On February 1 the National Rifle Association will commence its inaugural hosting of one of the largest gun shows in the United States with the weeklong Great American Outdoor Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The show promises attendees nearly 1,000 exhibitors displaying wares for hunting, fishing and other outdoors activities as well as "concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!"
But behind the NRA's sponsorship of the show is the backstory of how the NRA led a 2013 coup against the previous organizers of "the largest outdoor show in America" at the Farm Show Complex over a dispute about the sale of assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. With its takeover of the event -- which will now also be used as an NRA fundraising tool -- the NRA is consciously injecting its Second Amendment absolutism into an annual outdoors show that has been a Harrisburg fixture for more than 60 years.
Here are five reasons why the NRA's Great American Outdoor Show is different from your typical hunting and fishing enthusiast expo:
1. NRA Ousted The Previous Owners For Refusing To Allow Assault Weapons Post-Newtown
Following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman used an assault weapon to take 26 lives, Reed Exhibitions -- which in recent years had organized the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the annual hunting and fishing show held since 1951 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex -- announced that it would not allow assault weapons to be displayed or sold at the 2013 show. In response, sellers of assault weapons and other vendors staged a boycott of the show. The NRA entered the fray, backing the boycott and effectively killing the show, which was subsequently cancelled by Reed Exhibitions. Local officials estimated the cancellation caused an $88 million revenue loss in the Harrisburg area. In April 2013, the NRA announced that it would organize the 2014 show, renamed as the Great American Outdoor Show, after beating out 16 other potential organizers who submitted bids to put on a gun show at the Farm Show Complex.
A man who is facing charges he raped a minor was recently honored during a daily NRA News feature that highlights instances of self-defense with a gun. The segments promote the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime.
The January 17 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel celebrated the actions of Marlo Ellis during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment sponsored by firearms retailer CheaperThanDirt.com. Ellis broke up the armed robbery of an Orrville, Alabama Dollar General by fatally shooting the alleged robber with his concealed handgun.
During the segment Cam Edwards described Ellis' actions in detail and asked, "I wonder how many other media outlets will be reporting on this story?" Curiously Edwards never said Ellis' name, although he mentioned the name of the alleged robber and several witnesses. A web search for Ellis' name reveals he was arrested in 2013 for allegedly raping a victim "between the age of 12 and 16." Dallas County's district attorney reportedly confirmed that Ellis is facing charges related to the 2013 investigation. A local news outlet covering the Dollar General shooting updated its account to include this fact, which was also appeared in an account on Guns.com.
Recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coverage of the electoral defeat of two Pennsylvania mayors who were members of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) demonstrates how media cherry-pick data to falsely suggest mayors risk losing their jobs by joining the group.
MAIG, a coalition of more than 1,000 mayors, is best known for its Demand Action campaign in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and recent partnership with the 130,000 member grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In recent months the Tribune-Review has suggested that Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane and Butler Mayor Maggie Stock lost their re-election campaigns because of their MAIG memberships. The paper hasn't mentioned the MAIG memberships of any of the mayors who won reelection in 2013; 95 percent of Pennsylvania MAIG members were reelected.
National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesman Ted Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and argued that he and other liberal politicians should be punished for treason.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mongrel as "a dog with parents of different breeds."
Nugent made the comment during a January 17 interview with Guns.com at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), an annual gun industry trade show that draws 60,000 firearms industry professionals. Nugent was representing the Outdoor Channel, which airs his hunting show Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild. Nugent and Outdoor Channel recently announced a multi-year endorsement deal where Nugent will make "talent appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events." In announcing the deal, Outdoor Channel's CEO said that Nugent "symbolizes everything that is right in our industry."
The National Rifle Association pushed a false history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s views on firearms in order to promote gun ownership in a video commentary released on the national holiday commemorating the slain civil rights hero's birthday.
Gun rights activists frequently distort history by citing a 1956 attempt by King to acquire a gun permit as evidence that King favored gun ownership. This ignores that King later repudiated his earlier action, concluding, "How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection?"
In a January 20 video, Colion Noir -- one of several commentators hired by the NRA to produce videos for NRANews.com -- claimed that King would have "happily struggled with envy" over Noir's concealed handgun permit. Noir then related King's attempt to acquire a gun permit and falsely claimed that after failing in that endeavor, King filled his house with people carrying guns:
NOIR: Dr. King was a nonviolent man, but even he understood the realities of self-defense and protecting his home and his family in the face of life-threatening violence. This is why he tried to apply for that gun permit when the house where his wife and daughter lived was firebombed. When Dr. King was denied, he did the next best thing and surrounded himself with people with guns. Which was evidenced by one of Dr. King's advisors describing his home as an "arsenal."
Right-wing media are citing the claims of a high-level Mexican drug cartel figure, who faces life in prison for narcotrafficking, to advance its latest conspiracy theory about a failed federal law enforcement operation to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
According to Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel figure known as "El Vicentillo" who will soon face trial in Chicago, the purpose of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was to arm the Sinaloa Cartel so that it would have the firepower to destroy rival drug cartels. Zambada-Niebla's testimony is not credible for a number of reasons, the most glaring being that he was arrested in March 2009, more than six months before the ATF even conceived of Fast and Furious.
