Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.
According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.
The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."
Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":
But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":
Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.
Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.
Fox News contributor and Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich made the unfounded claim that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano lied about her knowledge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms' Operation Fast and Furious, a failed gun trafficking sting. This accusation is a serious one, as Napolitano has testified under oath before Congress that she was unaware of the ATF program while it was ongoing.
Pavlich's claim, which centers around the fact that Napolitano has a relationship with the former U.S. attorney involved in Fast and Furious, is entirely speculative and is unsupported by a recent independent investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General. The report concluded, "The DHS Secretary did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious, its flawed methodology, or that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had assigned an [Homeland Security Investigations] special agent to the task force until mid-March 2011" when the existence of the operation was public knowledge.
But according to Pavlich it is "implausible" that Napolitano didn't know about Fast and Furious while the operation was ongoing because of her "personal and professional relationship" with former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who was involved in Fast and Furious. From the March 25 edition of Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON, HOST: So you do not believe that it's feasible that Janet Napolitano did not know about this before she said she did?
PAVLICH: It really is implausible that Janet Napolitano is getting off scot-free with this report. Let me tell you why. Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who was in charge of the Department of Justice side of Operation Fast and Furious in Arizona, has a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Janet Napolitano. He served as her staffer when Janet Napolitano was the attorney general in Arizona, as her chief of staff when she was governor of Arizona, followed her into Washington D.C. as her advisor for Homeland Security for a year before being appointed back to U.S. Attorney by President Obama. At the same time he was in Arizona he was serving on Attorney General Eric Holder's advisory board and he was with Janet Napolitano two days after the murder of [U.S. Border Patrol agent] Brian Terry in Arizona and yet this report claims they never talked about this case. But it seems as if Janet Napolitano would ask about it at least.
Pavlich's claim that Napolitano is lying about her knowledge of Fast and Furious is entirely premised on an assumption about the relationship between Napolitano and Burke and is plainly contradicted by the DHS OIG report which found no evidence that Napolitano had any knowledge of the operation prior to what she indicated in testimony before Congress.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who writes a regular column for the NRA's America's 1st Freedom magazine, complained about the enforcement rate of federal gun laws during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, even as his organization lobbies for policies that make these laws harder to administer.
During his March 24 appearance, LaPierre stated, "If you're the President and the Vice President and the Attorney General, and your job is to enforce these laws ... and you don't do it, you bear some responsibility":
Despite the NRA's attempts to hinder enforcement of federal gun laws, a recent report shows positive trends in federal gun prosecutions. According to the Transactional Records Clearing House, a Syracuse University program that tracks federal data, gun prosecutions increased in 2012 and "[d]espite the recent ups and downs, federal [weapons] prosecutions today are a great deal higher than in the pre-9/11 era."
Even so, the NRA has a lengthy track record of frustrating federal gun law enforcement, primarily through attempts to weaken the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the federal law enforcement agency responsible for initiating investigations into federal gun law violations.
Frequent Fox News guest Lars Larson made the spurious claims that a recently enacted New York gun law forces siblings to run background checks on each other when transferring weapons and would allow a mental health professional to report patients who they "don't trust" to prohibit them from purchasing a gun.
In fact, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (SAFE) expands background checks to private firearm sales but exempts immediate family members from performing checks. The legislation also requires mental health professionals to report individuals "likely to engage in conduct that could seriously harm the patient him/herself or others" to the authorities so that the patient's information can be crosschecked with gun ownership databases. It does not, however, prohibit individuals from owning a firearm because of a mental health provider's vague suspicions.
Larson made incorrect statements about the SAFE Act on the March 22 edition of America Live on Fox News:
Larson falsely claimed that SAFE would give mental health professionals the ability to report patients that they simply "don't trust" and suggested that the legislation could be broadened prohibit gun ownership for veterans with "mild PTSD."
While the SAFE Act does create a new reporting requirement for mental health professionals, Larson greatly exaggerated its scope. The legislative memo that accompanied SAFE explained that the law creates a reporting requirement for patients likely to harm themselves or others and extends outpatient mental health treatment for individuals discharged from Office of Mental Hygiene hospitals:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent made inflammatory comments about President Obama and said Cubans "haven't figured out personal hygiene" during an appearance on an online radio show hosted by 9/11 truther and conspiracy theorist Pete Santilli.
Santilli, who has promoted conspiracy theories relating to the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six educators dead, does little to hide the fact that he is a conspiracy theorist. The recorded introduction to his radio show says that it is broadcast from "FEMA region nine" and that the show's purpose is to counter "the New World Order, the global elite and their eugenics agenda."
