Media figures are falsely claiming that Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In the wake of Zimmerman's March 2012 killing of Martin, media attention turned to the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will" statute). That law allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat as long as they are not engaged in illegality and are attacked in a place they have a right to be.The law also allows for a defendant to seek an expedited pretrial hearing on those grounds, and grants people who kill in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits.
The statute was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association. After Florida passed the law in 2005, it was adopted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council and nearly two dozen states passed similar legislation. Such laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims.
After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of Martin, gun violence prevention advocates again highlighted the role of Florida's self-defense law. But some in the media, due to a misunderstanding of the statute's breadth, have falsely claimed that the law played no role in the trial.
On the July 15 edition of CNN's New Day, co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan agreed that the law played no role in the case.
In fact, Florida's self-defense laws set the framework by which Zimmerman was tried, setting the standard by which the jury would have to determine if Martin's death resulted from the justifiable use of force. Indeed, the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force.
Frank Borelli, a frequent guest on NRA News, noted the excuse used by Nazis who operated concentration camps that they were "just following orders" to applaud sheriffs who would "selectively enforce" Maryland's new gun violence prevention laws.
On May 16, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and a handgun licensing scheme.
Borelli, who is the editor of the law enforcement news site Officer.com and is a regular guest on NRA News, made the Nazi comparison as a counterpoint to an editorial by Maryland House of Delegates member Jon S. Cardin that criticized a Maryland sheriff who said he would not enforce the new laws.
From the June 20 edition of Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: The Baltimore Sun is very upset, particularly Jon Cardin is incensed that there are sheriffs in the state of Maryland who say that they will not be enforcing the new gun control laws against otherwise legal law-abiding gun owners. He says this is a horrible idea, in a country dependent on the rule of law, he says, to protect civil rights and public safety this is dangerous and distressing. I'm curious, what's your take, Frank?
FRANK BORELLI: I'd like to ask Mr. Cardin one question. Does he feel that when Nazis working the death camps used the excuse of, I was just following orders, was that an acceptable excuse and did it exempt them for moral turpitude for their actions? And I'd like to hear him justify that.
These sheriffs have stepped up, again this is my opinion, these sheriffs have stepped up and said you know what, we don't [sic] feel these laws are unconstitutional therefore we're not going to enforce them. They're saying, hey, this isn't a lawful order. These laws aren't enforceable. We choose not to enforce them. I commend them for their courage to do so.
The National Rifle Association's news show inaccurately portrayed a California program that seeks to recover guns from felons and other prohibited individuals as a means of placing law-abiding gun owners in danger of firearm confiscation.
The June 20 special targeted a California law enforcement program that works with the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), a database of individuals who are no longer legally allowed to possess guns. The database works by combining gun registration records with the records of individuals who are barred from owning a firearm because of a felony conviction, restraining order or adjudication of serious mental illness.
According to Pacific Standard magazine, the database includes 20,000 people who possess at least 38,000 handguns and 1,600 assault weapons.
Setting up the segment, NRA News' investigative reporter Ginny Simone said that the special would tell the story of a person who was "wrongly targeted," despite the fact that the person featured is prohibited by federal law from owning a gun. NRA News host Cam Edwards also claimed that "there are so many issues right now for the law-abiding in California because you got lawmakers going after their rights, meanwhile the criminals are getting put back out onto the streets, and it sounds like you've got a government that is in many ways just out of control."
The agency responsible for the enforcement of federal gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), has not had a permanent director since 2006 largely due to obstruction from the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress. Today, a Senate hearing will consider President Obama's nomination of current acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones for permanent director.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards compared the experience of opponents of new gun laws in Colorado during the legislative process to the experiences of victims of racial segregation.
Edwards hosted Laura Carno, the founder of conservative nonprofit I am Created Equal that is seeking to remove Colorado Senate President John Morse from office for supporting legislation to require background checks on gun sales and limit high-capacity magazines. During this discussion, Edwards said, "We have seen a great deal of disrespect shown to gun owners throughout this process," and added, "It's not just that our rights aren't being respected, our voices aren't being respected."
He then read from the dissent in the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which railed against the majority ruling that established the racially discriminatory "separate but equal" doctrine. Quoting from Justice John Marshall Harlan's dissent, Edwards said, "In the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here," and, "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful."
