Reports that the handgun used by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev originated in Maine should come as no surprise given guns are routinely trafficked from states with weak gun laws to states with stronger gun laws like Massachusetts. Meanwhile, attempts to create a federal law to crack down on gun trafficking have been stifled by the National Rifle Association.
Following the April 15, 2013, bombings that left three dead and hundreds wounded, the Tsarnaev brothers attempted to elude a massive police manhunt. On the evening of April 18 a Ruger handgun was used by the brothers to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier. Hours later the pistol was used again in a firefight that left MBTA officer Richard Donohue seriously wounded. On May 12, Los Angeles Times federal law enforcement and terrorism reporter Richard Serrano reported that the firearm was purchased at a Maine gun store, and "passed" to a well-known Portland, ME gang leader, before being obtained by Tsarnaev.
Massachusetts has the sixth strongest gun laws in the United States and also has the second lowest gun death rate, according to rankings by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. When guns are used in crimes in Massachusetts, they are most often trafficked from other states (although the National Rifle Association's official state affiliate has denied this regularly occurs).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was able to determine the origin of 999 Massachusetts crime guns in 2012; 453 came from in-state while 546 were trafficked from other states. Maine accounted for the second largest number of out of state gun traces after New Hampshire. The top six crime gun importers to Massachusetts -- New Hampshire, Maine, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina -- all received a D or worse grade in the Brady Campaign/LCPGV gun law ranking. Overall the rankings found a correlation between weak gun laws and the exporting of crime guns into states with strong gun laws.
Conservative media are touting a video from the right-wing Media Research Center purporting to show that vendors at gun shows always refuse to sell firearms to felons and other disqualified persons and that legislation to expand the background check system is unnecessary. But according to prior undercover reports, when private sellers at gun shows were not aware they were on camera, a substantial portion agreed to sell guns to people they believed could not legally possess them.
Vendors who have a Federal Firearms License are required to perform background checks on their customers, but so-called private sellers who say they are not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms have no such requirement at gun shows in 33 states. This discrepancy has been termed the "gun show loophole" and is the reason narco-terrorists, illegal gun traffickers and other dangerous individuals seek out unregulated sales at gun shows. The most infamous use of the loophole is the 1999 Columbine High School massacre where all four guns involved were passed through a local gun show by private sellers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has estimated between 25 and 50 percent of vendors at gun shows sell without a background check. Adding sales over the Internet and through newspaper classified adverts, a substantial proportion of firearms are transferred without a background check in the United States. Federal legislation to expand the background check system to cover private sales failed in the Senate last year.
NRA News host Cam Edwards tied the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorist organization Boko Haram to the National Rifle Association's recent annual meeting. According to Edwards, the girls' would-be rescuers are not "Pajama Boy" or fans of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, but instead are men "who look like they just came from the NRA annual meeting."
The NRA frequently interjects itself into seemingly-unrelated situations involving heroism or sacrifice to enhance the NRA's brand. Just days after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, NRA board member Ted Nugent claimed that the heroism of first responders to the attack "represents what the NRA is." A January 2012 NRA fundraising email marked the anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and also featured an image of President John F. Kennedy with the assassinated president's quote, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it." The NRA also used the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks to solicit donations.
From the May 8 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company:
The National Rifle Association has used its media arm to dissuade gun owners from embracing "smart gun" technology through falsehoods and the promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government.
Advances in technology that uses RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other measures to ensure that a gun can only be fired by authorized users have been in the news following a Maryland gun store's failed attempt to bring a smart gun to market.
Engage Armament, a gun store in Rockville, MD, planned to begin sales of the Armatix iP1 handgun -- the first U.S. market-ready smart gun -- but later changed course and apologized for being involved with smart gun technology after receiving death threats from pro-gun activists. An earlier plan by a California gun store to offer the iP1 suffered a similar fate.
In a separate development, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has promised to repeal New Jersey's smart gun law -- which makes adoption of the technology mandatory once smart guns come to market -- if the NRA promises to not interfere with the retail sale of smart guns nor target manufacturers who develop smart gun technologies.
