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
On the morning of Saturday, April 14, 2012, things were going well for the National Rifle Association. The gun rights organization's annual meeting was in full swing. Bloggers crowed about record attendance at the St. Louis, Missouri event. Friday's "Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum" went off without a hitch--all 13 featured speakers were Republican men. Barack Obama was called a "post-American President," "incompetent," and the most "radically liberal" president since Jimmy Carter. But the most incendiary comments about the president had yet to come.
On Saturday afternoon, Ted Nugent, a member of the NRA's Board of Directors, addressed the NRA faithful. Nugent implored NRA members to support the Republican ticket in the fall, declaring, "Your goal should be to be able to get a couple of thousand people, per person who's here, to vote for Mitt Romney in November." After that rather innocuous endorsement, Nugent turned his sights on President Obama, and things quickly spiraled out of control.
"If that dead Marine isn't worth it to you to demand that the enemies in the White House are ousted, then you probably ought to just move to France," ranted Nugent. He continued, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. Why are you laughing? Do you think that's funny? That's not funny at all. I'm serious as a heart attack." Nugent then characterized the Obama administration as "vile," "evil," and "America-hating," before concluding his diatribe with a call for the audience to "ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats] heads off in November."
For some reason The New York Times decided to give a trend piece on concealed carry clothing for the "fashion aware gun owner" prime placement on the front page of today's paper. Shockingly, the Times decided that the piece was not complete without commentary from economist and gun researcher John Lott:
After a campaign by gun rights advocates, 37 states now have ''shall issue'' statutes that require them to provide concealed-carry permits if an applicant meets legal requirements, like not being a felon. (A handful of other states allow the concealed carrying of handguns without a permit). By contrast, in 1984 only 8 states had such statutes, and 15 did not allow handgun carrying at all, said John Lott, a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities, including the University of Chicago. ...
A majority of states have long allowed the open carrying of handguns, said Mr. Lott, who also provided the data on gun permits. But the reality, said Mr. Lott and other gun experts, is that people do not want to show others that they are carrying a weapon or invite sharp questioning from the police.
It's curious that the Times went to Lott for comment, given that the paper has previously noted that studies of his work "have found serious flaws in his data and methodology."
Lott first gained fame in the 1990s for his claim that the passage of laws allowing for the concealed carry of handguns causes levels of violent crime to drop -- a claim that hassince been debunked. Lott has since been convincingly alleged to have fabricated data to claim that 98 percent of defensive gun uses don't involve the firing of a weapon, cited data that doesn't exist to claim that the end of the assault weapons ban reduced murders, altered blog posts after the fact to eliminate false claims for which he had been criticized, and invented facts that don't appear in a study he cited, among other instances of fabricated, misrepresented, and sloppy research.
Notably, as the Times noted in 2006, Lott "acknowledged in 2003 using the online pseudonym 'Mary Rosh' for more than three years to attack his critics and praise his own work."
Was there really no one else the Times could have found to provide data on how many states allowed concealed carry permits in the 1980s? And does the Times truly think that describing Lott as a "researcher of gun culture" is sufficient?
The fallout continues over the American Legislative Exchance Council's support of the National Rifle Association's "Kill at Will" self-defense laws. On his RedState.com site, CNN contributor Erick Erickson reported today that an "NRA representative took issue with ALEC getting rid of his public safety section" at last Wednesday's weekly conservative discussion hosted by NRA board member Grover Norquist.
Last Tuesday ALEC announced that they were eliminating their Public Safety and Elections task force, which drew fire for its role in promoting NRA-backed gun laws and voter restrictions, and refocusing solely on economic legislation. Over the previous week at least 10 companies had left the organization in the wake of Color of Change's campaign to encourage corporations to end their association with the group due to their promotion of those laws.
At Grover Norquist's Wednesday meeting a discussion about the ongoing assault against ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, came up. Multiple sources (there are hundreds in the room) tell me that the NRA representative took issue with ALEC getting rid of his public safety section. That section has drafted a model "stand your ground" law, which Florida passed.
The NRA representative claimed that if ALEC was going to run away from the fight on these public safety issues, ALEC might just run away from other issues too, e.g. immigration.
Erickson further reported that an ALEC representative present at the meeting complained that the NRA had refused to help his organization push back on attacks they were receiving.
|NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at the |
NRA's 2012 annual meeting.
ST. LOUIS -- The hotel minibus had barely left the airport when the guy to my left dropped the Obama assassination joke.
There were eight of us on our way to the National Rifle Association's annual convention downtown, rolling past a domino-row of highway billboards advertising the event's "Acres of Guns and Gear." The banter suggested the minibus crew was microcosmic of the NRA's claimed four million members, more than 70,000 of whom made the election-year pilgrimage. There was a soft-spoken father from Long Island and his teenage daughter headed to the University of Akron on a Division-I marksmanship scholarship. There were retired New Hampshire hunters from NRA families going back generations. There was a Russian immigrant whose only hobby is fully automatic machine guns.
