The Orlando Sentinel writes today on the gun lobby's efforts to make hay over gun rights prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns' program to fund public officials who work to reduce the spread of illegal guns (emphasis added):
Gun-rights advocates are squaring off against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for hiring a new city employee to spearhead the city's fight against illegal guns.
Dyer said the city is simply targeting so-called "crime guns" that end up in the hands of felons. But a gun-rights group argues that public employees shouldn't be trying to erode the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Are those employees truly working to "erode the Second Amendment"? According to statements from Mayor Dyer ("We have no interest in eroding citizens' Second Amendment rights. I'm a gun-toting hunter myself") and the employee, Linda Vaughn, as well as MAIG's mission statement and the policies MAIG supports (closing the "gun-show loophole" and preventing the passage of concealed carry reciprocity), no. All of that information is included elsewhere in the Sentinel's article.
Nonetheless, the Sentinel reports that the gun lobby views MAIG as "a group of gun haters whose agenda is more far-reaching," without stating outright that there is no evidence to support that contention.
In doing so, the Sentinel acts to privilege the lie. The story is based in its entirety on criticisms from gun activists and their contention that MAIG, Dyer, and the staffer are engaged in an effort to undermine the Second Amendment. But rather than state clearly that a group with a conservative political agenda is making baseless claims, the paper merely reports, "Group A says X, while Group B says Y." Who's to know which side is right?
Without that central premise that this program is supposedly intended to further a "gun hating" cause, the story becomes far less interesting. After all, mayors hire staffers to carry out their public agenda. Gun crime prevention is an issue of concern for many mayors, including Dyer, so they seek to hire staffers to focus on that problem full-time, just as they might hire staffers to oversee city efforts on disaster recovery or business development.
In this particular case, a non-profit foundation is willing to help out with the costs, saving the city money. This is far from the first time private money has been used to support public work - for example, the tax forms of the National Rifle Association Foundation reveal dozens of grants to local municipalities to fund gun range improvements and gun safety courses.
The right-wing website Daily Caller yesterday published an article by Jim Pontillo, the firearms manufacturer they have partnered with for their controversial gun giveaway promotion. The publication drew criticism last week following the revelation of Pontillo's past racially offensive and insurrectionist writings.
Pontillo's article for the "Guns and Gear" section is a list of the "Top 10 Guns You'll Find at the Neighborhood Liberal Gun Store" and disparages a wide range of Democratic politicians. Pontillo's list includes the "Pelosi Clinton Mini Derringer" ("Pull the trigger and this pocket pistol shrieks and cackles. No man can stand to be in the vicinity when this thing goes off.").
The Daily Caller's decision to publish Pontillo's political musings comes only a week after the website said his views were irrelevant, telling the Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." The Caller's decision to feature Pontillo's work follows their "Guns and Gear" section editor's disclosure that he and Pontillo came up with the idea for the Caller gun promotion together.
This is not the first time Pontillo has written for the Caller. In December he authored a rambling piece for the site criticizing "those who lament America's cultural evolution toward secular society" for "devoid[ing] the moral absolutes that served our Founding Fathers" and attacking "the political class and by the main stream media" for supposedly disparaging his customers.
During an interview on NRA News, Mike Piccione, editor of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section, and host Ginny Simone spoke of "a team effort" between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Caller to promote gun ownership. During the interview Piccione said he hoped to expand his online publication's controversial gun giveaway promotion by giving away a firearm to a Caller email list subscriber who signs up for an NRA membership.
MIKE PICCIONE, DAILY CALLER GUNS AND GEAR EDITOR: Check back though because we're going to do a few things. One thing I want to do is I want to give a gun to somebody that joins the National Rifle Association from the Daily Caller.
GINNY SIMONE, HOST: Alrighty.
PICCIONE: Absolutely. Join the NRA and we'll support you.
SIMONE: It's a team effort.
Piccione also admitted that the gun giveaway promotion was the result of a brainstorm session with far right-wing gun manufacturer Jim Pontillo.
The Caller at one point distanced themselves from Pontillo's political views when confronted with extreme and racial comments about President Obama made by prize gun manufacturer Pontillo, telling The Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." But the next day, Piccione told NRA News host Ginny Simone that he came up with the idea for the promotion with his "friend" Pontillo in order to "remind people" that Caller is "pro-Constitution" and "pro-gun."