While Armatix produced the first smart gun ready for sale to the public, a 2013 Department of Justice report identified 13 entities -- including gun manufacturers, universities, and other research entities -- working to develop smart gun technology. In its 2015 budget request, DOJ asked for $2 million "to support the Administration's challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology." Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor, has also announced a $1 million competition for the development of "technology that reliably authorizes approved use -- and blocks the unauthorized use -- of firearms."
That the NRA is attacking smart gun technology -- and by doing so putting negative pressure on companies that would develop the technology with the hope of selling guns -- is ironic given the organization's philosophy on firearm sales. In an unhinged February 2013 op-ed that urged NRA members to "stand and fight" against gun safety measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged gun owners to "buy more guns than ever." And during a paranoid 2014 address at the NRA annual meeting LaPierre said, "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want."
A new report from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV) debunks the flawed media narrative that state gun laws have, on balance, loosened nationwide since the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Contrary to this narrative, a May 2 LCPGV report notes, "significant or sweeping" legislation strengthening gun laws has been enacted in eight states since Newtown, compared to four states that have put into law substantial legislation weakening gun laws.
The faulty media narrative on state gun laws emerged from a December 2013 New York Times report that analyzed 1,500 gun bills introduced into state legislatures in the year following Newtown. Of 109 bills that became law, 70 loosened restrictions while 39 strengthened restrictions on firearms.
Mistaking quantity for quality, numerous media reports oversimplified the Times report to misleadingly suggest that Newtown caused gun laws to be weakened. The Washington Post's GovBeat blog cited the Times in an entry that argued "gun control is losing, badly." An editorial by The New York Daily News used the Times data to declare 2013 "another year of the gun."
John Nolte, a columnist for conservative Breitbart.com, wrote that the Times report evidenced "[t]he failure of the mainstream media's months-long crusade to exploit the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary into restrictions against our Second Amendment civil rights." National Review Online's Greg Pollowitz used the Times figures to argue "[i]f the gun-control movement is serious about making legislative changes and not just getting headlines, it needs a new strategy."
The Times report was also featured on cable news. On the December 15, 2013, edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace cited the Times figures to tell Mark Kelly (a gun safety advocate and husband of gun violence survivor former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) that "I think I have to say you have not had much success this past year." The Times report has also been used to push the false narrative on MSNBC, with the most recent citation occurring on April 23.
Bucking the trend, Mother Jones used data on 2013 gun laws and state population figures to demonstrate that "more than 189 million" Americans live under stronger gun laws since Newtown.
INDIANAPOLIS-- The theme of last week's National Rifle Association annual meeting was an odd one: maternity.
It was not an official theme in the way macho slogans like "All In" and "Stand and Fight" have formally defined recent NRA congresses. But it was a thick running thread, one that signals the quickening of a broad shift underway across the gun rights movement, from the gun makers to the grassroots.
Red schwag set the tone. At tables throughout the complex, NRA staffers handed out "I'm an NRA MOM" buttons and t-shirts. At the building's main entrance hung an enormous banner of a woman, looking a little pouty, next to a populist taunt of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently said he would spend big on behalf of the gun safety movement.
While it is unclear if the woman is an NRA mom, she is notably not NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre or board member Ted Nugent. The billboard captures perfectly the NRA's double-pronged messaging campaign of the moment, best summarized as "Glocker Moms against Mayor Mike."
For years the role of women in the politics and business of guns has been growing. We may look back at 2014 as the year it flipped. In Indianapolis, women constituted a full quarter of NRA attendees for the first time -- up to a five-fold increase over the past decade, according to the group.
The NRA is pivoting quickly to adjust, and for the first time its convention program featured two major events for women. In addition to the $250-a-plate Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction, the group held the first annual Women's New Energy Breakfast, where female gun owners and NRA moms mixed and networked over a $15 breakfast buffet.
These same women are the target of a female-oriented media push, anchored by a running NRA web series called "Armed and Fabulous." An early episode looks admiringly at the Potterfield women of the Midway ammunition empire, whose scion, Larry, is one of the NRA's biggest industry donors.
