Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & THOMAS BISHOP
UPDATE: IBT has changed its headline to remove the reference to 2012 and updated its article to mention the State Department's statutory authority to review arms deals under the Arms Export Control Act.
In an effort to challenge Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's progressive position on gun violence prevention, the International Business Times baselessly linked her to the 2012 murder of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the publication misread the documents it used to claim the connection.
IBT’s tenuous and bizarre argument is that the State Department’s role in approving military arms sales to foreign governments somehow undermines Clinton’s support for allowing families of victims to sue companies that sell military-style firearms to civilians who subsequently use them in mass shootings. Specifically, the outlet reported that when Clinton was secretary of state, the State Department “helped approve” a $4.2 million arms contract between Remington Arms Company, whose subsidiary Bushmaster manufactured the gun used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and the government of Afghanistan.
IBT did not explain precisely how the State Department “helped approve” the contract, citing only a Defense Department report. Moreover, in order to draw the connection between Clinton and the massacre, IBT claims in its headline, “Hillary Clinton State Department Approved Weapons Sales In 2012 For Company That Made Sandy Hook Rifle.” But the sale in question did not occur in 2012.
The April 18 article criticized Clinton for “present[ing] herself as a tough advocate for gun control” and supporting “laws that could hold gun manufacturers liable for mass shootings.” It suggested that those positions are undercut because during Clinton’s tenure, the State Department “helped approve more than $100 million in weapons sales for a handful of companies — including the manufacturer of the AR-15 semi-automatic that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.” The article continued:
The sales to foreign nations, noted in Defense Department documents, include $4.2 million in receipts from the Remington Arms Co., which was sued by families of the Sandy Hook victims. They argued that the company was culpable because it marketed military-grade weapons to civilians.
It is not explained in the article what the connection is between the contract and the State Department, as IBT links only to documents related to a reporting requirement of the Department of Defense. The State Department does in fact have certain authority to control the export of U.S. munitions and other defense articles and services under the Arms Export Control Act, but IBT cites an annual report of Defense, not State.
Additionally, a review of the Defense Department document reveals that IBT’s claim that the Remington sale occurred in 2012 -- the same year as the Sandy Hook shooting -- is inaccurate. The report was issued May 17, 2012 -- seven months before the shooting -- but it details sales that occurred in fiscal year 2011, which runs from October 2010 through September 2011.