During a May 23 appearance on NRA News' Cam & Company, John Frazer, the research director for the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, attacked a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study while failing to acknowledge that the main premise of the study is true: gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in 10 states.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
Using the most recently available data, VPC also demonstrated that nationwide motor vehicle deaths have declined over the last decade while gun related deaths ticked up during this period. VPC attributes this difference to successful regulation of motor vehicles and a lack of such regulation with regard to guns.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
In response to the study, Frazer was forced to make the contrived argument that only fatal accidents involving firearms should be compared to accidental motor vehicle deaths. At no point during the interview did he acknowledge that in a number of states the total number of deaths as a result of firearm use exceeded deaths resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle or that the gap between the firearm and motor vehicle death rate is narrowing.
FRAZER: What [VPC] are talking about is a pure apples and oranges comparison. They are comparing total numbers across the board, which is a completely invalid comparison because obviously most vehicle deaths are accidents. So if they really want an aggregate comparison they should compare motor vehicle accidents to firearmsaccidents, and firearms accidents are at their lowest point in recorded history.
But an aggregate comparison is exactly what VPC did.
The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and employees of Fox News have repeatedly shielded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) from criticism without disclosing that parent company News Corp. is a member of that organization.
Since mid-April the Journal has defended ALEC, a shadowy conservative organization backed by corporate giants that tailors model bills for state legislatures, in two editorials and also published two op-eds attacking the group's critics. Fox News likewise highlighted the criticism of ALEC in at least five April segments, with Bill O'Reilly describing its opponents as "very, very vicious" and questioning whether they were engaging in "blackmail." The network even hosted ALEC's communications director to defend the group. In none of those segments or articles was News Corp.'s ALEC membership mentioned.
This morning the Center for Media and Democracy, which rigorously monitors ALEC, reported:
Documents obtained and released by Common Cause show that News Corp. was a member of ALEC's Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force as of April 2010. Adam Peshek, who staffs ALEC's Education Task Force, told Education Week that News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force since January 2012.
ALEC has come under fire in recent months for promoting model state legislation for restrictive voter ID laws and Kill at Will self-defense laws similar to the Florida statute cited in the Trayvon Marton killing. Progressives have responded by urging legislators, corporations, and organizations affiliated with ALEC to cut their ties. At least 19 corporate or non-profit members and 54 state legislators have left the group as a result of the campaign.
News Corp.'s conservative media entities have pushed back against this campaign, claiming that progressives are "playing the race card" as part of a "remarkable political assault," and lauded companies that have yet to disassociate themselves from ALEC. But they have not disclosed that their own parent company is one of those ALEC members.
In 2010 News Corp. drew criticism -- including from shareholders -- following the disclosure that the company had donated $2.25 million to GOP-linked groups including the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After that information was revealed, Fox News offered only intermittent disclosure of those donations during their reports on gubernatorial races and the chamber.
The company subsequently adopted "a new policy to publicly disclose corporate political contributions annually on News Corporation's corporate web site." Any ALEC membership fees paid by News Corp. are not indicated in their disclosure of corporate political contributions for 2011, which lists only contributions to candidates for office and political action and party committees.
On May 15, Cam Edwards, host of Cam & Company on NRA News, hosted conservative commentator and Pajamas Media contributor Bill Whittle to discuss what Whittle termed "the demasculinization of men, the feminization of men, and the wimpification of men." Whittle concluded his thoughts by explaining that he is "genuinely disturbed" about the presence of "women butt-kickers in movies" like Scarlet Johansson in The Avengers, because instead of thinking they can fight large men women should be buying guns. Edwards could not agree more:
BILL WHITTLE, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I am dealing with the pop culture. I'm in the film business out here. So what I'm dealing with is, I'm dealing with the source of hypnotism. What I mean by that is, I think the politics is downstream of culture. I think when people go to the movies and they sit there they are fundamentally hypnotized. You go to a horror movie, let's say, right, and you're scared out of your wits, but you're sitting in an air-conditioned building, you're surrounded by other people, you know there is no monster there, but you're still terrified. And so when the movies project to the American people this Woody Allen kind of ideal of kind of weakness and kind of "I'm going to issue a snappy comeback as I run for the hills and leave everybody to the bad guys." Well people to begin to think that's what's expected. While we both just talked a moment ago about heroism and women, one thing I am really genuinely disturbed about, you see this all over the place, are these kind of women butt-kickers in movies. Scarlett Johansson who is, you know, she's probably five foot four and maybe she weighs 110 pounds soaking wet taking down these 250 pound guys with karate chops and stuff.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Right.