From the June 4 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company:
Gun Owners of America Execuive Director Larry Pratt is happy to appear on talk shows hosted by conspiracy theorists who believe 9/11 was an inside job, think white Christians should arm themselves for the coming race war, or want to shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.
Pratt told Media Matters in a lengthy interview this week that outlandish, discredited claims by the likes of talk show hosts Alex Jones and Pete Santelli do not bother him as long as his interviewer "has an audience and he provides a microphone for us to reach that audience."
"As long as I have a chance to present what Gun Owners of America is doing ... ideally seek support for Gun Owners of America, get [people] on our alert list, receive the alerts, then that's all good," Pratt said.
In the interview, Pratt also defended conspiratorial claims he had made on extremist programs, including his suggestion that the government might have been involved in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Pratt's organization has become an important player in the gun debate, with The New York Times in April heralding their role as an "increasingly potent group" that was "emerging as an influential force" over then-pending Senate gun legislation. This high-profile role has come in spite of Pratt's long record of extremism.
As Media Matters has documented, discredited conspiracies and outlandish and offensive statements are the stock-in-trade of several radio talk show hosts whose regular guests have included Pratt, as well as gun advocates Ted Nugent and former NRA President David Keene.
Among the radio shows that Pratt has frequented are those hosted by Jones, Santelli, and Stan Solomon and Gary Franchi.
Solomon, a race-baiting host who is convinced a war between a "black force" and a "white resistance" is set to break out at any moment, also believes the December 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school was a "programmed event" designed to help pass gun legislation.
Franchi is an avid conspirator who drew unwanted attention when NBC News highlighted his history of promoting conspiracy theories, including his extensive involvement in the "9-11 truth" movement and his belief that the government is secretly building FEMA concentration camps to round up American citizens.
Jones believes the government actively carried out or was otherwise involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the mass shooting in Newtown. (He also recently suggested a government "weather weapon" could possibly have created the devastating tornado in Oklahoma.)
Santelli in recent weeks has been in the news for repeatedly expressing his desire to shoot Hillary Clinton "in the vagina" over her supposed treasonous acts.
Asked if he agrees with these hosts or finds any problem with their views, Pratt stated, "If they will provide an audience, we're happy to speak to their audience."
Conservative commentator Tony Katz said on the National Rifle Association's radio program that some victims of both the May 23 bridge collapse in Washington state and Hurricane Katrina were blameworthy for not doing enough to protect themselves.
Katz, who hosts a radio show and is a contributor to a number of conservative news sites, also claimed that not a single British citizen cared about a May 22 attack on a British soldier in London "because they have an entire society now where you can kill a soldier in broad daylight and no one says, 'let's do something about this.'" Host Cam Edwards claimed that bystanders in the aftermath of the attack were "docile" and "nobody did anything." From the May 24 edition of Cam & Company on NRANews.com:
While criticizing the actions of victims of recent disasters, Katz claimed that some victims of Hurricane Katrina were "up to their knees in water screaming out, where is the government to help me?" He added: "Well if you don't know how to get to dry land or how to move before the storm comes, this is what you get."
David Kopel, a gun activist who frequently writes for the National Rifle Association's publications, has been identified by Denver Fox affiliate KDVR/FOX31 as a source for a fake story about a gun executive who was supposedly detained after being misidentified as a terrorist.
Kopel, who is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver's law school, is currently representing a group of sheriffs who seek to overturn Colorado's newly enacted gun violence prevention laws. In January, Kopel testified against stronger gun laws before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to a May 22 article, Kopel put KDVR in touch with a woman who claimed that Daniele Perazzi, an executive for Italian shotgun company who actually died in 2012, had been taken in for questioning by police in Denver after a cab driver misidentified him as a terrorist. It later became apparent that the woman, identified as Korrine Aguirre, fabricated the account.
KDVR reported that Kopel "first told FOX31 Denver" about the incident and referred them to Aguirre, "who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story." The news outlet was also in touch with NRA board member Steve Schreiner, who claimed to be at the Colorado Gun Collectors Association show, where Perazzi was supposedly heading to when he was accused of being a terrorist:
Two trusted sources who told FOX31 Denver that an Italian gun company executive was questioned by local law enforcement after a Denver cab driver thought he might be a terrorist now say they were misled.
