THE UNITED NATIONS -- On the day the Arms Trade Treaty was scheduled to face a consensus vote by 193 countries, ending the years-long process to establish an international agreement to curtail arms trafficking to nations torn by conflict, I listened to a member of the Liberian delegation explain his country's concerns. "We wanted a much tighter treaty," he said, referring the large group of African countries most affected by the global black market arms trade. "Those of us who live in countries devastated by civil war very clearly understand the need for a strong regulatory framework to deter non-state actors from getting weapons. This is why we wanted a mechanism for risk-assessment, and why we wanted penalties."
Without the view from Liberia, it's hard to understand yesterday's headlines about the General Assembly's approval of the treaty. Which is why during two weeks of negotiations last month, African delegations could often be seen chatting with media from around the world. On the last day of the conference especially, the North Lawn building buzzed with reporters seeking perspectives. There were Russian and Arab TV crews, Japanese magazine journalists, and writers from at least half a dozen African publications. The U.S. media presence, hailing from the world's largest arms exporter, was harder to find. Which is to say, it was nearly impossible to find.
In two weeks of commingling with ATT delegates and observers, the only American reporters I met were Ginny Simone, the face of NRA News, and Richard Johnson, a freelancer who has covered the U.N. since Brezhnev, most recently for an obscure website called South-South News. "In terms of media, it's gotten pretty sleepy around here," said Johnson, before recounting the glory days of the 1970s. "Now it's more about Twitter than press conferences. The institutional media only flocks when North Korea does something, or there's drama in the Security Council."
This lack of media presence was reflected in the pages of the nation's largest newspapers, which largely ignored the treaty negotiations. The Washington Post was a no-show. So was The Wall Street Journal. The Los Angeles Times reported from the West Coast on a State Department press release and published a story on the treaty's passage credited to "Times Staff and Wire Reports."
Lapping the field, The New York Times published three full-length reports with a U.N. dateline, two news briefs, and a table-setting piece at the start of the treaty conference. The paper benefits from investing in a full-time UN beat reporter, Neil MacFarquhar, as well as a New York-based foreign desk writer who covers the body, Rick Gladstone; the LA Times, by contrast, dispatches a New York-based reporter when they deem it necessary.
None of the major broadcast networks appear to have found the treaty worthy of even a passing mention on their airwaves. Nor did CNN, the cable network historically most interested in world news. The only major cable news channel to show up was Fox News, which relied so heavily on NRA talking points for its anti-treaty coverage that the dishes on its sat-truck outside the UN gate reminded one of turrets on an enemy tank.
The dearth of media interest runs counter to the last month's historic events, as the U.N. finally capped two decades of study groups and negotiations spanning most of the continents. On Tuesday 154 countries defied the National Rifle Association and voted yea on a treaty with aspirations to do for global arms flows what a similar majority of Americans wants done for the domestic gun market: put regulations in place to stop zealots, criminals, and terrorists from acquiring weapons and wreaking havoc. The resulting treaty is not perfect, but represents what advocates call a crucial first step in staunching the flood of lethal weapons to conflict sites around the world.
Several members of a National Rifle Association-assembled taskforce to prevent gun violence in schools, which proposed increasing the number of armed individuals in schools, are employed by a firm that provides training and gear, including ammunition, to security personnel.
On April 2, the National School Shield Task Force, headed by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), released a report on improving school safety after being directed by the NRA to compose a series of recommendations to reduce violence in schools. During a press conference announcing the release of the report, Hutchinson repeatedly claimed that the recommendations in the report were not subject to NRA approval and are "fully independent from the NRA":
Hutchinson stressed that the "initiative" is fully independent from the NRA -- which he said budgeted $1 million for the effort -- and that the pro-gun lobby was under no obligation to enforce any of its recommendations.
"The NRA has fulfilled its side of the bargain and has given us the level of independence," he said. "These recommendations are the recommendations of task force. This is our event, and the NRA will separately consider and respond to it."