WHITTLE: It's like bad things are going to happen if people think this is going to happen in the real world. Because number one, girls are going to get themselves badly hurt, and number two, when guys see movies about young girls, and young women doing all these physical moves in these wild kind of defense things, it takes away that fundamental inhibition that has been drilled into boys my age, and your age too, and that is you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever hit a girl. Ever ever ever. When young boys go to movies and see girls doing all this butt-kicking and taking down all these guys, number one, girls think they are going to get away with that, there is not going to be an outcome where a 100 pound girl physically punches a 210 pound guy with a happy outcome for the girl. That's why you have guns.
EDWARDS: Absolutely. Absolutely right.
Beyond the sexist implications of Whittle's thoughts on what women can and can't do, this has to be one of the strangest ways that the National Rifle Association has highlighted the need to own a gun.
In a May 14 op-ed for The Hill, Fox News correspondent Juan Williams decried politicization of the investigation of the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious and labeled House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's inquiry into Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice (DOJ) a "monstrous witch hunt."
Williams' comments are in stark contrast to his network's coverage of the issue, which over the past year has promoted Issa's investigation at every turn while also giving airtime to those who would peddle conspiracy theories about the failed operation.
In his op-ed, Williams describes Issa as a modern day Captain Ahab, hell-bent on finding fault in Holder for Fast and Furious no matter how thin the evidence is suggesting that he had any involvement in the operation. According to Williams, the ultimate goal of Issa's inquiry is to "defame Holder and hurt the president." Warning about the potential consequences of Issa's contempt proceeding endgame, he concluded:
At the moment more than 100 House Republicans have already signed on to a resolution expressing no confidence in Holder.
That kind of politics is acceptable.
But a contempt citation for the top law enforcement official is a monstrosity breaking apart public trust and dragging the nation's already polarized politics to the bottom of the sea.
While Williams may be disturbed by the direction in which Issa's investigation is going, the truth is that his employer, Fox News, has served as a clearinghouse for politicized statements about Fast and Furious for over a year. In the last month alone, Issa and two of his lieutenants (Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz) have appeared on Fox News at least nine times to promote their investigation into Fast and Furious.
Appearing on the May 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, former South Carolina Governor and current Fox News Contributor Mark Sanford became the latest media figure to push the bogus conspiracy theory that the botched Fast and Furious operation was actually a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment.
Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigation into illegal guns diverted from the United States to drug cartels in Mexico that took place between 2009 and 2011. It employed the controversial tactic of allowing guns to be trafficked into Mexico with the hope that these firearms could be traced to high-level cartel figures. Ultimately some 2,000 firearms were allowed to enter Mexico, after which many of them were lost, while others were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.
Last year, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, began an investigation into the failed operation. Issa and other House Republicans soon raised the possibility that Attorney General Eric Holder was involved in Fast and Furious, an allegation that Holder denies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Congressman Issa are currently engaged in a dispute concerning whether DOJ has disclosed to the House Oversight Committee all of the information required under federal law.
Sanford began his appearance by mouthing the standard Republican talking points, but then things got weird:
MARK SANFORD, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: A lot of people raise this question. Were the guns actually out there because this guy [Attorney General Eric Holder] happens to be against Second Amendment and would like to see more gun control in this country and therefore is there a whole lot of fire behind the little bit of smoke we have seen in frankly challenges to the Second Amendment that go to the core to what the constitutional makeup of this government is about?
Or put more simply, Sanford is saying that "a lot of people" want to know if "Fast and Furious" was a plot hatched by Attorney General Eric Holder to curb gun rights in the United States. The answer to this question is a resounding no.
This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) "has distributed a staff briefing paper and draft of the contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder to Members of the Oversight Committee" due to the Justice Department's refusal to provide documents the Committee subpoenaed concerning the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious. Fox News has since run several segments on the potential contempt citation, in one case issuing a "Fox News Alert" about the "bombshell developments" in the "big story" before conducting an extensive interview with Issa himself:
Given that Fox's The O'Reilly Factor and On The Record each ran segments on reports that such a citation had been drafted on Friday, this coverage is likely to continue. By contrast, the network's primetime lineup provided minimal coverage in 2007, when then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sought and received contempt citations against two senior aides to President Bush. The network devoted less than nine minutes of time to the story during its evening lineup.*
The eight minutes and fifty-six seconds of coverage the network provided regarding the House Judiciary Committee's citation of then-White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers for contempt of Congress consisted of one news segment, two news briefs, and one panel discussion -- all on Special Report. Right-wing Fox hosts like John Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly did not weigh in on the story.