Despite this red flag, Zambada-Niebla's claims have been repeatedly promoted on the National Rifle Association's radio and television shows, by Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and throughout the fringe conservative blogosphere.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared film executive Harvey Weinstein, who is Jewish, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels over Weinstein's plan to make an anti-NRA film.
Weinstein recently appeared on Howard Stern's radio show and announced he was planning to take the NRA "head on" with a new film project involving Meryl Streep.
Appearing on the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company on January 16, Nugent said viewers of Weinstein's film "will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky is alive in the form a fat punk named Harvey Weinstein and as he tries to destroy the NRA it will backfire on him."
Nugent also called Weinstein a "subhuman punk," a "brain-dead idiot," "a descendant of the ultimate putz," and added, "I don't know if Harvey Weinstein has had a lifetime of drug and substance abuse, but he certainly sounds like it. You have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nuremberg [Germany] in 1938 are a desirable condition." He concluded, "Harvey Weinstein is on the side of criminals. The NRA is on the side of innocent victims protecting themselves from criminals."
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed that African-Americans must "admit to the self-inflicted destructo-derby they are waging" in order to honestly celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Nugent, who recently became Outdoor Channel's spokesman, made this claim in his regular column for birther website WND. In a column titled, "What Would Dr. King Say About Black Culture?" Nugent sought to tie a viral video of a 2-year-old Omaha, Nebraska toddler being cursed at by adults to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is on January 20:
A truly disturbing and disgusting profanity-laced video of a 2-year-old little boy made national headlines recently after the Omaha Police Union posted the video on its website.
The street thugs who made the video and the little boy are black. This is important to note as the nation gets ready to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20.
Nugent cited this single example of bad parenting as "the tip of the black gangster iceberg" and suggested that "[s]hould the boy ever be reunited with his family of gangsters, he will either end up in prison like his grandparents or dead like his dad."
January 14 kicks off a four-day gun industry trade show that gathers firearms industry professionals from around the country to unveil new weaponry and stand against the regulation of firearms.
The 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), put on by the gun industry lobby group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), is billed as "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and is held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The NSSF promises nearly 11 football fields of exhibition space at the 36th annual SHOT Show for an expected crowd of 60,000 gun industry professionals. Because it is a trade show, the event is closed to the general public, although 2,500 members of media -- many affiliated with outdoor and gun publications -- are expected to attend. The estimated 1,600 exhibitors will represent every facet of the gun industry, although a list of exhibitors suggests like in past years the event will heavily promote an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines. The trade show will be capped by a speech from NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti on the gun industry's "year of resiliency" in 2013, presumably a nod to backlash against the gun industry following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
While the National Rifle Association's annual meeting typically draws more media scrutiny compared to SHOT Show, both events are important to understanding the direction and goals of the gun industry. Here are five facts about this year's SHOT Show:
The Outdoor Channel announced the "expansion of its strategic partnership with the National Rifle Association" and a new "multi-year talent and endorsement agreement" with inflammatory NRA board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent, pointing to the network's effort to eclipse its competitors as the channel of choice for the gun lobby and firearms enthusiasts.
Outdoor Channel announced an expansion of its relationship with the NRA including two new NRA shows to air on Outdoor Channel and sponsorship of the NRA's 2014 annual meeting in a January 6 press release. The new programs include NRA All Access presented by Taurus, which promises to "take a comprehensive look at the role the NRA plays in important Second Amendment issues and the outdoor lifestyle." NRA News' Cam & Company currently airs on rival network The Sportsman Channel, which recently announced an upcoming show to be hosted by former Alaska Governor and current Fox News contributor Sarah Palin.
In a separate press release Outdoor Channel, which has long aired Nugent's hunting show Spirit of the Wild, said that Nugent will work on behalf of the network "through traditional, digital and social media promotional initiatives, in addition to making talent appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events" and also announced a weekly podcast featuring Nugent.
Nugent will represent Outdoor Channel at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in January, the largest gun industry annual gathering, and at the NRA's new Great American Outdoor Show. At last year's SHOT Show, Nugent created controversy by suggesting that it was time to violently overthrow the federal government because of an attempt to re-implement "tyranny" by the Obama administration.
Outdoor Channel President and CEO Jim Liberatore heaped praise on Nugent's character in his channel's statement, claiming that the NRA board member "symbolizes everything that is right in our industry":
"Ted Nugent symbolizes everything that is right in our industry and represents our viewers as an outspoken patriot, a skilled outdoorsman and a devoted family man; we are proud that he can be found exclusively on Outdoor Channel," said Jim Liberatore, President and CEO of Outdoor Channel. "His programs have a powerful, zealous fan base with unmatched engagement levels. And, under this agreement, we will join forces with Ted to become advocates for all enthusiasts who love and live in the outdoors."
Viewing gun rights as under attack after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its backers in conservative media spent 2013 using inflammatory rhetoric to attack critics and promote an uncompromising pro-gun agenda.