David Kopel, a nationally-recognized Second Amendment attorney with the Independence Institute in Denver, first told FOX31 Denver about the alleged incident Saturday. He referred us to Korrine Aguirre, who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story.
Steve Schreiner, a Colorado board member of the National Rifle Association, told us he was at the gun show. He said Aguirre told him about the alleged questioning of Perazzi by police.
FOX31 Denver News Director Ed Kosowski has acknowledged, "More steps should have been taken to corroborate Aguirre's story and verify information provided by Kopel and Schreiner."
The Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section used an image of Nazi soldiers on parade to accompany the republication of a National Rifle Association press release that attacked proponents of stronger gun laws.
Appended to the top of the press release was an image of Nazi soldiers performing the goose step in front of Hitler and his generals during an October 1939 parade in Warsaw, Poland:
The NRA press release identified three Democratic members of the New Jersey Legislature, Loretta Weinberg, Sandra Cunningham and Linda Greenstein, who were reportedly "complaining" that proposals to strengthen gun laws in New Jersey do not go far enough. The NRA further claims that one of the legislators was caught on tape saying, "We needed a bill that was going to confiscate, confiscate, confiscate." As the New Jersey Star-Ledger notes, it is actually not clear which legislator named by the NRA, if any, made the comment or what words were said before "confiscate":
As a committee hearing on new gun-control legislation began winding down Thursday, three state senators started chatting amongst themselves.
What they didn't realize was the microphone was still on.
A recording of the exchange -- which appears to be between Democrats Loretta Weinberg, Sandra Cunningham and Linda Greenstein -- ended up on YouTube, and gun supporters said today they were upset by the remarks.
The recording opens with what sounds like a senator or staff member saying, "We needed a bill that was going to confiscate, confiscate, confiscate" -- although it is not clear who is speaking or if this is what she is saying.
PolitickerNJ.com also reported on the recording, noting that the "confiscate" comments were made by "an unknown voice." Reached for comment, Weinberg stated, "All I know is it's not my voice and I don't know who said it or in what context."
As media scrutinize accidental shootings involving children, the National Rifle Association's news program Cam & Company has instead repeatedly highlighted incidents where students clashed with administrators over school policies that relate to guns.
Accidental shootings involving children have been a much discussed topic over the past few weeks, with some incidents receiving widespread coverage. In particular, a fatal accident in Burkesville, Kentucky, where a 5-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle designed to be used by young children, was covered by The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, CBSNews.com, and MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes.
Between the Kentucky accident that occurred on April 30 and May 14, Cam & Company spent only 5 minutes and 33 seconds covering gun accidents, mostly by attacking the media for reporting on the incidents. In comparison, the show spent 71 minutes and 13 seconds highlighting instances where host Cam Edwards felt that students had been unfairly treated by schools for their participation in gun culture. During the sole segment that covered a gun accident, Edwards criticized The New York Times for its reporting on the Burkesville accident.
School incidents that received ample coverage on Cam & Company, which airs on The Sportsman Channel, include:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent detailed a plan for immigration reform which calls for treating undocumented immigrants like "indentured servants" and requiring undocumented male immigrants to build a fence on the United States-Mexico border.
In his regular column for WND, Nugent proposed his "Nuge Immigration Plan" because "[w]e don't need any more bloodsuckers" and promised to "apply Sherriff Joe Arpaio justice" to anyone who has been deported for committing a crime and caught trying to re-enter the country. The plan would also end birthright citizenship currently guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. According to Nugent, "The anchor baby scam should be immediately rescinded. You don't need to be a constitutional expert like our president to know that the original intent of the 14th Amendment was not to provide citizenship to illegal women or their babies who are born on American soil."
The "NIP" would also involve ending the United States government practice of printing some documents in Spanish and other languages, which Nugent calls "the most racist thing our government does" by "encouraging people not to learn English."
HOUSTON -- To swing the door on a National Rifle Association annual meeting is to enter a world where Freedom comes from a gun. The gun's purpose is not important. It doesn't have to be American made. It can be any number of shapes, so long as it has a grip, a trigger, and a barrel. But only from a gun barrel can Freedom flow. In the words of multiple NRA members who confronted protestors this past weekend, "The Second Amendment is the one thing protecting the First."