In fact, the report presents a clear conflict of interest as five of the 13 named members of the taskforce are employees of Phoenix RBT Solutions, including the company's CEO. RBT Solutions is a global non-lethal ammunition distributor. According to their website, the company is a global distributor for Ultimate Training Munitions, a type of wax round specifically marketed by RBT Solutions to private security and law enforcement. RBT Solutions also sells a wide array training and defensive gear for security personnel and rents a "portable training facility."
The report includes training guides developed in part by RBT Solutions for school resource officers and other armed school personnel that call for a minimum of 40 hours of training.
The National School Shield Task Force, beyond advocating for an increased armed security presence in schools, also recommends that schools be able to decide whether staff can receive training to carry a firearm in school.
In the "best practices guidelines" section, the report discusses the "potential benefits" to arming "teachers, principals, or custodial staff," while also noting the high level of training that these individuals would need to receive:
The media should cover the National Rifle Association's forthcoming plan to improve school security in the context of the extreme positions that the gun rights organization has taken on firearms in schools since the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On April 2, the National Rifle Association will unveil its "National School Shield Program," a package of policy and legislative proposals that reportedly will call for increasing the number of armed guards at schools. The group has vehemently opposed calls to pass stronger gun laws.
While the NRA previously supported a "zero tolerance" policy regarding guns in schools, the gun rights organization has more recently promoted the idea of arming teachers and aired a feature on controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio's school defense "posse" on its media arm, NRA News.
Two weeks after a mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two gunmen killed 13 and wounded 21, the NRA held its annual meeting in nearby Denver. On May 1, 1999, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre delivered a speech endeavoring to "clearly state our positions in a comprehensive way." In his remarks, LaPierre called for a "zero tolerance" policy on guns in schools "with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel":
LAPIERRE: First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ... with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.
National Rifle Association News investigative reporter Ginny Simone suggested that the NRA may have influenced Iran's attempt to block the enactment of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Simone's claim that that Iran "all but came out and named the NRA" during a speech against the treaty on March 28 comes as a number of commentators and news outlets are noting that the few opponents of the Arms Trade Treaty include Iran, North Korea, Syria and the NRA.
On March 28, after a week of negotiations on a treaty with the stated aim of preventing the diversion of weapons to human rights abusers, Iran, Syria and North Korea made a last minute move to block a vote to adopt the treaty. The treaty could still be adopted at a later date by a vote of the U.N. General Assembly.
In covering these developments, Carol Giacomo, a foreign affairs expert and member of The New York Times' editorial board, noted that the NRA joins rogue nations in its opposition to the treaty:
But the conclusion reached on Thursday was stark: On one side, opposing the new pact, were three of the world's pariah states - Syria, Iran and North Korea. On the other side, favoring the new pact, was ... everybody else.
The opposition included the conservative Heritage Foundation and the National Gun Rifle Association. As usual they ginned up dark visions of how any limits on conventional arms sales would deprive Americans of their weapons, which is totally false: The Obama administration bent over backwards to make sure the treaty excluded domestic sales and, in any event, as the American Bar Association affirmed, the treaty did not and could not infringe on Americans' constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment Rights.
The NRA and its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, have so far remained silent on the negotiation outcome - even though the NRA fiercely lobbied against the adoption of the treaty during negotiations. On July 27, 2012, the day a previous round of negotiations stalled, the NRA issued a celebratory press release that took credit for "killing the U.N. ATT."
Simone, however, addressed the most recent developments during the March 28 edition of the NRA News' Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel:
SIMONE: You know earlier today everybody said, "We're pretty sure it's gonna pass." They were saying earlier on that maybe there be problems with India. But it looks like that's been ironed out. And then all of a sudden right after lunch they came back and said it looks like there's problems with Iran. And then more we started talking to people the more the list got longer to include North Korea and Syria. And it was really interesting, Iran's statement. They all but came out and named the NRA, Cam. They said it didn't like the treaty because it favored the constitutional protection of gun ownership for one country. It didn't name the country. You got to be sure they were talking about the U.S.
