The National Rifle Association's media arm is defending a Maryland sheriff who warned that the enforcement of gun laws could lead to a civil war between his county and the federal government.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made national headlines in September after telling a local news station, "As long as I'm the sheriff in this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my citizens of their right to bear arms. I can tell you this, if they attempt to do that, it would be an all-out civil war, no question about it."
According to USA Today, Lewis made similar comments to a Delaware NBC affiliate, warning of a civil war with the federal government over the enforcement of a hypothetical ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In response to Lewis' comments, gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) launched a petition calling for the revocation of Lewis' Maryland Police Training Commission certification. According to CSGV, "It is difficult to see how a law enforcement officer who is threatening to wage war with the United States government meets any recognized standards of public service. In the wake of his threatening comments, Sheriff Lewis should not be given the responsibility of training law enforcement officers in Maryland."
The NRA's media arm, NRA News, responded to CSGV's petition, terming it "pathetic" and downplaying the inflammatory nature of Lewis' comments.
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that CSGV was trying to "silence" Lewis "because of the sheriff speaking up the way he has." Edwards also offered a two-fold defense of Lewis' civil war comments that sought to downplay their nature.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator Ted Nugent suggested that President Obama is not a Christian and touted Republicans as "the only chance we have" to kill "the wolf at the door" during the 2014 midterm elections.
In an October 8 column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent, claiming to speak on behalf of "we the people," also conspiratorially questioned how unaccompanied children are arriving at the U.S. - Mexico border and wrote that the "vast majority" of those in poverty have "every imaginable luxury known to man":
Now more than ever, we the people are painfully aware that those subject to the separation of powers have become nothing more than a conspiratorial gang against us.
We refuse to believe that all those children showing up at our southern border just happen to make that near impossible journey all on their own.
We don't believe that our president is a Christian.
We can't believe our government squawks about so many living in so-called poverty when the vast majority of such poor people have cellphones and every imaginable luxury known to man.
CHICAGO -- The national gun lobby in Washington, D.C. is a big machine, motored by a multi-billion-dollar industry. The sprawling network of hardcore activists remaking the political gunscape in statehouses and the courts, on the other hand, is small. How small? It's so small that when Jeff Knox stepped up to a microphone at the premiere gun-activist conclave and referred to "Dad," no explanation was needed. Everyone at the Gun Rights Policy Conference last weekend knew who "Dad" was. Dad was Neal Knox, the hardline National Rifle Association board member who until his death in 2005 used his newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, as a machine gun nest aimed at his NRA colleagues, ready to fire at the first sign of weakness or perfidy in defense of the Second Amendment. For holding the gun lobby to his iron standard without mercy, "Dad" became a godfather to the activists who gather every September at an airport hotel under the banner of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Knox had the full power of the family name behind him on Sunday afternoon when he stepped to a microphone, invoked his father, and accused another gun-rights legend, GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb, of betraying the movement. The alleged betrayal concerned Gottlieb's writing and backing of an initiative on the Washington State ballot in November. Few Americans have heard of bill 591, but the controversy it has stoked within the gun-rights world tells us much about fissures within its ranks.
Gottlieb's controversial bill is a direct response to another initiative on the ballot, 594, which expands background checks to include sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It is polling high and expected to pass. If Washington votes "yes," it will join the growing list of states that have taken gun policy into their own hands in the wake of Newtown. Both the NRA and Gottlieb's organization oppose 594. But Gottlieb has done more than just denounce it. He has raised more than a million dollars to promote an alternative bill, 591, which would prohibit the state from ever "requir[ing] background checks on the receipt of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required."
Can you spot the offending language? It's this: "unless a uniform national standard is required."
For Jeff Knox and much of the gun-rights movement, to even accept the future possibility of federal background check legislation constitutes apostasy. Some of the groups represented at the GRPC are the ones who, along with stalwarts like the NRA and Larry Pratt's Gun Owners of America, mobilized in April 2013 to torpedo the Manchin-Toomey Senate bill, which would have closed background check loopholes across the country. After looking at the polling data, Gottlieb initially supported Manchin-Toomey as a way for the movement to get some "goodies" (such as relaxing laws on interstate gun sales) while supporting something that he thought was going to pass anyway. (Gottlieb later dropped his support when Chuck Schumer stripped the bill of Gottlieb's prized "goodie".)
Gottlieb's early support for the Senate bill earned him epitaphs like "sellout" and "traitor." But it's now looking like he understood something his critics did not. Steadfast opposition to a federal background-check bill would give rise to a growing and well-funded movement for background-check referenda in the states. In Washington, the coalition behind 594 is supported by a group of wealthy donors, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, the head of the gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety. In his newsletter, Gottlieb describes their efforts as the "Billionaire's Club war against freedom."