Last May in St. Louis, NRA leaders pounded away at this idea in a torrent of Apocalyptic warnings about the consequences of failure in the November elections. A year later, gathering two weeks after helping defeat the biggest effort to strengthen gun laws in a generation, the same men delivered the NRA's Second Amendment gospel with a newfound swagger. Unchanged was the primacy of guns and gun rights in the NRA's understanding of the world and everything in it. In his opening speech, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre described the gun enthusiasts before him as "Freedom's biggest army, greatest hope, and brightest future." The group's chief lobbyist-strategist, the boyish Tennessean Chris Cox, celebrated the convention as "the biggest celebration ever of American values," whose 86,000-plus attendees embodied "the essence of participation in American democracy."
NRA summits involve leadership votes and platform debates, but NRA-style democracy isn't about those things alone. It's also about the guns that make it possible. Which is why NRA conventions feature an exhibition hall packed with hundreds of booths displaying Freedom's latest fashions -- what the group calls "the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world."
The big story on the floor this year was the post-election sales bounce following Sandy Hook and a revitalized gun violence debate. Companies that had reduced production to normal post-election levels in November were blindsided by second buying frenzy and have yet to recover their balance. Among the biggest beneficiaries is the assault rifle industry the NRA did much to nurture in the 1980s. "Sales are through the roof," said a rep from Stag Arms. "We have an eight to 12-month wait." A manager from Core Rifle Systems described the recent frenzy as "almost a little ridiculous. But it's good for business. We have a two-year back order producing 3,500 rifles a month." DSA Inc., which makes a range of ARs and grenade launchers, says it's getting 2,000 emails a day. "Business is good, it's real, real good for all of us," said a rep from the online assault weapon retailer CheaperThanDirt.com. Behind him hung an oversized check for $500,000 made out to the NRA.
Veteran guns and ammo dealers see the current frenzy as resulting from several developments that together have created a perfect storm of paranoia among the gun community. Obama's reelection, legislative movement on Capitol Hill, the UN Arms Trade Treaty, reports of large purchases of ammunition by federal agencies -- all have been hyped in the gun press and in rightwing media as heralding everything from ammo droughts to full-on police state tyranny.
"Together with all the gun stuff in the news, you still have the bad economy, which means survival purchases of the three B's -- beans, bullets, and booze," said Jeff Mullins, a bullet designer and owner of Allegiance Ammunition. "Then people see these reports about the government buying high volume [ammo]. That makes people think, 'Well, they're buying it to keep it from us.' I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but..."
When Mullins trailed off, an attendee listening nearby finished the thought. "Everybody is thinking that way," he said. "Nobody trusts the government."
This distrust is spreading to their fellow citizens. NRA members have been as jolted by public mass shootings as anyone else. Some of them just come to different conclusions about solutions. Among the workshops offered in Houston were several related to defensive handgun skills, i.e., how to be a good guy with a gun who stops bad guys with guns. The defensive shooting expert Rob Pincus introduced a full auditorium to the methods outlined in his book, Counter Ambush. In his talk, Pincus avoided phrases like "mass shootings" and "rampages," instead referring to emergencies in "the public environment situation."
Growing demand for bullets capable of dropping a Jared Loughner with one shot has increased interest in frag rounds like those designed by Jeff Mullins. "People are coming out of a fantasy world and realizing they have to take responsibility for their safety, even when they're at the mall or wherever," he said. "People now realize that bad people sometimes need to be taken out quick."
To illustrate why his trademarked bullets are the right tools for stopping an ambush, Mullins reached under the counter and pulled out photos of a dead 485-pound Russian boar. His daughter had recently killed it with a single round of his newest design. "It fragments so well that it creates instant trauma, shutting down the central nervous system," he explained. Like so many of his peers, he couldn't guess when his supply would catch up with demand.
Leaders from Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and B'nai B'rith have condemned Glenn Beck for depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as giving a Nazi salute in a speech Beck gave at the National Rifle Association's annual convention.
On May 4, Glenn Beck delivered a keynote speech to the National Rifle Association's 2013 annual convention. During the speech, he criticized Mayor Bloomberg and showed an image depicting Bloomberg with his arm raised in a Nazi salute and wearing an armband.