And there was a professional Second Amendment extremist named Stephen Burke. An Endowment Life Member of the NRA and an attorney from Springfield, Massachusetts, Burke specializes in getting guns into the hands of ex-cons whose licenses have been revoked or downgraded for criminal activity.
Burke is a loud and boastful retired lance corporal who displays a photo of himself with NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre on his professional website. The only thing he abhors more than gun control is silence. When a conversation about former New York Governor George Pataki's pro-gun record entered a lull, he asked the group what sounded like an American history riddle or piece of trivia: "What do Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have in common?"
The collective intelligence of the minibus was stumped. After a few beats, he delivered the answer: "Nothing. Yet."
Most of the bus erupted in laughter, but the father from Long Island looked out the window, embarrassed.
Parents who want to shield their children from presidential assassination jokes should consider vacation destinations other than NRA conventions. The group's leadership has in recent years expertly cultivated a very profitable hatred and paranoia among its membership. This fact was on majestic display in St. Louis, where NRA officials painted the president as a dedicated "enemy of freedom" quietly implementing the early stages of a master gun confiscation plan. The convention marked the opening salvo in the group's campaign to defeat Obama and his gun control allies in November. The official battle cry for this effort, unveiled on Friday, is "All In."
The NRA's election-year slogan is meant to evoke a bit of the Wild West tough guy imagery that remains central to American gun culture. The phrase comes from poker, the card game of the frontier, and the desired picture is that of a noble, steely-eyed gun lobby pushing its mountain of chips across the table of America's destiny, betting everything on one last high-stakes hand. In NRA land, where impending Second Amendment Apocalypse is a state of mind and a business strategy, the next election is always the final hand. As he did in 2008, chief NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre describes 2012 as "the most important election of our lifetime."
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has announced that they are eliminating their Public Safety and Elections task force, which has drawn fire for its central role in promoting legislation similar to the Florida "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law that experts say may prevent the successful prosecution of Trayvon Martin's killer.
In a statement issued on behalf of the group's Legislative Board of Directors, ALEC national chairman David Frizzell said that in a meeting last week the legislative board unanimously agreed to "eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy."
Last month Media Matters was the first to report that shortly after Florida passed their 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law at the behest of the National Rifle Association, a nearly identical bill was adopted by ALEC as model legislation. NRA lobbyist and former NRA president Marion Hammer, who was the driving force behind Florida's bill, was the one who presented it before the Criminal Justice Task Force (which became the Public Safety and Elections task force).
Since ALEC adopted Florida's bill as model legislation, similar statutes have passed in dozens of states, with Public Safety and Elections resident fellow Michael Hough acknowledging in a 2008 interview with NRA News that ALEC and NRA were working together to get those bills passed. The NRA and ALEC have also teamed up to push bills allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns on college campuses and banning governors and local officials from seizing firearms during emergencies.
Following Media Matters' report, ALEC's ties to "Stand Your Ground" laws have drawn increasing scrutiny from the media and progressive organizations. In late March "a broad coalition of progressive groups -- including the NAACP, the Urban League, Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way and MoveOn.org" held a protest of ALEC's ties to those laws outside the group's Washington, DC headquarters. At least 10 companies have left the organization in the wake of Color of Change's campaign to encourage corporations to end their association with ALEC due to its work on "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID legislation.
In response, ALEC has apparently decided to end its work on those issues, eliminating a key NRA ally.
At an event during last weekend's National Rifle Association annual meeting, NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said that the group doesn't "apologize" for its support for "Stand Your Ground" self-defense legislation in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, adding, "We will defend our efforts. We will defend those laws."
Cox's comments came during an appearance at Friday's workshop on "Grassroots Campaigning in a National Election Year" attended by Media Matters. The head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action was asked by an NRA district organizer to defend the NRA's support of "Stand Your Ground" legislation given the controversy currently swirling around such laws.
COX: There's support across the board for the Second Amendment, there's support across the board, even post-media hysteria over the last few weeks, there's support across the board for legitimate self-defense. We don't apologize for supporting -- whether you call it a national right or a God-given right, legislation that recognizes our right to defend ourselves. The fact that other groups and other business entities and others are supportive of that concept of constitutional freedom, whether they're concerned about it from a Second Amendment standpoint or an economic freedom standpoint, that's not my position to be, you can call them and ask them, that's not my position to take, for debate, for them. We stand in strong defense of any effort to allow law-abiding, good people to defend themselves against criminal attack. We don't apologize for that. It's not a problem in this country. We will defend our efforts. We will defend those laws, and if others want to join that fight we will.
During a Saturday speech at the annual meeting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre attacked the media for their coverage of Martin's killing, accusing them of "manufactur[ing] controversy for ratings." The NRA's role in helping to author Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and promoting similar laws across the country has in recent days become a focus of media attention.