So when Knox asked Gottlieb to defend the language of 591 at this year's GRPC, attendees sat up in their seats. After a weekend filled with enough policy weeds to replant the Everglades, the confrontation amounted to high-drama.
With his comb-over, pencil mustache, and brightly colored bowties, Alan Gottlieb has the presence of a harried, slightly eccentric accountant. But the Queens native is no dutiful CPA; he's a convicted tax felon who does not flinch easily on questions of strategy, let alone challenges to his commitment to the Second Amendment. In the 1970s, while still in his twenties, Gottlieb began organizing the legal workshops that grew into the brain trust that won the landmark Supreme Court rulings of Heller and McDonald, which enshrined gun ownership in the home as an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. At the podium in Chicago, Gottlieb welcomed the chance to deliver a blunt message to the background-check dead-enders who had been calling him a traitor since Manchin-Toomey.
"The bottom line is that" the background check issue "is different" from other gun gun policy debates, Gottlieb explained, pointing to public opinion. "What issues do you find that get 70 to 90 percent of the people to agree on anything?"
After Knox asserted that he doesn't believe polls showing support for background checks, Gottlieb responded, "You may not believe the number, but I've seen well over 500 polls all across the country over the last six years on background checks. They all say the same damn thing. They're not wrong, believe me."
Knox countered with another reality: many gun groups, especially those in the referendum states of the southwest, are never going to sign off on background checks, ever, at any level. In Arizona, "I wouldn't be able to get our members to proactively concede anything," said Knox. His hardline solution is to "let them go ahead and deal with the consequences."
By "them," Knox means the feds. In the purist view, the best way to deal with any gun law is to dig in, take the hits, and ignore the law, forcing the government to "deal with the consequences." Knox said he wished the NRA had taken that approach with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulated machine guns and banned short-barrel rifles.
To Gottlieb, that's a doomed strategy. In any case, he stressed, "the Bloomberg people" know gun groups will never support background check legislation, so they can "knock our teeth out and there's nothing we can do about it." He later added, "They've got us hogtied because they know we're not going to change. I'm being honest with you. I'm not expecting you to change, but that's why we're going to lose."
When subsequent questioners echoed Knox, Gottlieb reminded his audience that even without a background check system in place, there are good reasons not to sell guns to strangers. "If you're stupid enough to sell a gun to someone you don't know, forget the criminal liability -- what about the civil liability?" he asked. "What about you getting sued" if the buyer kills someone?
After originally excluding mention of opinion editor David Keene's ongoing relationship with the National Rifle Association in his most recent piece for the paper, the Washington Times quietly added the disclosure after being contacted by Media Matters.
In a September 29 commentary, Keene wrote about the fight over gun legislation in Colorado, echoing the NRA's own messaging in the state. Keene, a former NRA president and current board member, is, according to the Times' own standards, "free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization." But his ongoing relationship with the gun group was originally missing from the column.
At the bottom of the original commentary, which appeared online and was the top-billed opinion piece in the print edition of the conservative paper, the following note was appended: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times."
Media Matters contacted Times editor John Solomon to ask about the omission, only hearing back after the column had been updated to read: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He is a former president and current board member of the National Rifle Association." (Solomon responded that the version he was viewing "has his role as current board member.")
After Keene described participating in the crafting of the NRA's 2014 midterm election strategy in a February 2014 interview with The Washington Examiner, Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp asked Solomon whether Keene's continuing role with the NRA created a conflict of interest on the Times' opinion page.
While acknowledging Keene's ongoing NRA role, Solomon said, "Our ethics rules allow an employee in special circumstances to hold an outside position, if it is pre-approved and the appropriate ethical steps are followed. That's the case with David Keene and his membership on the board of the NRA. We knew when we asked David to be our opinion editor that he would continue on the NRA board. We also knew that his role with the NRA was publicly and extensively known."
Among the "set of rules" that Keene is supposed to follow, Solomon said, "He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization."
Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."
On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.
A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"
In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."
(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)
A donation website that George Zimmerman used to raise money for his legal defense reportedly "lit up" every time Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, according to a profile of the Zimmerman family in GQ.
Reporter Amanda Robb's GQ piece focuses on events following the acquittal of Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges stemming from a February 2012 shooting that left Martin, an unarmed Sanford, Florida, area high school student, dead of a gunshot wound. The shooting brought national attention on Zimmerman and also Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law, which played an important role in Zimmerman's acquittal.
