A floundering attempt to smear a Colorado state lawmaker who recently sponsored gun safety legislation demonstrates that the nationwide network of state-based conservative media outlets that the right wing has founded in recent years have the same problems with journalistic rigor as their larger, better-known cohorts.
The Colorado branch of the right-wing news outlet Media Trackers published a March 6 report claiming to offer new information which "exposed" the "criminal record" of State Representative Rhonda Fields. Fields has sponsored gun safety legislation currently under the debate in the legislature, including a bill extending the background check system. Alongside her mug shot, the group explained that Fields was arrested for larceny and shoplifting decades ago, commenting, "Despite her own criminal record, Rep. Fields has sought to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
The Media Trackers piece quickly spread through the right-wing blogosphere, with Instapundit Glenn Reynolds commenting, "criminals prefer unarmed victims." But contrary to Media Trackers' "BREAKING" headline, Fields has long been open about her past. Declaring the report "old news," Fox's Denver affiliate reported:
Fields was arrested in 1976 for larceny, and then again in 1991 for shoplifting. In 2010, FOX31 Denver reported on Fields' arrest record when she was campaigning for a position in the state House. The Denver Post dug into the politician's past, as well.
"It's something I'm not proud of," Fields said of her arrests during her campaign. "It happened over 20 years ago. I had to leave a husband who was addicted to drugs. I stole food to feed my kids. I'm so glad I'm not the woman I was back then."
With the story dissolving, Media Trackers followed the right-wing media's time-tested maneuver of doubling down. They produced a follow-up report breathlessly claiming Fields' "disregard for the state's laws continued well into her tenure as an elected lawmaker." They cited as evidence minor traffic violations such as Fields being "fined $130 for a lane assignment infraction."
The Media Trackers attacks on Fields come just days after the well-publicized arrest of Franklin Sain, a gun rights proponent who allegedly threatened Fields for sponsoring gun legislation. In an email to Fields, Sain said the legislator was a "pathetic N***** C*** alnog with MCCANN, two c**** who are way overdue a good f***ing." Fields, whose son was shot and killed alongside his fiancée because he planned to testify about drug dealers who had murdered his friend, is not the only state legislator who favors strengthening the state's gun laws to receive threats in recent days.
National Rifle Association president David Keene excused pro-gun activists at a New York rally last week whose signs depicted New York governor Andrew Cuomo as Adolf Hitler, saying that the attendees were "cognizant of the history" of supposedly anti-gun Nazi Germany and did not wish to see it repeated in the United States.
Keene was the featured speaker at the February 28 rally in Albany, New York against newly enacted gun violence prevention laws in that state. The rally drew controversy because some attendees brought signs portraying Cuomo as Hitler. In a March 1 interview with conservative radio host Fred Dicker, Keene agreed that the attendees were making a reference to "a 1935 law passed by the Reichstag [The Third Reich parliament] that took away people's rights to own firearms." Keene added that "Folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here."
But while gun activists commonly claim that Hitler implemented tougher gun laws to pave the way for his tyrannical reign, the Nazis actually loosened gun restrictions. In fact, the "1935 law" referenced by Dicker reportedly does not exist.
FRED DICKER: Some of the signs may have been a little over the top from the point of view of some people. But they fail, I think a lot of the people fail to have a sense of history that many the demonstrators have. And when they use the Adolf Hitler image they're not thinking of Adolf Hitler the monster of the Holocaust and of world domination. Many of them are thinking in terms of, I guess it was a 1935 law. It was passed by the Reichstag in Germany that took away people's rights to own firearms.
DAVID KEENE: That's right, and folks that are cognizant of the history not just in Germany but elsewhere look back to that history and say we can't let that sort of thing happen here.
As Alex Seitz-Wald wrote in an article for Salon, "the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone's guns is mostly bogus." Seitz-Wald summarized a 2004 law review article on the myth by University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt to note that the German parliament essentially banned firearms in 1919 to comply with surrender terms in the Treaty of Versailles. The law remained in effect until 1928 when the Reichstag allowed private gun ownership with a registration requirement. In 1938 Hitler signed into law new discriminatory firearms laws that did away with restrictions for individuals aligned with the Nazis while outlawing Jews and other persecuted peoples from possessing weapons. As Seitz-Wald points out, the fact that Hitler loosened gun laws for some while banned firearms for others is not an indictment of gun violence prevention laws, but instead of fascistic policies
A member of the National Rifle Association Board of Directors compared states' efforts to strengthen gun violence prevention laws to Nazi Germany on an NRA news program, suggesting that Americans are being disarmed and that "the death of millions" could occur.