These instances are not perfectly analogous, but each involves contempt charges against senior administration officials whom a powerful committee chair of the other party alleged had failed to provide information to Congress that the chair believed Congress was entitled.
Model legislation supported by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council that would make it illegal for private citizens to conduct stings exposing illegal gun sales is being criticized by veteran investigative reporters and media law experts who say it could negatively impact undercover journalists who report on such activities.
"This law appears to create a shield for illegal conduct. We would be very concerned as investigative reporters with any attempt to criminalize legitimate reporting. Reporters don't go out and somehow force gun dealers to make these sales," said Stephen Engelberg, managing editor at ProPublica.org, the Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporting site. "The illegal activity is the sale of the guns, not the failure to flash a press badge for the sale of the gun."
The so-called "Honesty in Purchasing Firearms" bill was presented in August 2011 by NRA lobbyist Tara Mica to ALEC's since-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force. The task force adopted it as model legislation.
The bill states, in part, that:
Any person who knowingly solicits, persuades, encourages or entices a licensed dealer or private seller of firearms or ammunition to transfer a firearm or ammunition under circumstances which the person knows would violate the laws of this state or the United States is guilty of a felony.
The bill also makes it illegal to intentionally give a licensed firearm dealer or private seller "materially false information with intent to deceive the dealer or seller about the legality of a transfer of a firearm or ammunition." Violators are punished with up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
The NRA has explicitly stated that such legislation, which has been adopted in several states, is intended to target undercover stings by gun violence prevention activists seeking to shine a light on illegal private sellers.
Those efforts typically involve private dealers selling firearms to undercover activists after those individuals tell the buyer they don't think they could pass a federal background check. Such checks are not required for the transfer of firearms by private sellers, only federal firearms licensees, but it is illegal for anyone to sell a firearm if they have reason to believe the buyer can't legally own the weapon.
Critics contend the proposed law could block undercover reporters who seek to purchase weapons in this manner in an effort to expose the criminal practice.
Earlier this year NBC national investigative reporter Jeff Rossen engaged in such a sting and produced an extensive report for Today which the network said "exposes how simple it is for criminals and even terrorists to purchase deadly weapons in public places - with no questions asked."
"It's ill-guided, or misguided or worse," said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, which advises media outlets on legal issues, when asked about the bill. "It might also provide some basis for a constitutional challenge to such a bill if it were enacted in that it is intended to single out the press and those with a particular perspective on illegal gun sales."
She later added, "The whole notion is that if we can make it unlawful to show and tell, then no one will ever know about it. It is an extraordinary effort and I believe it is a desperate one when you have to penalize those who would make public unlawful acts; it is a pretty desperate measure."
During a May 1 appearance on MSNBC's Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, discredited gun "researcher" John Lott continued his whirlwind media tour in defense of the "Kill At Will" law (called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents) that has been linked to the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. In his appearance, Lott reiterated many of the misleading claims he pushed in his April 25 op-ed for the New York Daily News defending the controversial law.
Lott began his appearance by suggesting that prior to the widespread codification of "Kill At Will," victims of serious crimes had a duty to retreat from an attacker at his or her own peril. He told Todd, "You have to understand where the laws were before. Before people had to retreat as far as possible before they could go and act in self-defense." Just because Lott repeats this falsehood over and over does not make it true. States that did require duty to retreat largely did so only under the narrow circumstance where the victim could do so safely. What Lott is attempting to do is to set his defense of "Stand Your Ground" upon the premise that these laws were enacted to fix an existing problem. His argument, however, is not credible because it seriously mischaracterizes basic legal principles of self-defense.
In an April 25 op-ed for the Daily Caller, National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre took to the opinion pages to once again deploy faulty logic to claim that the reelection of President Barack Obama will precipitate an "all-out war on the Second Amendment."
