From the October 6 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the October 6 edition of TawkrTV's The Bill Press Show:
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A quotation popular in conservative media circles that allegedly demonstrates Thomas Jefferson opposed the regulation of firearms was repeated by GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson when he was asked on Fox News to react to the October 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. The quote, however, has been identified as "spurious" by research compiled by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
When asked by Fox News host Neil Cavuto whether or not the regulation of firearms offers a solution to mass shootings on the October 5 broadcast of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Carson claimed, "Thomas Jefferson himself said, 'Gun control works great for the people who are law-abiding citizens and it does nothing for the criminals, and all it does is put the people at risk.'"
Carson was likely misattributing the following quote, which was written by Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria and copied by Jefferson into a journal:
Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.
The Jefferson Monticello website, maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, lists the quote as "spurious" when attributed to the former president because there is no clear annotation to suggest Jefferson agreed or disagreed with the claim.
Jefferson copied the Beccaria quote in Italian into his legal commonplace book, a "journal or notebook in which a student, reader, or writer compiles quotations, poems, letters, and information, along with the compiler's notes and reactions." Jefferson notated the copied passage with the words, "False idee di utilità," which is a summation of the idea contained in the quotation.
Carson's talking point is popular within gun rights circles and conservative media outlets that cover gun policy. Conservative radio host Dana Loesch included the quote, as well as several other deceptively edited Founding Father quotes, in her book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America, with the false suggestion that Jefferson was quoting Becceria approvingly.
From the October 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the October 5 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler relied on a strained justification to award President Obama "two Pinocchios" for stating the truth: "We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths."
Kessler criticized Obama for including gun suicides in the number of "gun deaths" in America during recent public comments about the easy availability of guns. He justified his criticism of the president by underplaying studies that have found a link between gun availability and suicide.
On October 1, Obama delivered a statement from the White House after a gunman killed nine people and wounded nine others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. In his remarks, Obama said:
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
In an October 5 Washington Post article, Kessler wrote that many readers asked him to fact check Obama's statement that "states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths." Kessler awarded Obama "two Pinocchios," which according to his rating scale means he believes Obama created "a false, misleading impression."
Obama administration officials told Kessler that the president's statement was in reference to research findings that were reported in an August 28 National Journal article, which concluded, "The states that impose the most restrictions on gun users also have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, while states with fewer regulations typically have a much higher death rate from guns." Gun homicides, suicides, accidents, and legal interventions were all included in National Journal's dataset.
Kessler wrote that Obama's mention of that fact was "a classic situation in which a politician bases a statement on a study, but then exaggerated the conclusions to justify a policy. It also lacks context because the results change, sometimes dramatically, when suicides are removed from the gun deaths."
But Kessler's criticism of Obama for including suicides by gun as among U.S. "gun deaths" is very questionable, because it ignores the vast body of research done by experts who count such suicides as gun deaths. Instead of debunking Obama's actual statement -- which Kessler cannot do because the statement is true -- he instead has to move the goalposts in order to criticize Obama.
In fact, a statement similar to Obama's has previously appeared in The Washington Post. In a December 2012 entry in the Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein wrote, "States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths."
Kessler cited two academic articles to support giving Obama two Pinocchios:
Some might argue that it is wrong to exclude suicides from the data, as less access to guns might result in fewer suicides. The data on that is mixed. Gun-related suicides might decline, but studies have shown little connection between suicides and access to guns. A 2004 report published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that "some gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population."
Kessler misleads his readers by making the sweeping claim that evidence is "mixed" on whether there is a connection between gun access and suicide, when the majority view among academics is that there is indeed a relationship.
According to Means Matter, a project of the Harvard School of Public Health, "Twelve or more U.S. case control studies have compared individuals who died by suicide with those who did not and found those dying by suicide were more likely to live in homes with guns."
The Harvard Injury Control Research Center similarly concluded, "The preponderance of current evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for youth suicide in the United States. The evidence that gun availability increases the suicide rates of adults is credible, but is currently less compelling." The Harvard researchers also concluded, "people in states with many guns have elevated rates of suicide, particularly firearm suicide."
According to a survey of the authors, out of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology," 84 percent of respondents agreed that access to guns increases the risk of suicide:
A CBS Evening News segment in response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College featured Sheriff David Clarke, a frequent Fox guest with a history of inflammatory statements, pushing the debunked myth that gunmen in mass shootings target "gun-free zones."