On May 7, ABC News reported that Beck "aroused criticism by a major Jewish group for depicting the mayor giving a Nazi salute." Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, told ABC News:
While he doesn't say it, it seems Glenn Beck is implying through an image of Mayor Bloomberg in an apparent Hitlerian salute is that the mayor's policies on gun ownership and other issues are turning New York city into a Nazi-like state. That suggestion is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels ... Glenn Beck should know better. He has drawn similar inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust before. We wish he would stop trivializing the history of the Holocaust to score partisan political points.
B'nai B'rith, a Jewish humanitarian and human rights organization, made a similar statement to ABC News:
This is yet another example of the increasingly loose use of Holocaust-era imagery to denigrate one's opponents. No matter how heated an issue becomes, such provocative comparisons are always inappropriate and unacceptable.
On his May 7 radio show, Glenn Beck decided that he was the victim of a smear by ABC News and demanded an apology, saying that he imposed Bloomberg's likeness on an image of Lenin, not a Nazi, though he acknowledged that the pose was "a sieg heil salute":
UPDATE: The National Jewish Democratic Council has released a statement calling on the NRA and Republican leaders to condemn Beck's actions:
Glenn Beck's use of disgusting imagery, showing a leading Jewish American as a Nazi, at the National Rifle Association's convention was deeply offensive. The NRA and Republican leaders must stand with the ADL and B'nai B'rith in condemning Glenn Beck--especially those who selected him to give the NRA's keynote address. This isn't only about what Beck said, but the disturbing fact that his stunt was embraced with applause and cheers by attendees at the NRA's national convention. The NRA's crowd is the Republican base and all Americans must take note.
During the 2013 National Rifle Association annual meeting, held May 3 - 5 in Houston, Texas, the gun rights organization reaffirmed its hardline stance against any restrictions on firearms and hosted an over-the-top Glenn Beck presentation that depicted one of the NRA's political opponents as a Nazi.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre set the tone of the convention with a May 4 speech that warned of a "long war against our constitutional rights" and concluded with a message for media and political "elites" in America: "Let them be damned."
The meeting also involved the adoption of a resolution put forward by fringe gun activist Jeff Knox that stated the NRA will oppose all future gun restrictions. Also featured at the annual convention was a speech from newly-elected NRA president Jim Porter, a hardline gun rights activist, that included the claim that President Obama seeks to take "revenge" against gun owners.
In a freewheeling presentation billed as the "NRA's most important gathering of the year," conservative radio personality Glenn Beck offensively portrayed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a Nazi giving the Sieg Hail salute before concluding his hour-and-a-half long "Stand and Fight" speech by comparing the struggles of gun owners to those of the African-American civil rights movement.
Here are nine moments from the NRA's annual meeting that typify the fringe nature of the organization:
"We Shall Overcome:" Beck Adopts The Mantle Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Referencing the Underground Railroad and lunch counter protests, Beck said that he hoped the NRA would join him in a passive resistance movement. At the apex of his speech, Beck stated, "We are the law-abiding God-fearing members of the NRA. We are Americans. And we will be clear. We will stand; we'll march if we have to. We'll stand because we must. But we will not be moved. Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, [David] Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome."
This weekend former Senator Evan Bayh echoed the beliefs of many in the media that the National Rifle Association has only recently moved to the fringe, telling Politico "their position is now in the end zone, not at the 40-yard line."
These extremes were on display at the NRA annual meeting this weekend where Glenn Beck, during a keynote address just days after the announcement that New York's Cablevision would soon begin to carry his Blaze network to millions of households, displayed on the screen a poster-like image of Michael Bloomberg giving the Sieg Heil salute. To equate the Jewish mayor of New York City to Nazis used to be beyond the pale in American politics.
One could say this outrageous hate speech was Beck acting like Beck, demonstrating his herculean effort to prove Godwin's Law, but Nazi comparisons have been part and parcel of the NRA's rhetoric for decades.
In 1995, former President George H.W. Bush resigned his lifetime membership in the organization after Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre signed a fundraising letter that claimed the Assault Weapons Ban passed earlier that year "gives jackbooted Government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure and kill us."
Bush told the organization, "your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country."
The rhetoric might have been new to Bush, but the organization had freely referred to law enforcement officials as "jackbooted thugs" for years. It was only in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing that previously ignored communications, such as direct mail pieces, were scrutinized by the media, outing this disgraceful language.