Ronnie Barrett, the outspoken manufacturer of a controversial armor-piercing sniper rifle and an NRA board member, made his prediction during the March 1 edition of the NRA's Cam & Company show on Sportsman Channel:
BARRETT: In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it's bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions. You know, and World War II hasn't been 700 years ago, it's only been 70 years ago. And if people don't think that these things don't happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they're wrong, brother, I mean we're sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what's going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can't believe that's one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our Republic. It's just unimaginable.
Barrett made similar remarks on the February 5 edition of Cam & Company, suggesting that gun owners prevent "socialism" and make it so "you can't round up hoards of armed free people and put them in cattle cars."
It is not unusual for members of NRA leadership to distort history to compare stronger firearm policies to Nazism or the Holocaust. In his book, America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre equated the United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, held on July 9, 2001, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' order that books authored by Jews be publicly burned. He then suggested that the burning of guns could "help set the stage for mass executions of gun owners" just as Goebbels' order precipitated the mass killing of Jews:
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Fox Business' Varney & Company to falsely claim that a legislative proposal to require a criminal background check on almost every gun sale would create a national gun owner registry and possibly lead to firearm confiscation.
LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It's going to be selectively enforced. It's going to be abused. And the worst thing, you're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, "Hey, we'll never use that list to confiscate." That's a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.
The list that LaPierre referenced does not exist and would not be created under a proposal to strengthen the background check system.
In fact, federal law prohibits the creation of a gun owner registry and the proposal to expand background checks would not subject gun buyers to any record-keeping requirements that do not already exist for transactions conducted at a gun store. As gun advocate Dave Kopel explains on the NRA's website, "the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) ... prohibited the creation of a registry of gun owners."
The FBI, which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), destroys identifying information about gun owners within 24 hours in order to comply with this law.
Under current law, licensed firearm dealers are required retain a copy of the ATF Form 4473, the form used to complete the background check, as a sales receipt. Under legislation proposed to improve the background check system, a federally licensed firearms dealer would oversee firearms transactions between private individuals by running a background check on the purchaser. The 4473 form used in that transaction would be kept in the dealer's records, just as records are kept for individuals who buy from the licensed dealer directly. The current legislative proposal would exempt transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers for hunting or self-defense from the background check requirement.
A Gannett article appearing on USAToday.com alleges that a recently enacted New York law limiting firearm magazine capacity to seven rounds will effectively render handguns inoperable, claiming no manufacturers produce magazines with a seven-round capacity. This reporting is gaining steam in the right-wing blogosphere, even as a quick web search reveals numerous options for purchasing magazines with a seven or less round capacity.
According to the article, which originally appeared in the Gannett-owned (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, "as far as local gun dealers and the Democrat and Chronicle have been able to determine, there are no manufacturers planning to make seven-round magazines" and that when New York's new magazine law goes into effect on April 15, dealers "can only sell something that doesn't exist yet":
Starting April 15, New York will have the smallest gun magazine limit in the country, and all signs indicate no gun makers have plans to accommodate it.
Gun manufacturers have never had a reason to make a magazine with fewer than 10 rounds, because no state required it until now. And, as far as local gun dealers and the Democrat and Chronicle have been able to determine, there are no manufacturers planning to make seven-round magazines.
This means that in less than two months, gun dealers such as Paul Martin, owner of Pro-Gun Services in Victor, can only sell something that doesn't exist yet.
A search on firearms accessories supplier Brownells' website reveals 51 options for purchasing magazines with a 5, 6 or 7 round capacity. Magazines for popular firearms brands offered by Brownells include Springfield, Glock, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Ruger, and Sig Sauer. In fact, the seven-round magazine is the third most popular configuration offered by Brownells, with only eight- and 10-round magazines offering more options.