In an article posted on his website, Santilli shared a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook shooting created by "911 truth Switzerland" that the massacre was a "satanic sacrifice" and posted images to his website that suggest the shooting was predicted by a map seen in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
Nugent himself has spread false information about Sandy Hook, claiming in his regular column at birther website WND that an assault weapon was not used in the massacre. Nugent's claim that the shooter used handguns originates from a video frequently promoted by conspiracy theorists who believe Sandy Hook may have been a government hoax.
In addition to pushing Sandy Hook conspiracies, Santilli links to a series of videos on his website that promote the fringe theory of Judy Wood that the Twin Towers were brought down by a "high-tech energy weapon" possibly fired from space. Santilli also promotes the work of William Cooper, an anti-government conspiracy theorist who was killed in 2001 after opening fire on law enforcement agents.
Here are five outrageous moments from Nugent's appearance on The Pete Santilli Show:
In a column for birther website WND, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent blamed gun violence on leftists and advanced a number of false arguments about gun policy, including the long-debunked claim that higher gun availability leads to lower gun crime.
Expressing support for armed teachers in schools, Nugent claimed that gun violence was the product of "anti-gun leftist policies":
The left has lied for decades about guns because they hate guns, despise the Second Amendment and blame the NRA families for crime and violence in our cities.
Truth is, it is the socialist stooges who are responsible for violence. It is their policies that prevent good guys from arming and protecting themselves and creates the big lie of "gun free" slaughter zones.
It isn't just anti-gun leftist policies that have enabled thugs to breed and prosper. The violence on America's streets is the result of a number of other leftist big-government policies that have worked to destroy families and entire communities by discouraging accountability and rewarding dangerous behavior.
That's the turbo destructo modus operandi of the socialists: Intentionally destroy something and then claim the solution to fix it is always more government, more laws, more control and less freedom.
Nugent concluded his piece by claiming that "Leftist stooges ... don't care one bit about protecting kids":
Good people want to protect our children. Leftist stooges want to create conditions for evil to flourish. They don't care one bit about protecting kids.
Never trust leftist goons. They will put you and your children at risk to advance their socialist, anti-freedom agenda.
Nugent's piece is peppered with untrue statements about gun violence. For example, Nugent blamed "socialist stooges" for creating "'gun free' slaughter zones," when most mass shootings that have occurred since January 2009 took place where guns were allowed to be carried.
The National Rifle Association's fearmongering over the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has reached a zenith, with its media representatives claiming that passing the treaty would result in "192 other countries to tell[ing] us what our gun control laws ought to be," while not passing the treaty would result in "even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment."
Negotiations are currently taking place on the treaty, which aims to prevent the diversion of weapons to human-rights abusers in order to reduce the estimated 500,000 deaths that occur worldwide each year as a result of armed violence.
While the NRA routinely trumpets - and fundraises off of - the baseless conspiracy that the treaty is actually an Obama administration plot to disarm Americans, the text of the treaty proposal plainly states that it seeks to regulate the international trade in arms and not nations' domestic gun policies. Far from meddling in America's domestic gun affairs as the NRA claims, the treaty actually seeks to implement on an international scale arms trade standards already in place in the United States.
The latest claims from the NRA on the treaty came during the March 19 edition of the NRA's Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel when NRA News investigative journalist Ginny Simone interviewed Fox News contributor and NRA advisor John Bolton. During that interview, Bolton and Simone suggested that while it would be a disaster for the Second Amendment if the treaty were enacted, it would be even worse if it wasn't.
SIMONE: But you know John, they claim this is the final conference. So here's a what if. What if it doesn't get by this conference? And what if it doesn't get by the General Assembly and the U.N. decides, or the countries, the member states at the U.N., decide to go outside? Is that even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment?
BOLTON: Well I think it is. And it actually allows more freedom for those who have an international control agenda to pursue.
A National Rifle Association-authored opinion piece in The Hill is rife with misleading claims about legislation that aims to expand background checks for gun sales and fix current deficiencies in the background check system.
Chris Cox, a regular columnist and top lobbyist for the NRA, claimed in an op-ed that proposed legislation to expand background checks would create a national gun registry and "criminalize" transfers of firearms between family members. In fact, expanded background check legislation reported to the Senate on March 12, known as the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013, contains an exception for transfers between family members and federal law already prohibits the establishment of a national gun registry. Cox also misled about the effectiveness of the current background check system as an argument against making improvements.
In his March 18 column titled, "A universally bad idea," Cox claimed, "A mandate for truly 'universal' background checks would put the federal government squarely in the middle of every sale, loan or gift of a firearm between private individuals. In other words, it would criminalize all private firearms transfers, even between family members or friends who have known each other all of their lives."
The Fix Gun Checks Act, the leading piece of background check legislation, would require a criminal background check for nearly every gun sale to occur with some important exceptions. The legislation exempts "bona fide gifts between spouses, between parents and their children, between siblings, or between grandparents and their grandchildren" from the background check requirement. Other exemptions waive the background check requirement for temporary transfers for hunting and other sporting purposes.