The women-and-guns motif carried over into the male-dominated dog-and-pony show known as the Leadership Forum, where 2016 hopefuls bragged about their wives' gun racks. Rick Santorum boasted that his wife owns more guns than he does, and that his five-year old daughter is already an NRA member. Indiana Governor Mike Pence talked about falling in love with his wife for her handgun. Florida Senator Marco Rubio bemoaned the paperwork required for his female staffers to carry and conceal. And after two years in which Glenn Beck delivered the keynote, this year's honor fell to the pistol-packin' Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.
What's going on? The modern NRA is, above all, a thinly veiled industry group. Its "mom" offensive reflects basic gun industry economics: manufacturers' continued growth depends in no small part on making up for the duck and deer hunting demographic, which has been static or declining for generations.
The industry hopes that women can be their growth market. Thus far its degree of success is anyone's guess. Anecdotal evidence and some polling shows an increase in female gun ownership in recent years. But according to the General Social Survey, the gold standard for survey research, only 12 percent of women owned guns in 2012, a lower level than in the mid-1990s.
Whether or not there's a real demographic sea change at hand, the transformation is unfolding in the gun media, both popular and trade, where designers and analysts discuss the need for new models representing the past and future of the industry. Gun makers are rolling out more rifles fitted for arthritic fingers, as well as handguns like the Pavona pistol, "designed for the discerning woman."
Scott Bach, an NRA board member and head of the NRA's New Jersey affiliate, dismissed the family of a child who died during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as "a prop" in response to the family's support for a New Jersey bill that would limit gun magazine size.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. Supporters of the legislation have pointed to mass shootings where high-capacity magazines were used, including Sandy Hook, to argue that such magazines threaten public safety. On May 5, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing and possibly advance the bill to the full New Jersey Senate. The General Assembly version of the bill passed in March.
Bach, who is executive director of the official NRA affiliate group Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, made an April 30 appearance on the NRA News show Cam & Company in order to warn NRA members about the hearing, but while doing so he insulted Newtown families who have supported the legislation. In claiming that the real purpose of the legislation is to make Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "uncomfortable because of the emotional component," Bach claimed the bill's backers "brought out the Newtown victim's family and frankly used them as a prop or a show."
Fox host Sean Hannity dismissed the murder convictions of a Minnesota homeowner who used excessive force in killing two teenagers who broke into his home, claiming with exasperation, "They broke into the guy's house."
On April 29, Minnesota resident Byron Smith was convicted on two counts each of premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17. Brady and Kifer were killed on Thanksgiving Day 2012 after breaking into Smith's home.
While homeowners have broad latitude in defending their residences from intruders, a jury believed that Smith went too far. Prosecutors compared Smith's actions on Thanksgiving Day to the setting up of a deer stand. After spotting a neighbor he believed had previously burglarized his house, Smith moved his car to make his home seem unoccupied and then waited in his basement "with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns."
Armed supporters of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy are reportedly setting up checkpoints requiring locals to prove their residency and engaging in other intimidating behavior, weeks after being lauded by conservative media for rallying to Bundy's cause.
Bundy has been at odds with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle's use of public lands. While BLM possessed court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy's cattle to settle more than $1 million in unpaid fees, Bundy threatened violence and repeatedly said he would "do whatever it takes" to resist BLM efforts to collect on his debt.
Bundy's stand against BLM was endlessly hyped by conservative media -- especially Fox's Sean Hannity -- and set off a series of events that nearly ended in bloodshed. After Bundy was brought into the national spotlight, armed militias rallied to his cause. On April 12, tensions reached a head as supporters -- some armed -- marched towards where BLM had impounded Bundy's cattle. Citing safety concerns, BLM suspended its operations.
The behavior of Bundy's supporters -- who according to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston were "whipped into a frenzy" by Hannity and others -- was frightening during the final confrontation with BLM. According to the Las Vegas Sun, children were interspersed with the armed group that marched towards BLM. (Widespread media attention was given to a claim by extremist Bundy supporter Richard Mack that supporters strategized to use women as human shields.)
Right-wing media are heaping praise upon Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. over his remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, ignoring his association with extremists.
Clarke has drawn praise from conservative pundits for a speech at the NRA's annual meeting where he proposed that the words "keep your hands off our guns dammit" be appended to the Second Amendment. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Anna Kooiman said Clarke delivered a "very powerful speech," while co-host Tucker Carlson said he was going to send Clarke fan mail, rated his speech "awesome," and fist-pumped as Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. said Clarke "put it out there in straight language that people can understand."