On October 2, CBS Evening News host Scott Pelley announced a new series called "Voices Against Violence" as part of "the national conversation about violence" after the recent mass shooting that killed nine and wounded nine more at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. One of the featured speakers was Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who claimed that shooters target "gun-free zones" because they "know that nobody is going to be able to interrupt [them] until mass carnage occurs":
SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE: I'm Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Any time we have a horrific incident like a mass shooting, these things have a tendency to become politicized. One of the things that I would do to reduce -- we're not going to be able to eliminate these entirely -- but to reduce the likelihood that there's mass carnage, is to get rid of these gun-free zones. These gun-free zones -- theaters, churches, college campuses, elementary schools -- are chosen by the perpetrator for a reason. He knows that nobody is going to be able to interrupt him until mass carnage occurs. And we ought to give people the individual freedom, the individual right to -- under certain circumstances like a concealed carry license -- to go armed in these venues in case something like this happens for their own protection, and to have a chance. Look at Chicago, Illinois. Look at Washington, D.C., the federal district. If gun control really worked, those would be two of the safest areas in the United States. In fact, they're two of the most violent.
Clarke's "gun-free zones" claim is not supported by any evidence. According to an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety, only 13 percent of the 133 mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2015 took place in "gun-free zones." An analysis by Mother Jones found that, of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period, not a single shooting was stopped by a civilian carrying a firearm. Mother Jones also found that gunmen do not choose to target locations because guns are not allowed, but rather for personal reasons such as a workplace grievance.
Clarke has a history of making outrageous statements and associating with fringe personalities and organizations. During a 2013 appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, Clarke responded to Jones' claim that "the Obama Marxist types" wanted to confiscate guns, stating, "I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude you would see the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison." He also claimed that Obama had encouraged violence in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer killed resident Michael Brown by calling for calm "with a wink and a nod." Clarke was named "sheriff of the year" by the far-right fringe group Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), whose leader proposed using women as human shields during a 2014 dispute between Cliven Bundy, a lawless Nevada rancher, and the Bureau of Land Management. And in a 2014 speech to the National Rifle Association, Clarke said, "If you're going to stand with me, you have to be willing to resist any attempt by government to disarm law-abiding people by fighting with the ferociousness of a junkyard dog. For it says in the Declaration of Independence that it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for our future security."
From the October 4 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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Discredited gun researcher John Lott made numerous false claims about guns -- covering "gun-free zones," gun suicides, and whether loose gun laws deter crime -- during an appearance on CNN focused on the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.
During the October 2 broadcast of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, host Carol Costello said, "I don't really want to have a debate this morning, I actually want to have a conversation, so I've invited John Lott." Lott, whose infamous research linking permissive gun laws to lower crime rates has been thoroughly discredited, then proceeded to use the segment as an opportunity to push numerous falsehoods about the October 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) where a gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others.
Of the Oregon shooting, Lott claimed, "The one thing in common" with this and other recent mass shootings "is to notice that yesterday, just like in all these other cases, they occur where guns are banned, where citizens are aren't able to go and defend themselves."
Lott's claim that guns were "banned" at UCC is not accurate. While the school's policy prohibits guns inside of its buildings, Oregon law allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on the grounds of public colleges and universities. In fact, a student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran was carrying a gun on campus at the time of the shooting and described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."
Lott's broader claim that mass shootings typically happen where guns are not allowed is also false. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:
Claims about "gun-free zones" are predictable talking points for Lott and other gun advocates following mass shootings, but the alleged connection is a red herring because there is no evidence that people with concealed guns stop mass shootings.
At another point in the CNN interview, Lott said, "I don't know how many explicit statements these killers have to make about how they chose targets where they knew people weren't able to go and defending themselves," citing the comments of other mass shooters and the diary of the gunman responsible for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
The claim that mass shooters pick their targets based on whether guns are allowed is false. Mother Jones' Mark Follman dismantled that theory in an article debunking Lott's claims about the Aurora gunman's diary: "As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter's strategic thinking."
Instead, Follman found "the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school."
Lott used his appearance to push several other gun-related falsehoods. On suicides-by-gun, which claim nearly 20,000 American lives per year, Lott said, "To go and think that some type of gun control regulations that are being talked about are going to stop somebody from committing suicide, when there are so many other ways for people to commit suicide."
Again, this is not true. Gun suicides are typically successful, resulting in death 85 percent of the time, while other methods of attempting suicide result in death just 9 percent of the time. According to a review of 90 studies on the long-term outcomes of individuals who survived a suicide attempt, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide.
Another false claim Lott pushed on CNN was about gun bans and murder rates. Lott said, "Here's a simple fact, every place in the world that's banned guns, not just Washington D.C. and Chicago when we had our bans, but every place that has banned guns has seen murder rates go up." Like Lott's claim about mass shootings and so-called "gun-free zones," this claim is a red herring, namely because gun bans like the one that existed in Washington D.C. and Chicago are unconstitutional in the United States and are irrelevant to serious policy discussions on gun laws.