Fox News host Eric Bolling baselessly attacked the Senate Democrats' legislative proposal to reduce gun violence -- which includes expanding background checks, cracking down on gun trafficking and improving school security -- by suggesting that amended legislation would include a "national gun registry" and would infringe on the Second Amendment. Bolling's claims stand in contrast to numerous constitutional scholars who have backed the constitutionality of gun violence prevention laws.
On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends, Bolling addressed remarks made by Obama in favor of the Senate package by stating that Obama "said it's not going to be controversial. Well yes it was. It's not going to infringe on your Second Amendment rights. Well yes they would."
In his remarks, Obama expressed support for the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, and also advocated for the passage of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines:
OBAMA: Earlier this month, the Senate advanced some of the most important reforms designed to reduce gun violence. All of them are consistent with the Second Amendment. None of them will infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners.
Now, in the coming weeks, members of Congress will vote on whether we should require universal background checks for anyone who wants to buy a gun so that criminals or people with severe mental illnesses can't get their hands on one. They'll vote on tough new penalties for anyone who buys guns only to turn around and sell them to criminals. They'll vote on a measure that would keep weapons of war and high-capacity ammunition magazines that facilitate these mass killings off our streets. They'll get to vote on legislation that would help schools become safer and help people struggling with mental health problems to get the treatment that they need.
None of these ideas should be controversial.
Multiple legal experts have explained how current gun violence prevention proposals, including expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban, are constitutional under the landmark Second Amendment case District of Columbia v. Heller.
Discredited gun advocate John Lott argued against a draft United Nations Arms Trade Treaty by invoking two debunked NRA conspiracy theories and claimed that it would lead to international regulation of gun ownership and national gun registries for lawful gun owners.
United Nations member states met this week to negotiate an international arms trade treaty with the stated objective of establishing "the highest possible common international standards for regulating" international trade in conventional arms and to "eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion." In a March 28 editorial on FoxNews.com, Lott claimed that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would "regulate individual gun ownership all across the world." He went on to say that the treaty would force countries to maintain "a national control list" so that they could regulate weapon brokering between states.
In fact, both the U.N. draft of the arms treaty and the Obama administration made clear that the agreement would not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. The U.N. draft reaffirmed in its preamble " the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." The U.S. Department of State added that the final treaty must not cross key "red lines" in order to receive U.S. support, which included that "the Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld" without infringements upon "sovereign control" of domestic gun laws:
National Rifle Association President David Keene is covering up allegations of racial discrimination in order to protect one of its corporate partners and attack the Obama administration.
In his March 27 Washington Times column, Keene claimed that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Bass Pro Shops because "the company won't hire convicted felons" to sell guns, "which the commission claims amounts to illegal racial discrimination." In fact, the EEOC sued Bass Pro Shops in 2011 and 2012 after receiving reports alleging racially discriminatory hiring practices, including an alleged directive from Bass Pro Shops owner John Morris to not hire minorities.
Keene also did not disclose that the NRA has a financial relationship with Bass Pro Shops, which includes a collaborative effort to open a 10,000-square foot firearms museum at Bass Pro Shops headquarters.
The initial lawsuit, filed in federal court on September 21, 2011, alleged that Bass Pro Shops was "engaging in a pattern or practice of unlawfully failing to hire Black and Hispanic applicants for positions in its retail stores nationwide" and was "unlawfully retaliating against a class of employees who opposed actions by [Bass Pro Shops]." The suit also alleged that Bass Pro Shops had "unlawfully destroyed records relevant to whether unlawful employment practices have been or are being committed."
The suit describes multiple instances of racial discrimination in its allegations against Bass Pro Shops that occurred in stores located in Louisiana, Texas and Indiana.
According to the EEOC's complaint, an assistant general manager at a Louisiana store told a human resources manager that "we don't hire n*****s" as explanation for why a qualified African-American candidate was not hired. The manager of a Houston area store was alleged to have told the human resources manager that "it was getting a little dark in here you need to hire some white people." Similar discriminatory hiring practices were alleged at an Indiana store where a supervisor was observed throwing away job applications submitted by individuals who he thought had a "n***** name":
Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.
According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.
The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."
Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":
But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":
Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.
Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who writes a regular column for the NRA's America's 1st Freedom magazine, complained about the enforcement rate of federal gun laws during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, even as his organization lobbies for policies that make these laws harder to administer.
During his March 24 appearance, LaPierre stated, "If you're the President and the Vice President and the Attorney General, and your job is to enforce these laws ... and you don't do it, you bear some responsibility":
Despite the NRA's attempts to hinder enforcement of federal gun laws, a recent report shows positive trends in federal gun prosecutions. According to the Transactional Records Clearing House, a Syracuse University program that tracks federal data, gun prosecutions increased in 2012 and "[d]espite the recent ups and downs, federal [weapons] prosecutions today are a great deal higher than in the pre-9/11 era."
Even so, the NRA has a lengthy track record of frustrating federal gun law enforcement, primarily through attempts to weaken the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the federal law enforcement agency responsible for initiating investigations into federal gun law violations.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent made inflammatory comments about President Obama and said Cubans "haven't figured out personal hygiene" during an appearance on an online radio show hosted by 9/11 truther and conspiracy theorist Pete Santilli.
Santilli, who has promoted conspiracy theories relating to the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six educators dead, does little to hide the fact that he is a conspiracy theorist. The recorded introduction to his radio show says that it is broadcast from "FEMA region nine" and that the show's purpose is to counter "the New World Order, the global elite and their eugenics agenda."
In an article posted on his website, Santilli shared a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook shooting created by "911 truth Switzerland" that the massacre was a "satanic sacrifice" and posted images to his website that suggest the shooting was predicted by a map seen in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
Nugent himself has spread false information about Sandy Hook, claiming in his regular column at birther website WND that an assault weapon was not used in the massacre. Nugent's claim that the shooter used handguns originates from a video frequently promoted by conspiracy theorists who believe Sandy Hook may have been a government hoax.
In addition to pushing Sandy Hook conspiracies, Santilli links to a series of videos on his website that promote the fringe theory of Judy Wood that the Twin Towers were brought down by a "high-tech energy weapon" possibly fired from space. Santilli also promotes the work of William Cooper, an anti-government conspiracy theorist who was killed in 2001 after opening fire on law enforcement agents.
Here are five outrageous moments from Nugent's appearance on The Pete Santilli Show:
In a column for birther website WND, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent blamed gun violence on leftists and advanced a number of false arguments about gun policy, including the long-debunked claim that higher gun availability leads to lower gun crime.
Expressing support for armed teachers in schools, Nugent claimed that gun violence was the product of "anti-gun leftist policies":
The left has lied for decades about guns because they hate guns, despise the Second Amendment and blame the NRA families for crime and violence in our cities.
Truth is, it is the socialist stooges who are responsible for violence. It is their policies that prevent good guys from arming and protecting themselves and creates the big lie of "gun free" slaughter zones.
It isn't just anti-gun leftist policies that have enabled thugs to breed and prosper. The violence on America's streets is the result of a number of other leftist big-government policies that have worked to destroy families and entire communities by discouraging accountability and rewarding dangerous behavior.
That's the turbo destructo modus operandi of the socialists: Intentionally destroy something and then claim the solution to fix it is always more government, more laws, more control and less freedom.
Nugent concluded his piece by claiming that "Leftist stooges ... don't care one bit about protecting kids":
Good people want to protect our children. Leftist stooges want to create conditions for evil to flourish. They don't care one bit about protecting kids.
Never trust leftist goons. They will put you and your children at risk to advance their socialist, anti-freedom agenda.
Nugent's piece is peppered with untrue statements about gun violence. For example, Nugent blamed "socialist stooges" for creating "'gun free' slaughter zones," when most mass shootings that have occurred since January 2009 took place where guns were allowed to be carried.
The National Rifle Association's fearmongering over the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has reached a zenith, with its media representatives claiming that passing the treaty would result in "192 other countries to tell[ing] us what our gun control laws ought to be," while not passing the treaty would result in "even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment."
Negotiations are currently taking place on the treaty, which aims to prevent the diversion of weapons to human-rights abusers in order to reduce the estimated 500,000 deaths that occur worldwide each year as a result of armed violence.
