate dormitories than non-gun-carrying students to the infamous 1896 Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, which announced the racist "separate but equal" doctrine.
The University of Colorado may want to check with its law professors on this one. The university system is releasing new Plessy v. Ferguson-like rules that would segregate its gun-owning students from the rest of their peers.
In doing so, the NRA-ILA drew a false equivalence between one of the most widely panned Supreme Court decisions and a school policy designed to prohibit access to firearms for students under the age of 21. While carrying a gun is a decision made by an individual, the law at issue in Plessy discriminated on the basis of the immutable characteristic of race.
Such a comparison by the gun organization minimizes the horror of segregation in America.
In Plessy, the Supreme Court voted 7 to 1 to uphold a Louisiana state law that required African Americans and Caucasians to sit in separate railroad cars while traveling by train. "Separate but equal" would stand for more than fifty years until it was struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.
The rationale behind the decision in Plessy was unabashedly racist; writing for the majority Justice Henry Brown stated that an African American person "is not lawfully entitled to the reputation of being a white man." The court concluded:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition.
The comparison made by the NRA-ILA recalls a tactic by far-right figures to compare Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision that held African Americans were not citizens of the United States and were thus unprotected by the U.S. Constitution.
During an appearance on the August 22 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, guest Anthony Gregory, a research fellow for the Independent Institute, said he finds "it troubling that right after" mass shootings, people would want "an explanation as to why it happened, or how it could be stopped." According to Gregory, mass shootings only constitute only an "occasional tragedy" that cannot be prevented in "an open society."
CAMERON GRAY: You wrote an article in the Washington Times, "Gun control and the security illusion: Laws don't prevent crimes." Of course NRA News we talk about this subject, you know, on a nightly basis. You made points about the Sikh temple shooting, the Aurora, Colorado shooting, and of course every time mass shootings like that come up there is the gun control policy debate that rises up in this country. Tell us about the thesis of your article first of all. And tell us about, you know, what you say to people every time this national debate comes up, whether we need to be banning guns after a mass shooting like this.
ANTHONY GREGORY: Well first of all I tend to find it troubling that right after a massacre like this everyone wants to have an explanation as to why it happened, or how it could be stopped. There is always this big public policy discussion that begins right away. It's not even a few days that people wait before they delve into this.And of course guns are a target in this discussion. Although I was careful in my article to point out that even many pro-gun people can sometimes overstate the case and overstate how much of a panacea ownership might be to prevent these massacres. Because, unfortunately, in an open society you're going to have an occasional tragedy like this, and I don't think there is any way to eliminate them 100 percent. But surely gun control doesn't stop them either. And there are many other problems with gun control. I think gun control exacerbates these types of tragedies. But they have all these other costs to society that I think are very horrible. The biggest one of course being the cost to individual liberty.
After arguing that mass shootings are a necessary cost of liberty, Gregory suggested that gun violence prevention, which he claimed involves "jailing people for owning guns, putting them in prison [and] prosecuting them," is "itself a form of gun violence."
During the August 17 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards teased a segment about a new University of Colorado policy to place students who wish to possess guns on campus in separate housing from other students by stating, "Segregated dorms. Yes. How progressive. We are back to segregation now."
After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the University of Colorado could not prohibit students from possessing firearms on campus, the university announced on Friday that gun-carrying students who wished to use on-campus housing must live in a designated dorm located at a secondary campus in downtown Boulder.
That night Edwards, and guest James Manley -- an attorney who helped overturn the campus gun ban -- were quick to draw a false equivalence between the university policy and racial segregation during the 20th century in America.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: The ban was struck down and today the University of Colorado announced what they are going to do with concealed carry holders who want to live on campus. Basically they are not going to be able to live in the regular dorms; instead the campus is going to push them off to a number of family housing units. Right?
JIM MANLEY, MOUNTAIN STATES LEGAL FOUNDATION: Right. It's sort of a policy of "separate but equal." If you want to exercise your Second Amendment rights you have to live in a segregated dorm essentially.
Far from the sinister motivation behind "separate but equal," the rationale cited by CU for its new policy is the avoidance of "potentially dangerous living situations."
School officials believe this new policy will prevent potentially dangerous living situations on-campus because many students who live in the dorms are under the age of 21 and can't legally carry a gun.