On April 28, Clarke joined Fox & Friends for a laudatory interview that co-host Steve Doocy introduced by saying, "He is one law enforcement officer doing more than protecting you on the streets, he's standing up for all of our constitutional rights as well."
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, praised lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's actions in a sparsely attended speech outside the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying 'Enough, no farther.'"
After Bundy refused for decades to pay the government fees required for his cattle to graze on public land, federal officials attempted to execute court orders to confiscate and sell the cattle to pay off the more than $1 million he owes the public. Bundy became a right-wing folk hero after he threatened violence against those officials, drawing the support of both conservatives in the media and hundreds of armed men -- including militia extremists -- who descended on Bundy's ranch, triggering an armed standoff with the government.
When the government stopped the confiscation fearing an outbreak of violence, Bundy's supporters cheered, but most of those allies abandoned him last week after The New York Times reported Bundy's racist comments, in which he questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy."
But on April 26 Pratt praised the rancher's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, which he described as "an illegitimate entity" whose employees "shouldn't have guns, not as government officials." He linked the event to the surge in sheriffs who have said they will refuse to enforce expanded federal or state gun laws.
"I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. "We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level."
Pratt frequently appears in the media as an advocate for gun rights, most recently responding to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's expanded gun safety efforts in a New York Times article earlier this month. The Times profiled Pratt and his "upstart group" that takes positions "farther right" than the NRA in April 2013, featuring praise from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and reported that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But Pratt also has a long record of anti-government extremism; he was forced out of his position as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential run following the "disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements," as the Times reported at the time. More recently, he has suggested that the shooting at the Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged and flirted with the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws.
Pratt's speech came during a "Safety & Self-Protection Showcase" held in the park across the street from the Indiana Convention Center, where 70,000 members of the NRA were meeting this weekend. The event was sponsored by groups including Moms With Guns Demand Action, Gun Rights Across America, American Gun Rights, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, 2A Friendly, and Armed American Women. Other speakers included Jan Morgan of Armed American Women, Indiana state representative Jim Lucas, Doc Greene of Raging Elephants Radio, and Nikki Goeser, author of "Denied A Chance."
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre took the stage today at his organization's most important event of the year and delivered a paranoid rant virtually identical to the one he gave to conservative activists last month.
LaPierre was speaking during the Leadership Forum at the NRA's Annual Meeting and Exhibits. Thousands of NRA members pay $10 to see LaPierre and other NRA and Republican leaders at what is billed by the group as "one of the NRA's premier events of the year."
But LaPierre apparently could not be bothered to come up with a new pitch for his members, instead delivering a speech virtually identical to the one he gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6.
During the CPAC speech, LaPierre acknowledged that some attendees might not be NRA members and urged them to join. During the NRA speech, he responded to a recent development. The remainder of the speeches were word-for-word the same.
Media Matters compared the text versions of both speeches posted on the NRA website, and found that both speeches contained LaPierre's trademark paranoia in identical passages -- LaPierre's fearmongering that America is becoming too dangerous for children to play outside; his claim that Americans are buying guns because of "reckless government actions" and because the "entire fabric of society" is in jeopardy; his description of the national media as one of the nation's "greatest threats"; his assertion that people need unlimited firearms to stand up to "knockout gamers" and "haters"; and his declaration that the NRA "will not go quietly into the night."
Here are the only substantive differences between the speeches.
LaPierre opened his CPAC speech by saying (differences bolded):
It's great to be here today, thanks for having me. I really appreciate your warm welcome.
There must be some NRA members out there! To each of you, I thank you for being here with me and for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
By contrast, in his NRA speech he said:
Welcome to this great celebration of American freedom! It's great to be here today and I really appreciate your warm welcome.
To all of you NRA members, I want to thank you with all my heart for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
On two occasions, LaPierre urged CPAC attendees to join the NRA, a call that was presumably unnecessary at the organization's annual meeting. From the CPAC speech, with text not also appearing in the NRA speech bolded:
So I'll put it to you -- do you believe in that declaration of individual liberty? Come on, let me hear you! Are you willing to stand and fight for your rights?