The exemptions laid out in the Fix Gun Checks Act mirror the Obama administration's policy proposal on reducing gun violence, which called for background check legislation with "common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."
In addition to expanding background checks, the Fix Gun Checks Act also aims to improve the background check system by using a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize states to submit disqualifying records into the background check system that are currently missing.
Fox News host Sean Hannity used prior comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about her past gun ownership to claim that her proposed assault weapons ban would deny Americans the same gun rights that Feinstein herself bragged about enjoying. In fact, the .38 caliber revolver Feinstein previously carried after being attacked by terrorists in the 1970s would not be banned under her proposal.
Feinstein turned her revolver over to police in 1982, citing the shooting deaths of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk as the impetus. [The Washington Post, 7/31/82 via Nexis] Feinstein, who was president of the Board of Supervisors at the time, discovered Moscone and Milk after they had been shot by ex-supervisor Dan White, and later described the incident as "a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy."
On the March 18 edition of his show, Hannity played a clip from a 1995 U.S. Senate hearing on terrorism where Feinstein described how she carried a gun in the 1970s and claimed she was "bragging" about her prior gun ownership:
HANNITY: Now the interesting part, with all this gun control talk. You, for example, in New York City, very few people have the right to carry a weapon. It's almost impossible to get a carry permit in New York City. So she's not affording her fellow Americans the same right that she was bragging about back then.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards complained about the arrest of New York linen mogul George Bardwil on illegal gun possession charges, even though Bardwil is currently under indictment for felony domestic abuse and is therefore prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
Edwards' defense of Bardwil demonstrates how the NRA claims that existing gun laws should be better enforced while simultaneously undermining the enforcement of the federal prohibition on firearm possession by domestic abusers.
On the March 15 edition of Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel, Edwards cited news reports in The Washington Times and The New York Post that described how Bardwil was arrested after police reviewed footage of Bardwil using a handgun that was not registered to him to scare off a would-be burglar at his Manhattan residence. New York City law requires that handgun owners register their weapons with the city.
During the segment, Edwards suggested that in New York, "you are still looking at three years in prison for acting in self-defense in your own home," even though the actual charge relates to Bardwil's alleged "criminal possession of a weapon" and not his conduct when confronting the would-be burglar.
Edwards also described the situation as "pretty awful" and said, "I thought we lived in the United States of America." He concluded by suggesting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could prove that he was not "anti-gun" by convincing the district attorney to not pursue charges against Bardwil:
EDWARDS: Mayor Bloomberg still has the, well I'll use the word tenacity, this is a family friendly show. Still has the tenacity and the gall to say he is not anti-gun. If that is the case, why don't you call up your buddy the DA, chew him out, and get those charges dropped against George Bardwil?
Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
A top executive at a Colorado newspaper has sparked controversy after he sent an email to a state senator opposing legislative efforts to strengthen gun laws that the legislator took as a threat of retaliation by the paper.
Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain, sent a March 3 email to State Sen. Angela Giron (D) in which he highlighted his position with the paper and said he opposed legislation to strengthen the state's gun laws. Giron had been undecided on the legislative package under discussion, but ultimately voted for the five bills which passed the state Senate on March 11.
The email from Stafford, sent on his official Chieftain email account, stated: "I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom ... I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines and ownership transfers because I think they're poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment."
Stafford denies that his email was intended to intimidate Giron. But Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of the Chieftain, criticized Stafford for failing to clearly indicate his complaints were his own opinion in the email in which he emphasized his role at the paper.
"A person who works for us should identify this as their personal opinion and he did not state those words in his email, 'this is my personal opinion' and he probably should have," Rawlings told Media Matters.
Giron told KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, "You don't use work e-mails to send personal stuff out and you certainly don't send and he's literally typed in his name, general manager of The Chieftain and a gun owner. I didn't even know his name so if he didn't send it from The Chieftain, if he didn't say he was the general manager, if he didn't say he was in charge of the newsroom, it probably wouldn't have even been noted."
Stafford's email also did not sit well with Colorado Senate President John Morse, who raised concerns during an appearance on Friday with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, stating, "He threatened her with how he's going to cover her and then followed through, really, she was on the paper and the front page for practically a week straight."
The dispute comes during a highly charged gun debate in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, during which state legislators who support stronger firearms laws have been subjected to intimidation and threats.
Gun researcher John Lott's chapter on firearms in his new book titled, At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over The Edge?, is filled with inaccurate claims about guns and firearm policy. Lott makes a range of misleading or blatantly false statements, including that the worst school shootings in the world have not occurred in the United States and that concealed carry laws help prevent mass shootings.
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