"With the potential of having a roommate that may appropriately have a concealed carry permit and then the gun being mishandled by another student or friend or something like that," said [Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Deb] Coffin.
As the university has noted, the vast majority of students who live in the dorms are under the age of 21, and thus ineligible to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
National Rifle Association board member Grover Norquist undermined the NRA's conspiracy theory that President Obama would use his second term to destroy the Second Amendment during a radio appearance on Monday. The NRA has used that claim as the centerpiece of their election efforts.
Citing the ability of Congress and the Supreme Court to check the power of the Executive Branch, Norquist stated, "So if Obama was king would he go after your guns? Probably. He ain't king." Norquist's comments came during the inaugural edition of Media Matters' new radio program, The Agenda:
ARI RABIN-HAVT, HOST: Now according to the [NRA's] CEO Wayne LaPierre, this is has all been part of -- and this is a quote -- "a massive Obama conspiracy" to quote "lull gun owners to sleep" so he can eliminate the Second Amendment in his second term. You know, you're a very reasonable guy. Frankly that statement seems unreasonable, that it's all part of a secret plot. Do you agree with Wayne LaPierre on that? That Barack Obama is trying to lull America to sleep so he can ban guns in his second term? Something I don't think is even legislatively possible at this point?
GROVER NORQUIST: I think in his heart of hearts Obama is not a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and would limit gun rights to the extent that he can. Now the good news for people who care about the Second Amendment is that the House and the Senate have strong support for the Second Amendment. So one of the reasons Obama has been reasonable is that he doesn't have the votes to do something other than be reasonable. And the Supreme Court has also come down on the side of an individual right to be armed. So if Obama was king would he go after your guns? Probably. He ain't king.
Norquist's statement that Obama "ain't king" stands in sharp contrast to the musings of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who has been warning NRA adherents about an Obama plot to end private gun ownership. The theory was first aired out at a political rally in September 2011, when LaPierre suggested that the president's inaction on the gun issue evidenced a "massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country." He went on to claim:
We see the president's strategy crystal clear: get re-elected, and with no other re-elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom. Erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and exorcise it from the U.S. Constitution. That's their agenda.
The theory has been widely ridiculed since its conception. Jon Stewart characterized it as "so crazy, it's f--king crazy." MSNBC host Rachel Maddow summed up the outlandish nature of the theory nicely in October 2011, stating, "The NRA says the way you can tell Obama is coming for your guns, is that he's not coming for you guns. It's genius! That is the insane paranoid message from the NRA this year." Hardball's Chris Matthews reacted to LaPierre's speech by calling him "another strain of the crazy far right."
On Sunday, a white supremacist opened fire on worshipers at a Wisconsin Sikh temple with a Springfield 9mm semiautomatic handgun, killing six . Following the shooting, which the government is investigating as an act of domestic terrorism, ATF Special Agent Bernard Zapor appeared on CNN. During a discussion about gun control, Zapor pointed out, "This is a major social issue for this country."
It's impossible to argue with Zapor's conclusion, considering the Sikh temple rampage came just two weeks after a gunman armed himself with a Smith & Wesson M&P15 and shot 70 moviegoers in Aurora, CO. Gun saturation and gun violence is unquestionably a major social issue for this country.
So why isn't it covered that way by the news media?
It's true that the terror unleashed at the Wisconsin temple generated, momentarily at least, big headlines. The shooting was covered as a crime issue though, not a larger social one. And yes, several news outlets did good work detailing the disturbing, hardcore neo-Nazi world the shooter came from, as well as his proud association with white supremacist groups.
But what's been lacking is the broader context regarding the connectivity surrounding the rampages and how these are not actually "random" events. These are events that happen with stunning regularity in America, and they're events that are fueled by an abundance of firearms. Indeed, the fact that these two recent massacres unfolded so close to each other isn't even unusual; a similarly deadly shooting tandem occurred ten months ago:
One week after the Aurora massacre, I noted that the larger context about gun violence in America had been missing from the deluge or news coverage. It's a pattern that has persisted for years, as the country has absorbed one gun massacre after another.
Unfortunately, with the temple shooting, the same media deficiencies have applied. For instance, the telling statistics regarding the massive toll gun violence takes in America each year (30,000 killed; 70,000 wounded) were once again virtually absent from the news coverage. So was the discussion of gun control. (Though there were some welcomes exceptions.)