There are two things I need you to do. First, go to the NRA booth, right here at CPAC, and sign your name to a Declaration of Individual Rights. Sign that declaration today and add your name to millions of patriotic Americans just like you. Second, stand behind your declaration -- back it up -- by joining the NRA. America needs you as part of an even larger, stronger, tougher NRA. It's how you resist and tell the world that you're going to fight and protect everything you care about.
Then later in the CPAC speech:
Those NRA members -- those great Americans -- THEY are the real muscle of NRA's clout. Become one of THEM.
Join us and together we will stand and fight and win and take back our country. Stand up right now and you tell me, do you want to save this country and all that is good about America?
During his NRA speech, LaPierre responded to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement earlier this month that he will spend $50 million on gun safety efforts this year, playing a video that asked members to donate to the NRA. Text that did not also appear in his previous CPAC speech is bolded:
But mark my words. The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight.
Now, some of you may have heard about Michael Bloomberg. Last week, he gave a big interview to The New York Times and the Today show.
Bloomberg vowed to spend $50 million to beat us in November. He said he would do everything he could with all of his $50 million to confront and defeat the NRA. Well, here's our response.
This election will be won or lost on every street, every corner, in every coffee shop or store or church in America -- where every NRA member lives and works and volunteers and campaigns.
On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Conservatives are cheering S.E. Cupp's false claim that the gun safety coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has "crumbled" with its member mayors fleeing in droves.
Last week former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he plans to spend $50 million on gun safety efforts, in part through the new group Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization that merges MAIG and the grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety in America.
During an appearance on ABC's This Week, Cupp, a host for both CNN and Glenn Beck's network The Blaze, claimed that "Mayors Against Illegal Guns has crumbled because he duped mayors into thinking they were actually going to fight illegal guns. And when they all found out actually they were going after law abiding gun owners, they said that's not what I want to be a part of. His efforts are duplicitous and they're measurably failing." Cupp's remarks were subsequently trumpeted across the right-wing media.
In fact, MAIG currently counts as members "a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 current and former mayors from nearly every state." While some mayors have left the group over the years -- at times while seeking the Republican nomination for higher office -- MAIG's overall membership has dramatically increased in recent years, from 15 mayors at its founding to 450 members in 2009 to roughly 850 in January 2013 to its current level.
Likewise, Cupp's claim that the gun safety effort is "failing" ignores reality. While federal legislation received a majority vote in the Senate but was blocked by a filibuster last year, gun safety efforts resulted in major executive actions; legislative packages passed in New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, California, and Delaware, among others; and the appointment of the first permanent director of the ATF since 2006. Championing gun safety in a swing state and with the support of Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC, Terry McAuliffe and Mark Herring were elected governor and attorney general of Virginia.
Lawless rancher Cliven Bundy praised "hero" Sean Hannity for promoting his cause during an appearance on a conspiracy radio show during which he also warned a civil war could only be avoided if federal "bureaucrats" are disarmed by county sheriffs.
Bundy has been in conflict with the federal government for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle herd's use of public lands. A recent attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to enforce court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy's cattle to settle unpaid fees and fines was suspended due to safety concerns after armed militias rallied to Bundy's cause and some militia members pointed guns at BLM law enforcement.
Despite threats of violence from Bundy and his supporters -- and the fact his legal claim against paying grazing fees is incredibly weak -- right-wing media have praised Bundy as a conservative champion standing against an outsized federal government. Amid endless sympathetic coverage on Fox News, host Sean Hannity emerged as the network's leading advocate for Bundy.
Media Matters and others have criticized Hannity's "totally irresponsible" journalism, including his support of Bundy's extreme positions, invocation of the deadly Waco standoff, and his touting of the possibility that the federal government will kill Bundy.
During an April 21 appearance on 9-11 truther Alex Jones' conspiracy radio show, Bundy offered thanks to Hannity for promoting his cause. While he said the men disagreed about whether armed militias are the first or last line of defense against government overreach, Bundy said of Hannity, "He is my hero and he supported me and this movement and I appreciate and love him for it. Support him 100 percent." For his part Jones said, "I want to commend Sean Hannity because he has been really bad on a lot of issues but he has a lot of courage doing the right thing here. So I appreciate him being supportive of this."