The Democrat and Chronicle notes that most gun manufacturers it reached out to for comment, including Brownells, Glock, Smith & Weston and Pro Mag Industries, did not or declined to respond. However, on its website, Brownells indicates that it sells seven-round Smith & Wesson and Pro Mag magazines. A six-round magazine is also offered by Glock.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent appeared on Alex Jones' radio show where the two swapped conspiracy theories about Benghazi and other topics, called for President Obama's impeachment, and praised the National Rifle Association's new "hardcore" direction. Nugent claimed that Jones, a prominent pusher of 9/11 and New World Order conspiracies, is doing "God's work" and that the information on his radio show is "indisputable" and "irrefutable."
Nugent legitimizing Jones is the second recent instance where a high-profile member of NRA leadership has conducted an interview on conspiracy-geared programming. On February 16, NRA president David Keene appeared on the television show of Gary Franchi, a well-known 9/11 truther.
Jones, one of the country's leading conspiracy theorists, describes himself as "one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement" and has also promoted the existence of FEMA concentration camps as part of his claim that President Obama is transforming the United States into "something that resembles Nazi Germany." He has also theorized that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was "carried out by intelligence agencies" with "Bill Clinton's involvement."
Furthermore, Jones believes that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery and has pushed conspiracy theories involving weather control, mass sterilization by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and an effort by the government to use "estrogen-mimicking" juice boxes to "encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children."
Nugent's appearance was billed by Jones' InfoWars.com website as "a surprise call in to thank Alex Jones for waking him up to the NWO."
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards has taken on a media critic role to allege that news reports linking firearms to public safety concerns are inaccurate. The series of rebuttals offered by Edwards on his show Cam & Company, however, are rife with outright falsehoods and are debunked by peer reviewed research.
In five recent "Media Misinformation" segments, Edwards...
- ...cited the long-debunked research of criminologist Gary Kleck to claim that up to 2.5 million defensive gun uses occur each year while also pushing the false claim that loosening concealed gun carry laws reduces crime.
- ...falsely claimed that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in terms of gun homicide rate when the U.S. actually ranks first in a more comparable study among high-income nations.
- ...used discredited research to attack an accurate claim by Mother Jones that guns in the home are more often used in criminal acts, accidents or suicides than for self-defense.
- ...made a flawed and anecdotal comparison to deny that increased gun availability is associated with increased firearm homicide.
- ...denied that a link exists between firearm access and suicide while suggesting that making firearms less accessible to a suicidal individual was not a plausible way to prevent a suicide attempt.
Right-wing media figures are dismissing extensive evidence to deny a link between firearm availability and suicide in the United States.
On the February 19 edition of the NRA News program Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards claimed during an ironically titled "Media Misinformation" segment that "we know that the prevalence of firearms does not always indicate increase in suicides. Take Japan for instance. Gun control advocates love talking about Japan's low violent crime rate. They don't usually bring up Japan's sky high suicide rate, far higher than that of the United States, despite a near total absence of firearms in civilian hands."
Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator and frequent Fox guest made a similar claim on the February 4 edition of Hannity on Fox News, stating that, "You might say, well but then having a gun they are going to commit suicide and they wouldn't have otherwise. No, that is false. Suicide rates do not go up with the availability of guns. The Japanese, for example, have no guns. They have twice our suicide rate. You see the same thing state to state. No matter what gun laws are, suicide rates have nothing to do with that."
In fact, numerous studies appearing in peer reviewed journals have proven that there is a strong nexus between firearm availability and suicide in the United States.
[The New York Times, accessed 2/21/13]
While approximately 9 percent of all suicide attempts are fatal, 85 percent of firearm suicide attempts result in death. Contrary to unsupported claims that troubled individuals will simply find an alternate method to commit suicide if an attempt fails, persons who have survived a suicide attempt usually do not find another way to end their lives. According to a review of 90 studies on the long term outcomes of individuals who previously attempted suicide, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide. Notably, individuals who attempt suicide by firearms rarely have such an opportunity to continue their lives.
Conservative commentator and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote in his latest column that African-Americans are the only ones who don't realize that President Obama is continuing the Democratic Party's decades-long destruction of black America.
In his February 20 WND column, titled "I Honor Blacks - The Dems Destroy Them," Nugent highlighted several metrics by which black America is struggling and commented:
Barack Obama, the guy who received roughly 93 percent of black American votes, is the clear and present engineer of the destruction of black America.
It's not all the president's fault, but the economic and social policies he endorses are destroying what is left of a once proud and strong black America.