In addition, the press has done a poor job focusing on the political ramifications of this rampage. And specifically, how the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 had issued a report warning about the exact type of lone wolf, right-wing hate attack that unfolded last week in Wisconsin. The report at the time was widely condemned by Republican politicians as well as the pro-gun, far-right media, to the point where DHS director Janet Napolitano withdrew the findings.
A New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday provides new evidence of the logical flaw in the media's claim that the American public opposes new gun violence prevention measures. The media distorts polling data to suggest that there is no support for new laws in the wake of mass shootings, ignoring widespread support for specific commonsense new rules.
In the wake of the Aurora mass shooting, we documented that the media repeatedly cited Gallup polling that shows a minority calling for "laws covering the sales of firearms" to be made "more strict" as evidence of public opposition to new gun laws. As we noted at the time, a wealth of other polls show strong majorities in favor of a variety of specific new gun laws, including assault weapons bans, requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, and gun registration.
Today's survey asked both the general question of whether voters in the swing states of Colorado, Wisconsin, and Virginia want gun laws to be more strict, less strict, or kept the same; AND the specific question of whether those voters support a ban on high-capacity magazines, which have been used in several recent mass shootings.
The results show that while Americans may not support stricter gun laws in theory, they do support them in practice, with significantly higher percentages of respondents supporting an actual stricter gun law (the hi-cap magazine ban) than supporting "more strict" laws in general:
Graphic by Drew Gardner.
In an opinion piece in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, discredited gun "researcher" John Lott cited dubious survey research to make the claim that members of law enforcement generally believe that "too often the laws disarm law-abiding citizens, not criminals, and thus make it easier for criminals to commit crime." In fact, academic research indicates broad support for some gun violence prevention measures within the law enforcement community.
Lott's goal was to admonish New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made waves last week when he suggested that police officers "go on strike" until legislative bodies agreed to address gun violence. But Lott's reliance on surveys with extremely suspect methodology makes it difficult to take his critique seriously.
Lott first cites a 2010 survey of 20,000 police chiefs and sheriffs conducted by the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP). The number of officers that actually responded is unknown because NACOP did not release any methodology other than to say that the survey was conducted by mail. According to Lott:
Seventy-seven percent believed that concealed-handgun permits issued in one state should be honored by other states "in the way that drivers' licenses are recognized through the country" -- and that making citizens' permits portable would "facilitate the violent crime-fighting potential of the professional law enforcement community."
The fact that the survey would use such a leading question was probably of little concern to Lott, who has faced convincing allegations that he fabricated data in his own research. That the survey was released with insufficient information to describe its methodology means that it cannot convincingly be said to prove anything.
Lott also never mentioned that during the 1990s NACOP was a public opponent of the Brady Bill; legislation that required individuals purchasing a firearm from a gun dealer to undergo a background check. NACOP used the same mail survey methodology seen in its 2010 survey to claim that law enforcement officers largely opposed the Brady Bill. In a 1991 CNN special, pollster Robert Miller, who had examined NACOP's methods, stated, "The results would not be considered accurate by any scholarly or recognized body that evaluates polls." [CNN, 11/6/91, via Nexis]
For years a mutually advantageous relationship has existed between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and firearm manufacturers. The gun industry donates huge chunks of cash -- as much as $38.9 million from 2005 to 2011 -- to the NRA, and the gun rights organization in turn engages in hysterical fearmongering to promote gun sales. One hand washes the other. And now the Daily Caller is joining the action by offering its readers discounted NRA memberships.
It was only a matter of time before the gun-loving Daily Caller recognized the benefit of shilling for the gun industry and its unofficial PR wing, the NRA. In recent months the online publication has been heavily promoting the NRA while offering its readers perks in the form of a weekly handgun giveaway.
But as material published this week demonstrates, increasingly unabashed promotion of the NRA and FMK Firearms calls the Daily Caller's credibility as a news source further into question.
On Wednesday Mike Piccione, editor of the Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section -- which features firearms advertisements, NRA press releases, and other pieces of dubious gun "reporting" -- announced that Daily Caller readers were eligible to purchase discounted NRA memberships. Piccione offered a number of childish reasons for signing up, including, "Joining the NRA is the equivalent of giving [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg the finger."