Robb spoke with members of Zimmerman's family, and reported that the only media figure Zimmerman "liked" was Hannity, and that mentions of the Martin shooting on Hannity's Fox News show "lit up" donations to Zimmerman's website:
George hated journalists. He blamed them for turning him into a national villain. There was only one media figure he liked: Hannity. Fortunately, Hannity--and especially Hannity's viewers on Fox News--liked him back. George, whose legal debt was in the seven figures, briefly had a website that accepted PayPal donations, and it lit up every time Hannity mentioned the incident on-air.
Robb also reported that the Zimmerman family now lives in seclusion, citing security concerns, and passes time by "watching Spanish-language telenovelas and Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives and Fox News."
Forbes contributor Frank Miniter published a lengthy column arguing that the gun safety initiatives of Everytown for Gun Safety and the group's founder Michael Bloomberg are "backfiring" without disclosing that he writes for Everytown's primary political opponent, the National Rifle Association.
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, has said he will spend at least $50 million supporting gun safety initiatives this year, including spending on the 2014 midterm elections.*
Miniter's September 25 column offered myriad attacks on Bloomberg and Everytown. Many of the criticisms are in the form of quotations from thoroughly discredited gun researcher John Lott. ("I can't find a single study from Bloomberg's groups that aren't loaded with errors. They have an anti-gun agenda and will lie to achieve it.")
Miniter also wrote, "On the pro-gun side most of the money is coming from the grassroots," and concluded, "Though there are wealthy individuals on the gun-rights side, it's not a stretch to say a few wealthy, out-of-touch billionaires are trying to disarm the people." (The NRA receives millions of dollars from gun manufacturers and other corporations and according to its latest tax documents operated on more than $250 million in revenue in 2012.)
National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent analogized President Obama to a "crack whore" in his latest column for conspiracy website WND.
In a September 24 column, Nugent criticized "politically correct freakzoids" who support animal rights, and suggested that those people were responsible for the election of Obama. Nugent wrote that Obama, "the Chicago community organizer," has been allowed to "increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall":
Unfortunately, in this world of politically correct freakzoids, the inexplicable self-inflicted curse of denial has festered the big lie of so-called animal rights, and these dishonest zealots remain maniacal in their clamor to ban hunting, fishing and trapping.
These are basically the same lying scammers that allowed the Chicago community organizer to weasel his way to the presidency, nearly neuter America's defense system, increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall, abandon security 101 in Benghazi and elsewhere, ignore a gunrunning attorney general, allow an IRS to operate like a third-world gang, unleash U.S. Fish & Wildlife agents to raid Gibson guitars and get away with it, cause America to lose all respect around the world with a foreign policy straight out of the Ann Arbor Hash Bash and cause myriad embarrassments by a government completely out of control.
Setting aside its own lengthy history of paranoid rhetoric, the National Rifle Association has released a new video attacking Americans who oppose the carrying of guns in public as "paranoid" because they are afraid of an "inanimate object."
But research shows that laws allowing concealed guns to be carried in public increase aggravated assaults. The permissive laws also worsen deficiencies in some states' permitting systems, meaning felons and other dangerous individuals are allowed to obtain concealed carry licenses.
In a September 24 NRA News commentary video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "If you are someone who legally carries a gun concealed, you are probably getting tired of being portrayed as paranoid. I know I am."
After touting the supposed virtues of concealed carry, Johnson argued that people who oppose carrying guns in public are "paranoid" because they are afraid of "people who are legally exercising their right to bear arms" and "an inanimate object."
The Washington Times is continuing its shoddy reporting about the federal form for gun background checks by misleadingly claiming gun dealers will lose their licenses if buyers inadvertently make mistakes on the form.
In a September 18 article, the Times' Kelly Riddell reported on a minor change to the form in 2012, in which a question on race and ethnicity was separated into two boxes. Riddell wrote that the change "has become a headache for firearms dealers, as many people either check off one box or the other. Failure to complete them both results in [a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] violation. When a firearm dealer gets audited by the ATF, one violation -- no matter how minor -- is enough reason to revoke a license."
In fact, the ATF can only revoke the license of gun dealers who commit "willful" violations of federal regulations, which in this case, would entail a seller knowingly processing the flawed form. A buyer's simple failure to "check off one box or the other" is insufficient for a license revocation, contrary to Riddell's description.
As pressure to act on a proposal to expand gun background checks in Pennsylvania builds in the state legislature, an error published by Harrisburg NBC affiliate WGAL is providing fodder to the bill's opponents.
Pennsylvania currently only requires buyers of handguns to undergo a criminal background check. Purchasers of long guns such as shotguns and rifles -- including military-style assault weapons -- can buy these weapons without a background check in "private sales." H.B. 1010 would extend the background check requirement to long guns.