LaPierre's primary piece of evidence concerning what he calls "the web of lies spun about the president's phony, claimed support of the Second Amendment," is that current Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been "tapped as the star co-chair for Obama's re-election effort." LaPierre claims that this is "no honorary job" but rather "real power linking Obama's re-election with Emanual's fanaticism for destroying the Second Amendment." But if Emanuel wanted to work with Obama to push gun bans nationwide he most certainly missed his best chance, which would have occurred when he worked in the highest levels of the Obama Administration.
The record is clear that the Obama Administration did not enact any gun violence prevention legislation during the time that Emanuel served as the highly influential White House chief of staff. Between January 2009 and October 2010, President Obama signed only two gun-related bills into law, both of which expanded, rather than restricted, the right to carry firearms.
In May 2009 President Obama signed into law legislation allowing firearms to be carried in national parks. A later bill allowing guns onto Amtrak trains was enacted in December 2009. At the time, the NRA called the legislation "a major step forward." Gun violence prevention groups, however, were furious. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an "F" rating in every category that it assesses. The failing report card was accompanied by a scathing publication entitled, "President Obama's First Year: Failed Leadership, Lost Lives," that called the president's record on gun violence prevention "an abject failure."
Repeatedly burned by stings intended to demonstrate the ease with which individuals who are banned from purchasing firearms can buy guns from private sellers without passing a background check, the National Rifle Association appears to have found a solution: Make those stings illegal. As usual, their allies at the American Legislative Exchange Council are happy to help.
ALEC documents obtained by Common Cause indicate that in August 2011, NRA lobbyist Tara Mica presented an "Honesty in Purchasing Firearms" bill to ALEC's since-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which the task force adopted as model legislation. Mica has at times served as the task force's Private Sector Chair.
The bill states that "[a]ny person who provides to a licensed dealer or private seller of firearms or ammunition what the persons knows to be materially false information with intent to deceive the dealer or seller about the legality of a transfer of a firearm or ammunition is guilty of a felony." Violators are punished with up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
According to the group's minutes, the state legislators on the task force voted unanimously to adopt the legislation; the motion to adopt the bill also passed among its private sector members.
The NRA has explicitly stated that such legislation is intended to target undercover stings by gun violence prevention activists intended to shine a light on some unscrupulous private sellers. Those efforts typically involve individuals telling private sellers that they don't think they could pass a federal background check, which are not required for the transfer of firearms by private sellers, and being permitted to purchase the weapon nonetheless.
Since it is illegal to sell firearms to individuals if you have reason to suspect they cannot legally possess them, the NRA-backed ALEC law effectively shields criminal activity.
Discredited gun "researcher" John Lott has done it again. In an April 25th op-ed for the New York Daily News, Lott strongly defended the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law that is at the center of the shooting death of 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Lott provides a number of distortions about "Stand Your Ground" in voicing support for the law.
Lott opens his piece by stating, "Call them what you will: 'Stand Your Ground' or 'Castle Doctrine' laws." In doing so, he is grouping together two laws that are in fact radically different - this faulty conflation is at the center of his entire argument. For example, Lott later claims that "In states adopting Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws from 1977 to 2005, murder rates fell by 9% and overall violent crime by 11%." But "Stand Your Ground" largely was not implemented until after 2005, making his point meaningless.
The former chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council's recently disbanded Elections and Public Safety Task Force said most of the committee's work on voting and gun issues probably will not continue elsewhere within ALEC, but said some could be pursued if they have ties to economic issues.
"The criminal justice area has been one where we have had consensus in doing the kinds of things we're doing with justice re-investment and with the things like our smart on crime initiatives and those things I hope don't get damaged by these actions going on now to break up what we've been able to put together," said Republican Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden, former chair of the committee.
Madden made the comments following the announcement last week that ALEC would disband the committee after it drew complaints for its role in promoting NRA-backed gun laws and voter restrictions. ALEC says it will now refocus on economic legislation.
The Christian Post reported earlier this week that Madden said ALEC planned to pursue many of the same issues elsewhere within the organization:
Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.
"ALEC's decision won't impact the important issues we've worked on," Madden told The Christian Post. "But I will say this, these groups are targeting ALEC because when conservatives get together, we influence state and federal policy in a major way and these groups are scared of us - and should be."
Contacted by Media Matters on Wednesday, Madden said most of the gun and voting issues previously targeted by his committee will likely not be pursued as ALEC continues. But he hinted that some might have ties to economic concerns that would make them valid subjects to target