The ethical implications of a journalism outlet directly helping to fill the coffers of special interest group are certainly weighty. How can one trust the Daily Caller's reporting on the NRA -- which gets itself into the headlines all the time -- when it accepts advertising money from the group and urges its readers to purchase memberships?
The Daily Caller is clearly unconcerned. Nor does it see any problems in publishing columns by Jim Pontillo, who donates the guns for the weekly giveaway from his company FMK Firearms. Pontillo was probably happy for the exposure considering that in previous columns for other online outlets he offered casual racism aimed at the President and defended the Confederacy.
In a Daily Caller column published on Tuesday, Pontillo took umbrage with comments that President Obama made about small business owners (which were taken out of context by Fox News and other right-wing outlets). In his column, Pontillo made clear his feelings about people receiving government assistance:
How much of my success can I attribute to my hard work? Do I owe thanks to the welfare recipients you enrich at my expense? While they sit in government-subsidized housing, talking on their iPhones, viewing Netflix movies on their plasma TVs and eating dinners purchased with government food stamps, I sweat 80 to 100 hours a week trying to make my small business succeed.
Such uninhibited bashing of the needy might (or at least should) embarrass a reputable publication. Other publications might think to avoid mainstreaming a racist crackpot. But the Daily Caller wants to keep giving away guns, so they're sticking with Pontillo for the time being.
In a July 26 column for the Washington Times, prominent Mitt Romney endorser and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent labeled supporters of Keynesian economics "socialist" before comparing the idea of government playing an expanded role in the economy to "Jerry Sandusky managing a little boys' football team."
Fedzilla is growing fatter, less accountable and less transparent by gorging itself on our tax dollars. Instead of tightening Fedzilla's fiscal belt, government bureaucrats just buy him bigger belts and suspenders, and he gets fatter and smellier each day. The only good pig is a dead pig.
Regrettably, there are way too many intellectually stunted Americans who support this gluttonous and irresponsible spending curse. They are called socialists. Socialists believe in Keynesian economics, which supports government control and meddling in our economy. It's akin to Jerry Sandusky managing a little boys' football team. Another, more accurate name for Keynesian economics is Kamikaze economics.
On June 22, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for Penn State University, was convicted on 45 counts related to sexually abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period. He faces life in prison.
Nugent's comments are just the latest bizarre outburst from the outspoken right-wing activist.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is continuing to offer false or misleading commentary on last week's tragic mass shooting in Colorado in order to undermine a push for stronger gun violence prevention laws.
During an appearance yesterday on Glenn Beck's radio show, Nugent again denied that the alleged shooter had been armed with an assault weapon, while theorizing that the Aurora theater shooter could have done "more damage with a single shot or bolt action [rifle] because he had 20 minutes." In fact, police were reportedly on the scene between 60 and 90 seconds after the first 911 calls were made.
NUGENT: And remember, Glenn, this monster in Aurora took 20 minutes to do his evil. In 20 minutes you don't need an assault weapon, you don't need a machine gun, which he didn't have either of, but you could do more damage with a single shot or a bolt action because he had 20 minutes.
Single shot rifles and bolt action rifles must be reloaded after each shot is fired. Reload time has been a critical factor in other mass shootings. During the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and gravely wounded then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the shooter was only stopped when he was tackled as he paused to reload.
The three semi-automatic weapons reportedly used by the shooter fired a bullet each time the trigger was pulled. One of the weapons used, a Smith & Wesson assault weapon equipped with a drum magazine possessed the capability to fire 50 to 60 shots a minute with no need to reload until after the 100 round drum was expended.
Nugent also doubled down on a previous statement that there were "no assault weapons used in the CO shooting only universally proven sporting & self defense firearms."
NUGENT: And let me state as if fact that I know for a fact that most of the damage done by this devil in Aurora was done with the number one pheasant shotgun in the world, a Remington 870. His AR-15 Smith & Wesson rifle is now the most popular sporting rifle in America. It is the number one competition, number one in self-defense; it's the number one sporting rifle for big game and small game. And if they keep calling it an assault weapon, I may have that aneurysm.