Gun violence prevention group Ceasefire PA recently visited the legislature to lobby for the bill. In support of the bill, Ceasefire PA has argued that the proportion of murders with firearms other than handguns in Pennsylvania has more than doubled since 1998 and that long guns are disproportionality used to kill police officers.
In a September 16 article, WGAL sloppily attempted to share Ceasefire PA's argument for expanded background checks, but instead misstated the nature and year of the claim that Ceasefire PA has made:
Cease Fire says FBI figures show the number of murders committed with long guns has doubled since 1996.
In fact, Ceasefire had argued that the proportion of murders committed with guns other than handguns has increased. According to a September joint report from Ceasefire PA and Center for American Progress Action Fund, FBI data indicates that this figure has increased since 1998 from 8 percent to 21 percent:
Right-wing outlets are claiming that the Obama administration is using the standard form for federal gun background checks to engage in "racial profiling" and to find out "who has guns" because the form asks about race and ethnicity. But the form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.
People who buy firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Form 4473, which is processed by the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity.
In a September 16 article, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote that a 2012 revision of Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling." According to Riddell, the change was made by the ATF "[w]ith little fanfare."
The change in the 2012 revision is that race and ethnicity were separated into questions 10.a. and 10.b.:
The National Rifle Association is commenting on NFL player Ray Rice's violent attack on his then-fiancée, speciously claiming that gun safety advocates are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football." This wild attack comes as the NRA is actively opposing legislation in the U.S. Senate to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
The NRA weighed in on controversy surrounding Rice in a September 17 video commentary narrated by NRA News commentator Colion Noir.
Noir sought to contrast how the New Jersey judicial system has treated Rice -- who was allowed to enter a pre-trial intervention program despite video evidence showing him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious -- and the case of Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen.
In 2013, Allen was arrested after being found in possession of a handgun during a traffic stop in New Jersey. Allen's weapon was legally registered in Pennsylvania, where she lived, but she was apparently unaware that New Jersey does not recognize Pennsylvania concealed carry permits.
Due to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that could put Allen in prison for years, critics on the right and left have brought attention to the case as an example of overzealous prosecution. In a recent development, prosecutors are reviewing the charge against Allen to determine if she can avoid jail time and enter a pre-trial intervention program; a seemingly equitable outcome for this inadvertent violation of the law.
While criticizing the manner in which Allen's case has been handled, Noir made a bizarre leap of logic to claim that "all anti-gunners around the world" are "providing an example to young men that it's okay to beat women as long as you can throw a football of course," because of the Ray Rice case. Noir also claimed that "anti-gun utopia" is a world where "a mother of two kids, is faced with three years in jail for trying to protect herself, but isn't afforded the same second chance that some knuckle-dragging hothead who 'Tiger Uppercuts' his fiancée into a momentary coma is given."
The gun industry's trade group is claiming Democratic Massachusetts attorney general candidate Warren Tolman's September 9 primary defeat occurred because of his support for smart gun technology. But the candidate who won the primary also backs smart guns and attacked Tolman during the race for not supporting the technology enough.
In a September 16 column for the "Guns and Gear" section of conservative website The Daily Caller headlined "Leaders Of Smart Gun Mandate Movement Lose Primaries," National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president Larry Keane claimed that Tolman and Massachusetts Democratic congressional candidate John Tierney both lost recent primary races after supporting smart gun technology.
Keane wrote, "Besides their recent primary losses, what other striking similarity exists between these two outliers? Both candidates were staunch supporters of a mandate for so-called 'smart gun' technology. "
One problem: during the campaign Tolman was attacked by opponent Maura Healey after backing away from mandating smart gun technology. According to a July 27 Healey campaign press release, "Democratic candidate for Attorney General Maura Healey today expressed disappointment that her primary opponent is weakening his position on mandating smart gun technology."
Amidst the National Rifle Association's ongoing outreach effort recruiting women, the gun group's radio show ran a segment that dismissed "so many" campus sexual assault cases as "two people being drunk at a party hooking up and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning."
Since the re-launch of the NRA Women's Network in 2013, the NRA has greatly increased its outreach to women, a demographic that is far less likely to own guns than men and more likely to support firearm regulations the NRA opposes. Women are also disproportionately targeted by men with gun violence, often in the domestic violence context.
The September 5 edition of the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, featured a discussion of campus sexual assault that misled on campus sexual assault statistics and suggested women bore some responsibility for being assaulted if they were drinking.
NRA News host Cam Edwards hosted the Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow to discuss a National Public Radio story about men accused of sexual assault on campus who say they did not receive adequate due process during disciplinary proceedings.