The truth is that the Democratic Party has been the engineer of the destruction of black Americans, and everyone knows it except the very people who need to know it the most - black Americans.
The turbo-destruction will continue for black Americans until they realize that dirty Democrat politicians are their true enemy, not their salvation. Fortunately, some are beginning to embrace this self-evident truth.
The truth will set those black Americans free who want to be free, who want to be the best they can be, who want to leave their grandchildren a better, stronger America.
Elsewhere in the column Nugent praised "the tapestry of black America" as "rich and vibrant," and claims that "black musical thundergods" influenced his "fire-breathing musical career." He concludes, "Say it loud: my music is black and I'm proud!"
The latest cover story from the National Rifle Association magazine America's 1st Freedom pushes a baseless conspiracy that a proposed United Nations treaty to prevent the diversion of weapons to human rights abusers will be used by "the minions of tyrannical and thieving governments" to achieve "total disarmament of freedom-loving people all over the world."
In reality, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) seeks to address the fact that as many as 500,000 people are killed in armed violence each year worldwide by implementing -- on an international scale -- arms trade standards that are already used in the United States.
The piece, titled "Siege," was authored by gun advocate David Kopel and shares pages in the February 2013 edition of America's 1st Freedom with an unhinged article by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that calls upon Americans to buy firearms to ensure their "survival."
Despite Kopel's claim that U.N. officials will deviously interpret the ATT to disarm civilian populations and ultimately "destroy much of what remains of lawful gun ownership," the treaty explicitly disallows such interference by the U.N. in the sovereign affairs of nations. The latest draft of the ATT expressly prohibits the imposition of domestic firearms regulations upon parties to the treaty by "[r]eaffirming the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems."
National Rifle Association president David Keene made a February 16 appearance on conspiracy theorist Gary Franchi's television show as part of his media tour to oppose strengthening gun laws. Franchi is involved in the 9/11 Truth movement and believes the government is secretly building FEMA concentration camps that will be used to round up American citizens.
Franchi interviewed Keene about his belief that President Obama may use the Newtown school massacre to aid in the passage of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Franchi is a well-known and avid conspiracy theorist. During the 2012 election cycle, Franchi was the head of Revolution PAC, a pro-Ron Paul group. He made headlines when NBC News reported on his extensive history of promoting outlandish conspiracy theories.
As explained by NBC, Franchi was the founder of the Lone Lantern Society, a group that supports "'the birth of freedom and the death of the New World Order,' a secretive elite that is supposedly trying to set up a world government." The Lone Lantern held numerous demonstrations calling for a new investigation of 9-11.
In a 2008 interview with former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Franchi asked if Ridge endorsed the idea of a "new investigation for 9-11" based on the idea that there may have been a "controlled demolition of the World Trade Center." (During the conversation, Franchi also asks Ridge about the "North American Union," the conspiracy that the governments of America, Canada, and Mexico are secretly planning to merge; a hypothetical North American currency union; and whether he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bohemian Grove.)
Franchi has also repeatedly endorsed the paranoid conspiracy that the government has been building FEMA concentration camps to imprison political opponents. He produced two separate documentaries on the subject, titled Camp FEMA: American Lockdown and Enemy of the State: Camp FEMA Part 2.
According to a 2010 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Franchi was a "regular speaker at Patriot conferences, offering a familiar diet of fears of globalist plotters," warning against a cabal of bankers and elite organizations that secretly control governments.
Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry made a faulty comparison between Chicago and New York City in order to promote conservative opposition to President Obama's proposals to reduce gun violence. While previewing a speech to be delivered by Obama in Chicago, Henry misled by citing the larger number of crime guns seized this year in Chicago compared to New York City to give credence to "conservative critics" who say "gun control may not necessarily be the answer" to reducing gun violence.
HENRY: Now we've looked at the numbers, though, and more than 800 guns have been seized here in Chicago this year, that is nine times what's been seized in New York City and yet there's been 41 gun-related, shooting-related murders in the city. And that's leading conservative critics to say, well wait a second, gun control may not necessarily be the answer, there's a broader problem here.
New York City, the comparison point cited by Henry, has both strong gun laws and a gun homicide rate lower than the national average.*
Henry also ignored the large disparity between New York City and Chicago in terms of the number of illegal firearms annually trafficked into those cities.