Lott's citation of Washington D.C. is highly misleading, as well. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 compared to 2008, that doesn't tell the whole story. Significantly, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership.
Offering another sweeping falsehood, Lott also claimed, "Most of the academic work out there finds that increases in concealed handgun permits, increases in gun ownership, generally is associated with reduced crime."
Lott's claim that more guns equal less crime is actually the minority view, and his thesis has been debunked time and time again. Reputable research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that looked at numerous studies concluded that where there are more guns, there is a higher risk of homicide.
According to a survey of the authors of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology" 62 percent of experts disagreed that permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, compared to just 9 percent who agreed:
In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, conservative commentators instantly referred to the school as a "gun-free zone," falling back on conservative media's go-to mass shooting talking point.
At least 10 people were reported killed, and many others injured October 1 during an Oregon community college mass shooting, and as facts concerning the shooting remained scarce, media figures immediately made references to the campus as a "gun-free zone" on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, the Drudge Report, and other conservative websites.
But these references of "gun-free zones" represent a red herring because they rely on the assumption that more people carrying guns would stop mass shootings, when in reality there is no evidence to support such claims.
The overwhelming majority of mass shootings actually occur where guns are allowed to be carried. And according to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period conducted by Mother Jones, not a single shooting was stopped by a civilian carrying a firearm. Mother Jones also found that gunmen do not choose to target locations because guns are not allowed, but rather other motives typically exist for choice of location, such as a workplace grievance.
As Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes explained in a commentary for The Trace, the idea that "gun-free zones" attract mass shooters is based on the faulty assumption that the shooters are "rational actors":
Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the argument against gun-free zones, in the context of mass shootings, is its underlying assumption that shooters are rational actors. Lott himself admits that about half of criminals who commit mass shootings have received a "formal diagnosis of mental illness," yet his model requires them to act precisely as we know they don't: as hyperrational, calculating machines, intentionally seeking out gun-free environments for the sole purpose of maximizing causalities.
In reality, many shooters target a location based on an emotional grievance or an attachment to a particular person or place. An FBI study of 160 active shootings (defined as a shooter actively attempting to kill people in a populated area, regardless of the amount of fatalities) between 2000 and 2013 -- including the high-profile mass shootings in Tucson and Aurora -- shows that of the shootings that occurred in commercial or educational areas, the shooter had some relationship with the area in 63 percent of the cases.
Several conservative media outlets cited a recent study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine to conclude that gun laws do not effectively deter criminals from obtaining firearms, even though the study actually found that gun laws in Chicago make it harder for criminals to acquire firearms by increasing opportunity costs. The study's authors are now speaking out against media misrepresentations of their work.
Prominent gun advocate John Lott blamed a robbery victim who was shot in the back for his injuries, claiming the man displayed "passive behavior" because he fled his attacker.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christopher Sanna was shot after being robbed while walking to his car following a St. Louis Cardinals game, and is likely to be paralyzed. Army veteran Sanna was wounded when he and his girlfriend fled two robbers after complying with their demands:
Christopher Sanna had parked at the Old Cathedral parking lot and was waking to his car. According to police, two men in a dark-colored sedan drove up to them. The driver got out with a gun and demanded their property. The woman gave the gunman her purse, and the couple turned to run away. The gunman fired several shots in their direction, hitting Sanna in the back.
"They turned to run away, but they didn't make it very far," Candis Sanna said. "As soon as they gave them the stuff, they were going to try to run away but he shot them. They were within arm's reach.
Sanna's mother told the Post-Dispatch that her son is always "very aware of his surroundings," but that the robbery "happened so fast."
Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. (Reputable research indicates that permissive concealed carry laws do not reduce crime and may actually increase the occurrence of aggravated assault.)
Lott's claim follows a growing trend among gun rights activists to blame victims of violent crimes for not properly defending themselves. Most notably, several commentators blamed the victims of the June massacre at an historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina for their own deaths.
Besides the offensive nature of Lott's claim -- that crime victims are responsible for getting hurt -- research on what typically happens during a violent crime debunks Lott's thesis that behaving "passive[ly]" makes a crime victim more vulnerable to harm.
A new commentary video produced by the National Rifle Association's (NRA) NRA News suggests that school shootings occur because children do not "respect" firearms or know how to handle them safely.
The claim came during the September 23 episode of the NRA News' series, Defending Our America, which brings together conservative commentators to participate in a roundtable discussion in each episode. Defending Our America has been heavily promoted by the NRA as part of the "new" NRA News, which launched on September 8. Other NRA News shows include talk radio show Cam & Company, a web series aimed at millennials called Noir, and Frontlines, a military-themed show that recently promoted the paranoid idea that North Korea could use a satellite to launch an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America. Defending Our America is sponsored by gun manufacturer Sig Sauer.