From the April 16 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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The National Rifle Association has been silent on the killing of Trayvon Martin and the laws it has helped pass that may prevent the successful prosecution of the man who shot him. Until now.
During his speech this morning at the group's annual meeting, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre finally addressed the controversy -- by attacking the media for covering the case, claiming they are "manufactur[ing] controversy for ratings."
LAPIERRE: But the media, they don't care. Everyday victims aren't celebrities. They don't draw ratings, don't draw sponsors. But sensational reporting from Florida does. In the aftermath of one of Florida's many daily tragedies, my phone has been ringing off the hook. Now, the National Rifle Association will not comment on any story without a full understanding and a thorough understanding of all the facts. But if I were to answer a call from Diane Sawyer or Chris Matthews or Brian Williams or Rachel Maddow, let me tell you right now what I'd ask them.
Where's your outrage? Where's your outrage about Willie Brewer III from Akron, Ohio? OrDerrick Linkhorn from Decatur, Georgia? Or Daryl Adams from New York City? Or what about Antonio Duff? Just this past Monday afternoon, about the same time I got here into town, he was killed and murdered. And he's not the only young man murdered in this city this past week. You reporters, you don't know their names. You don't care about those people. You manufacture controversy for ratings. You don't care about the truth, and the truth is the national news media in this country is a national disgrace, and you all know it. And so do Americans throughout the country, and it's getting worse every single day, and your dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.
In an article entitled "No gun-control debate over Trayvon," Politico reports: "Despite an arrest this week in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, new gun-control measures aren't even being debated in Washington." The article goes on to comment that "a federal debate" over the Kill at Will statute that may prevent the successful prosecution of Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, "is strangely lacking since there is no federal equivalent of the state laws."
Politico portrays this as evidence of the power of the gun lobby and weakness of the gun violence prevention community. But there is a good reason why no federal legislation to override such state statutes hasn't been produced, and thus why there is no "federal debate" -- such a statute would almost certainly be unconstitutional.
Thanks to the efforts of the National Rifle Association, laws similar to Florida's statute have been passed in dozens of states. Why have they focused on states rather than pushing for federal legislation? Because such self-defense laws are fundamentally part of the state criminal code, acting on the circumstances in which homicides, assaults, and manslaughters can be prosecuted.
In United States v. Lopez, the Supreme Court overturned a federal statute banning possession of firearms at public schools, finding that failure to do so would "convert congressional Commerce Clause authority to a general police power of the sort held only by the State." In their brief to the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration acknowledged that "States historically have been sovereign" in issues of "general criminal law." An attempt to overturn state self-defense laws would almost certainly run afoul of the same problem.
Meanwhile, Politico ignores how Martin's killing has led to a debate over such laws at the state level, where such activities are properly focused. As BloombergBusinessweek reported last month, the NRA is facing "mounting challenges" in its effort to promote such laws across the country: "Legislation in New York and Iowa stalled in committees as lawmakers in Georgia, Texas and other states said they would try to repeal laws already on the books."
Those efforts will receive a boost from a broad coalition of civil rights groups calling for such repeals. On Wednesday New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a national campaign to overturn the state statutes, joining the NAACP, National Urban League, ColorOfChange and National Action Network to promote a "Second Chance on Shoot First." The group will encourage "politicians who originally supported these reckless laws to examine the facts, listen to law enforcement and prosecutors, and join other elected officials in reforming or repealing these laws."
Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, in which an armed student shot to death 32 students and faculty of the school and wounded 17 more before killing himself. It subsequently came to light that under federal law, the shooter "should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment," but was nonetheless able to pass a federal background check and purchase firearms due to a loophole in the law.
In response to the shooting, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law "the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years" in order to close that loophole and provide additional funding for states to update mental health records in the gun background check database. Despite this law, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has pointed out that millions of such records are still missing from the system.
The Washington Times, on the other hand, has a different response to the tragedy. In an editorial this morning, they call for allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto college campuses:
Five years ago Monday, 32 students and teachers lost their lives in a shooting at Virginia Tech. Earlier this month, seven students were killed and three wounded at a small California Christian university. These tragedies exemplify the failure of "gun-free" school zones and are evidence for the need to overturn concealed carry bans on campuses so law-abiding citizens can defend themselves against maniacs. [...]
In Virginia, where emotions are still raw following the Blacksburg massacre, concealed carry is permitted, but college restrictions still exist. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in January that while hidden firearms are allowed on campus grounds, authorities can prohibit them inside school buildings and at public gatherings. Virginia Tech adopted the regulation in March.
The Second Amendment grants Americans the right to keep and bear arms. Where that right is respected, security prevails. Gun-free colleges risk becoming free-fire zones for troubled individuals. Common sense dictates that responsible gun bearers should be allowed on campus.
The Times' commentary mirrors that of the National Rifle Association, which has since the Virginia Tech shootings worked with their partners at the American Legislative Exchange Council to promote such laws across the country.