Nugent's attempt to mainstream assault weapons as common hunting implements is misleading. Paul A. Smith, outdoors editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has stated that while assault rifles "have gained favor among some hunters and sport shooters in recent decades, they constitute a small fraction of deer hunting rifles in use today."
Indeed, the assault weapon allegedly used in the theater shooting may have been illegal to purchase under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. The hundred-round magazine would have been banned under that law.
During an appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight last night, discredited gun "researcher" and FoxNews.com contributor John Lott pushed a number of falsehoods about gun violence in America while discussing the July 20 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and scores wounded.
Lott rejected host Morgan's assertion that "America has the worst incidents of gun murders of any of what they call the civilized world." Later on in his appearance, Lott baselessly claimed that banning the types of weaponry used by the Aurora shooter would necessitate banning all semi-automatic firearms.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Do you accept that America has the worst incidence of gun murders of any of what they call the civilized world?
JOHN LOTT: No, I don't think that's true. Look, guns --
MORGAN: They are not true?
LOTT: No, I mean, factually, it's not true. Look --
MORGAN: But it is, isn't it?
LOTT: No, it's not.
Lott went on argue that because two gun deaths occurred in London in 1900 compared to 39 gun deaths in England in 2011, that restrictions placed on firearms between 1900 and 2011 can be linked to an increase in gun homicides. But Lott's reliance on century-old statistics doesn't change the modern reality of gun violence here in the United States.
The United States leads the world in private gun ownership. We also lead the industrialized world in gun deaths, which occurred in the United States at a rate eight times higher than our economic counterparts between 1990 and 1995. A 2003 study by Harvard School of Public Health professor David Hemenway found that the firearm homicide rate in the United States is 19.5 times higher than the average rate found in other high-income nations. A study by the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the availability of firearms is correlated with increased gun homicide rates in high-income industrialized countries. This is certainly born out in the United States where states that have the highest gun ownership and loosest gun laws also often have the highest rates of gun death.
In the wake of last week's tragic mass shooting in Aurora, CO, some in the media are distorting public opinion and election results to predict that the events will not have an impact on the debate over gun violence prevention. In fact, polls indicate public support for a broad range of stronger gun restrictions, including the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which may have prevented the legal purchase of one of the alleged shooter's guns.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza kicked off the debate with a piece published the morning after the shooting headlined "Why the Aurora shootings won't likely change the gun control debate":
If history is any guide, however, the Aurora shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.
In 1990, almost eight in ten Americans said that the "laws covering the sales of firearms" should be made "more strict" while just 10 percent said they should be made "less strict" or "kept as they are now". By 2010, those numbers had drastically shifted with 54 percent preferring less strict or no change in guns laws and 44 percent believing gun laws should be made more strict.
By Sunday the claim that Americans don't support tougher gun laws was a regular feature on the morning political talk shows. But if Congress is not moved by this tragedy to pass new gun violence prevention laws, it won't be because the American people oppose such measures.
In fact, other polls indicate that contrary to the result of the Gallup poll Cillizza cited, Americans support the passage of an array of new, stronger firearm sale laws.
Note that this appetite among the public for stronger gun laws includes the support of more than three in five for reinstating the nationwide ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. One of the weapons used by the alleged shooter was an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, which reportedly may have been banned under that law. Members of the House and Senate have called for bringing back the ban in response to the shooting. They enjoy the support of 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, according to a June 2011 Time magazine poll.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have eliminated the task force responsible for doing the National Rifle Association's bidding, but that hasn't stopped the coordination between the right-wing groups. In the latest example of their friendly cooperation, the NRA plans to hold a trap shoot in conjunction with ALEC's annual meeting later this month.
In a missive to state legislators published by the Center on Media and Democracy, which researches ALEC, NRA director of state and local affairs Charles H. Cunningham invites state legislators to attend the "annual shoot," promising that it "will prove to be just as fun as in years past." According to CMD: "For the past several years, on the Saturday of ALEC's annual meeting, the NRA has regularly hosted an outing for ALEC legislators and lobbyists to go shooting together -- with complimentary guns and ammo plus plenty of food and drink (this time it is a barbeque)."
In April, as corporate sponsors fled their organization in the face of pressure from liberal activists angry with the group's support of "Kill at Will" self-defense laws and voter ID bills, ALEC announced that they were disbanding their Elections and Public Safety Task Force, which worked on those issues. At the time, that task force's chair told Media Matters that such issues were no longer a priority for ALEC.