During the Defending Our America episode, co-host Del Wilber said, "When I was growing up, part of the curriculum at high schools was firearm safety and marksmanship. And we didn't have 'Columbines' or 'Newtowns' because kids were taught to respect firearms, they were taught how to handle them safely and taught what their purpose was for, and that's been long gone."
The perpetrator in the Newtown, CT school shooting was highly-trained in the use of firearms and frequented shooting ranges. Authorities who investigated the killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary school found an NRA certificate bearing the gunman's name as well as an NRA firearm training manual in his house.
From the September 23 edition of NRA News' Defending Our America:
A contributor to the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Frontlines series suggested that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America could kill 90 percent of the population and cause people on food assistance to start "eating each other in the streets."
The NRA routinely fearmongers that an EMP attack -- where a nuclear bomb is detonated in space, supposedly causing the destruction of the power grid -- would cause widespread chaos and death, even though experts have dismissed such claims as coming from a "crowd of cranks and threat inflators."
During the September 22 broadcast of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, Frontlines contributor Chuck Holton promoted an episode of his series featuring former CIA director James Woolsey. Called "The Fight for Light: The Coming Catastrophe," the episode largely speculated about the prospect of North Korea using a satellite to detonate a nuclear bomb in space to destroy the United States' power grid.
Frontlines is hosted by NRA board member and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North and takes viewers "inside the most dangerous threats and critical events concerning your freedom."
While promoting the North Korea EMP episode, Holton said on Cam & Company, "Like Admiral Woolsey said in that piece -- you know, this is the former director of the CIA, it's not just some old guy that we found on the street, OK? He knows what he is talking about. And they're estimating that 90 percent of Americans would die in the case of a large-scale grid down situation."
"You're talking about mass starvation, disease breaking out," Holton continued. "It's not just like people are going to die because their iPhone doesn't work anymore, you're talking about large scale -- people eating each other in the streets, because when you have these sort of systemic issues in our government of nearly half of the people in the United States receiving some sort of subsidy from the government, imagine what happens when all the EBT cards start flashing zeroes."
The NRA's claims about the chance of an EMP attack are greatly overblown. For one thing, North Korean satellites are not sophisticated enough to be used as reliable delivery systems for nuclear bombs (and look nothing like the highly-sophisticated satellite depicted as exploding over the United States in the Frontlines' episode.)
As Wired noted after "hysterical headlines" in 2012 about how North Korea had "finally managed to put an object into orbit around the Earth after 14 years of trying," North Korea's satellite is 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet tall and weighs just 220 pounds. While the satellite was supposed to transmit "scientific data when orbiting over the DPRK and the hymns of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il the rest of the time," it is apparently non-functional.
Woolsey, whom the NRA's considers its expert on EMP attacks, has also been criticized for his EMP claims and promotion of the conspiracy theory that Iraqis were responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In a 2013 article in Foreign Policy, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis criticized Woolsey for a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting the United States should launch pre-emptive strike on North Korea to prevent an EMP attack on the United States.
Even if an EMP attack somehow occurred, Lewis demonstrated how past experimentation suggests that the "EMP crowd" has baselessly speculated about what would actually happen during an attack:
Even if we understand how an electromagnetic pulse works and have data about the vulnerability of equipment, a modern system like a power grid or communications network presents just too complex a set of resiliencies and vulnerabilities.
The solution of the EMP Commission was simply to collect more data, essentially creating laundry lists of things that might go wrong. For example, the EMP Commission exposed 37 cars and 18 trucks to EMP effects in a laboratory environment. While EMP advocates claim the results of an EMP attack would be "planes falling from the sky, cars stalling on the roadways, electrical networks failing, food rotting," the actual results were much more modest. Of the 55 vehicles exposed to EMP, six at the highest levels of exposure needed to be restarted. A few more showed "nuisance" damage to electronics, such as blinking dashboard displays.
The NRA routinely fills its magazines with advertisements for bulk survival food and alternative power sources in case the grid goes offline.
Just before the 2014 elections, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre urged supporters to "vote your guns" while fear mongering over the prospect of a Russia, China or North Korea-led EMP attack that could kill "as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S." by bringing about the reemergence of "Third World" diseases like "amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera -- killing our youngest and frailest family members."
Following press coverage of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) comment during the second GOP presidential debate that he was "honored" to have won the endorsement of Gun Owners of America (GOA), the group lashed out at media coverage documenting its long history of extremism. In an open letter posted on its website, GOA claimed it has "NEVER aligned ourselves with racist groups" -- despite the fact that the group's leader, Larry Pratt, once acknowledged that he directed GOA to donate "tens of thousands of dollars" to a white supremacist organization and shared the stage with white supremacists at rallies organized by the racist Christian Identity movement in the 1990s.