Both Chicago and New York City have been effective in preventing a substantial number of firearms that originate in those cities from being used in crime. The city of Chicago does not have any gun stores, although numerous firearms stores operate in the suburbs. In New York City, more than 85 percent of firearms recovered at crime scenes originate from outside of New York state.
Instead, Chicago and New York City crime guns primarily originate from places with weaker gun laws including both intrastate jurisdictions with weaker gun laws and other states with lax gun regulation. New York City and Chicago, however, display significantly different firearms trafficking patterns. In 2011, the latest year of trace data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF), firearms recovered in crimes were trafficked into Chicago at a per capita rate over four and a half times higher than in New York. In New York City, which has a population of 8.2 million, there were 3,980 recoveries, whereas Chicago with a population of 2.7 million had 6,023 recoveries.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott claimed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) "dropped over 94 percent" of instances where an individual failed a criminal background check "after preliminary reviews" in order to discount accurate claims that the background check system has stopped over a million prohibited individuals from obtaining a firearm.
Lott's claim is a willful distortion of how the federal background check system works: once an individual is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) no gun sale occurs, regardless of whether the ATF takes further action.
On to [Senator Chuck] Schumer's second falsehood -- the claim that checks have stopped 1.7 million prohibited sales. In fact, these were only "initial denials," not people prevented from buying guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped over 94 percent of those "initial denials" after preliminary reviews. Further review cleared at least a fifth of the other 6 percent.
Lott would have his audience believe that because ATF does not take further action after most denials that the background check system did not actually stop "1.7 million prohibited sales." This claim is blatantly false as a denial means that the sale cannot be completed.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre wrote that Americans need to buy firearms in order to ensure their "survival" and urged gun owners to join the NRA and buy more weapons in an unhinged February 13 Daily Caller op-ed.
Media Matters has long documented the feedback loop by which the NRA fearmongers about stronger gun laws in order to drive up membership and promote increased firearm sales; gun manufacturers in turn pour millions of dollars into the NRA's coffers.
In his latest op-ed LaPierre took this argument to new levels, arguing that Americans who don't buy firearms risk death from a number of sources:
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face--not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival. It's responsible behavior, and it's time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.
Since the election, millions of Americans have been lining up in front of gun stores, Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops exercising their freedom while they still have it. They are demonstrating they have a mass determination to buy, own and use firearms. Millions of Americans are using market forces like never before to demonstrate their ardent support for our firearm freedoms. That's one of the very best ways we can Stand And Fight.
LaPierre writes that this "Stand and Fight" effort involves a "four-year communications and resistance movement." As part of this effort, LaPierre writes that a stronger NRA is necessary "to resist the coming siege" and states:
Every gun owner should be an active member of the NRA. Every gun owner should be sure that every member of his or her family is an active member. [...]
This begins with remembering to keep your own membership active, or reactivate it if it has lapsed. It means reminding yourself, "I have a son and daughter who aren't members and should be." It means reaching out to your hunting and shooting friends and personally telling them why it's so important that they join the NRA now, during this time of peril.
Renewing an NRA membership for one year costs $35; lifetime memberships cost $1,000.
Ted Nugent, a National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist with a long record of virulent, inflammatory commentary, attended the February 12 State of the Union speech as a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX).
Nugent's attendance received widespread media attention, largely due to his April 2012 statement that if President Obama were to be re-elected, he would "either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
Here are five moments from Nugent's State of the Union media tour:
Congressman Paralyzed By Gunfire Has "S**t For Brains." Nugent's attendance drew criticism from Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who was paralyzed in a gun accident as a teenager and had urged other members of Congress to invite those touched by gun violence to attend the State of the Union. At a press conference prior to the speech, Nugent reportedly responded:
"He probably has s**t for brains," he said of Langevin.
"I couldn't be more proud of myself, what I stand for, and for this pompous ass to claim that he cares more about a family that lost a child than I do is a perfect example of the brain dead critics of Ted Nugent," he said."
Those Attending The Speech Whose Lives Were Touched By Gun Violence Are "Pawns." In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nugent explained that he wanted to attend the speech to counter the influence of the survivors of gun violence and family members of victims who had been invited by other members of Congress:
"The State of the Union would be stacked with pawns, friends of [President Barack] Obama, a lot of props, to further the president's anti-gun agenda," Nugent, who owns a ranch in Texas, said in an interview. "I'm a gun guy. I've never been without a gun."