The NRA was reportedly extremely unhappy with ALEC's reaction to public pressure regarding the "Kill at Will" laws, which spread to dozens of states after ALEC adopted a model bill based on the Florida statute that was cited as an influence in the case of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. An NRA representative reportedly criticized the group for dismantling the task force during a meeting of conservative leaders, warning other participants that ALEC could flee from their issues as well.
But the continuation of the NRA's annual shoot at ALEC's annual meeting suggests that the two conservative groups have patched up their differences and are again working together to promote right-wing legislation.
In April the NRA vowed to defend "Kill at Will" laws across the country.
THE UNITED NATIONS -- It was during one of several extended delays on day five of the Arms Trade Treaty talks that the chief of the British delegation, a jovial veteran diplomat named Jo Adamson, turned to me and wanted to know if I'd ever watched The Benny Hill Show.
"You know the musical theme when Benny gets chased around by the police and they speed up the film?" she asked. "I want to make a video of that song playing over Tuesday's scene of musical chairs."
The idea was a happy diplomatic warrior's response to the comedic low-point of the negotiations' disastrous first week, in which 193 national delegations, eager to begin a long-planned attempt at regulating the global conventional arms trade, were forced to choreograph a globe-spanning seating shift to accommodate two Palestinian observers, debate over whose status had made a train wreck of the agenda and preempted the speeches of several foreign ministers in town for the opening session. Adamson wasn't the only UN diplomat with experience taking such chaos in stride. Anyone who has been around Turtle Bay and Geneva long enough knows the ATT won't be the last UN effort to strengthen global security to be threatened by soul sucking stretches of procedural purgatory.
The fact that the ATT conference's first week lent itself so easily to Benny Hill spoofs is a good place to begin considering the massive gulf separating the actual treaty being negotiated by consensus at the UN this month, and the Iran-directed Second Amendment-eating Golem of conservative imagination. The hysterical screeching of so much right-wing opposition to the ATT is the product of many things, but direct experience with the inner workings of the UN system does not appear to be among them.
"Everyone who has spent any time here knows we're lucky if we can get a time frame for debate worked out," said Robert Zuber of Global Action to Prevent War, who has 20 years experience with the UN and supports the passage of a treaty. "This idea that a UN treaty concerning international arms flows could somehow override the Constitution or the Supreme Court, this idea that it will lead to UN police marching down the streets taking people's guns away -- everyone here knows it's beyond ludicrous."
That the ATT is no opening salvo in a global gun-grab -- a charge made in various forms recently by National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, The Washington Times, Dick Morris, and a number of others appearing on Fox News -- does not mean the talks are without stakes. National delegations and NGOs are gathered in New York through July 27 to address a lack of common international standards guiding the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms and munitions. As Amnesty International activists have dramatized by handing out bananas in Times and Trafalgar Squares, more rules govern the inter-state trade of fruits and vegetables than tanks and machine guns. Just over 50 nations regulate international arms dealers inside their territory according to the Arms Control Association; only half of those have any sort of penalties for breaking national laws. ATT proponents maintain that a treaty is the first step in shrinking the booming international black and grey market arms trade that fuels civil conflicts, arms warlords and criminal syndicates, and facilitates the breaking of arms embargos. According to an Oxfam report, countries operating under arms embargoes have succeeded in importing more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition since 2000.
The Obama administration is a relatively conservative actor on the ATT spectrum, and its reversal of the previous government's rejection of the ATT was predicated on the final treaty language being approved by consensus. U.S. presence at the conference is supported by major human rights and development NGOs, leading U.S. defense contractors, active and retired senior military staff, and a number of civic and religious groups such as the National Council of Churches.
Among the array of U.S. civil society and industry groups involved in the ATT process, the National Rifle Association has distinguished itself by issuing a decade-long stream of misinformation that has clouded Americans' understanding of the issues. It is a pattern of willful obfuscation that has defined the gun group's posture as an international actor since before plans for the talks were announced under the Bush Administration. Indeed, the rebirth of the NRA as a profitable organization following its brush with bankruptcy in the mid-90s tracks closely with the history of UN activity around the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.