While the NRA routinely trumpets - and fundraises off of - the baseless conspiracy that the treaty is actually an Obama administration plot to disarm Americans, the text of the treaty proposal plainly states that it seeks to regulate the international trade in arms and not nations' domestic gun policies. Far from meddling in America's domestic gun affairs as the NRA claims, the treaty actually seeks to implement on an international scale arms trade standards already in place in the United States.
The latest claims from the NRA on the treaty came during the March 19 edition of the NRA's Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel when NRA News investigative journalist Ginny Simone interviewed Fox News contributor and NRA advisor John Bolton. During that interview, Bolton and Simone suggested that while it would be a disaster for the Second Amendment if the treaty were enacted, it would be even worse if it wasn't.
SIMONE: But you know John, they claim this is the final conference. So here's a what if. What if it doesn't get by this conference? And what if it doesn't get by the General Assembly and the U.N. decides, or the countries, the member states at the U.N., decide to go outside? Is that even more of a threat when it comes to our Second Amendment?
BOLTON: Well I think it is. And it actually allows more freedom for those who have an international control agenda to pursue.
A National Rifle Association-authored opinion piece in The Hill is rife with misleading claims about legislation that aims to expand background checks for gun sales and fix current deficiencies in the background check system.
Chris Cox, a regular columnist and top lobbyist for the NRA, claimed in an op-ed that proposed legislation to expand background checks would create a national gun registry and "criminalize" transfers of firearms between family members. In fact, expanded background check legislation reported to the Senate on March 12, known as the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013, contains an exception for transfers between family members and federal law already prohibits the establishment of a national gun registry. Cox also misled about the effectiveness of the current background check system as an argument against making improvements.
In his March 18 column titled, "A universally bad idea," Cox claimed, "A mandate for truly 'universal' background checks would put the federal government squarely in the middle of every sale, loan or gift of a firearm between private individuals. In other words, it would criminalize all private firearms transfers, even between family members or friends who have known each other all of their lives."
The Fix Gun Checks Act, the leading piece of background check legislation, would require a criminal background check for nearly every gun sale to occur with some important exceptions. The legislation exempts "bona fide gifts between spouses, between parents and their children, between siblings, or between grandparents and their grandchildren" from the background check requirement. Other exemptions waive the background check requirement for temporary transfers for hunting and other sporting purposes.
The exemptions laid out in the Fix Gun Checks Act mirror the Obama administration's policy proposal on reducing gun violence, which called for background check legislation with "common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."
In addition to expanding background checks, the Fix Gun Checks Act also aims to improve the background check system by using a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize states to submit disqualifying records into the background check system that are currently missing.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards complained about the arrest of New York linen mogul George Bardwil on illegal gun possession charges, even though Bardwil is currently under indictment for felony domestic abuse and is therefore prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
Edwards' defense of Bardwil demonstrates how the NRA claims that existing gun laws should be better enforced while simultaneously undermining the enforcement of the federal prohibition on firearm possession by domestic abusers.
On the March 15 edition of Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel, Edwards cited news reports in The Washington Times and The New York Post that described how Bardwil was arrested after police reviewed footage of Bardwil using a handgun that was not registered to him to scare off a would-be burglar at his Manhattan residence. New York City law requires that handgun owners register their weapons with the city.
During the segment, Edwards suggested that in New York, "you are still looking at three years in prison for acting in self-defense in your own home," even though the actual charge relates to Bardwil's alleged "criminal possession of a weapon" and not his conduct when confronting the would-be burglar.
Edwards also described the situation as "pretty awful" and said, "I thought we lived in the United States of America." He concluded by suggesting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could prove that he was not "anti-gun" by convincing the district attorney to not pursue charges against Bardwil:
EDWARDS: Mayor Bloomberg still has the, well I'll use the word tenacity, this is a family friendly show. Still has the tenacity and the gall to say he is not anti-gun. If that is the case, why don't you call up your buddy the DA, chew him out, and get those charges dropped against George Bardwil?
From the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference on March 15:
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