Both the NRA and its conservative media allies frequently attempted to draw modern-day parallels between Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during the Holocaust and the Obama administration's post-Newtown proposal to advance gun safety. One ugly event at the NRA's annual meeting saw the NRA's main political opponent illustrated as a Nazi, leading to condemnation from Jewish organizations.
Even victims of gun violence and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook could not escape the wrath of right-wing media, who insultingly called them "props" of the Obama administration, as if they were unable to think for themselves. The NRA similarly politicized the armed protection of President Obama's daughters in a widely criticized TV spot.
Ted Nugent, perhaps the best known member of NRA leadership, turned heads when he dubbed Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" after the deceased Florida teenager's killer was acquitted. Even given his past racially inflammatory rhetoric, Nugent shocked many by piling on his Martin comment with a weeks-long tirade in which he endorsed racial profiling and claimed that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence." The NRA declined to comment.
The year also featured a number of bizarre claims from the NRA, including the host of an NRA-produced television show comparing critics of his elephant hunting to Hitler, NRA head Wayne LaPierre's claim that gun ownership was essential to "survival," and NRA past-president Marion Hammer's comparison of an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination.
What follows are 12 lowlights from a year punctuated by extreme NRA rhetoric:
Scott Bach, the National Rifle Association board member who has been widely condemned for recent comments that trivialized the Holocaust, previously claimed that Hitler was "pro-gun control" and that the Holocaust may have been averted "if the victims had not first been disarmed under the pretext of public safety."
Bach has faced heavy criticism since his December 11 claim on NRA News that Jersey City, New Jersey Mayor Steven Fulop was wrong to require city gun vendors to fill out a survey about gun safety, considering that Fulop's grandparents survived the Holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, the editorial board of New Jersey's largest newspaper, and Fulop himself have all condemned Bach's claim.
As the head of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), an official NRA affiliate organization, Bach is the most prominent gun rights activist in New Jersey. He has served on the NRA board since 2003 and an October 2011 profile in an NRA magazine described Bach as "a tenacious Second Amendment activist, who has devoted more than a decade to defending gun rights both nationally and on the 'front lines' of the Northeast--where politicians who control government are hostile to firearm freedoms."
On his website, Bach describes becoming involved in the gun rights movement "after a profoundly painful breakup of an extremely serious relationship with a woman who flat out refused to accept my interest in freedom, firearms, and the Second Amendment." He continued: "In relinquishing love in favor of freedom, I realized that freedom was the higher value in my life, and having paid an ultimate price to uphold that value, I could no longer remain quietly in the shadows."
The Anti-Defamation League says it is "outraged" by recent comments from National Rifle Association Board Member Scott Bach who wondered how the mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, could support a gun safety proposal given that the mayor's grandparents survived the Holocaust.
Bach, who heads the NRA affiliate group Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, criticized Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop on a December 11 NRA News program over Fulop's support for a measure that would require city gun vendors to fill out a six-question survey on gun safety when bidding on contracts. Citing Fulop's past service in the Marines and that his grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust, Bach stated, "So you've got to wonder why he is not getting it." Bach's implication that modern gun safety proposals recall the the Holocaust is a common -- but ahistorical -- theory promoted by right-wing media and the NRA.
Fulop characterized Bach's claim as "asinine" and "backwards" on the December 16 edition of The Brian Lehrer Show, adding, "If my grandparents had guns in their house when the Nazis came, my grandparents would be dead and I wouldn't be here. So that's probably the reality of the situation. But I don't think that you can equate religious persecution to a manipulation of the intent of the Second Amendment."
National Rifle Association board member Scott Bach wondered on NRA News how the mayor of Jersey City could support a gun safety survey because the mayor is a retired Marine and his grandparents survived the Holocaust.
On December 10, Associated Press reported that Jersey City, New Jersey Mayor Steven Fulop included a six question survey about gun safety in instructions for gun vendors to bid on contracts worth $350,000 to provide Jersey City with firearms and ammunition. Among the survey's inquiries are questions about whether the vendor sells assault weapons to the general public and if they take steps to prevent illegal gun trafficking.
Fulop told AP that he hopes other cities will follow his lead of inserting a "social responsibility component" into the bidding process for government contracts:
A 37-year-old former Marine, Fulop said he hopes larger cities will join the effort. Nearly every other industry, from construction to the garment industry, has some social responsibility component, he said, so why not gun manufacturers, dealers and vendors?
As the one-year anniversary of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School approaches, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is blaming "the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness" for the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut.
In his regular column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent wrote on December 11 that unless America followed a series of his policy recommendations -- including arming teachers, eliminating "gun-free zones," and getting "deranged people off the streets" -- "then those precious little 20 children and their six teachers and faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary died for nothing."
He also explained mass shootings as a product of "political correctness" run rampant in society:
The first lesson we should take away from the Sandy Hook massacre is that the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness has dumbed down America enough to allow the conditions to continue to exist that will facilitate another twisted individual capable of doing the same thing to flounder about our society. In fact, it already happened at the Washington Naval Yard. It is going to happen again. And again.
There is no evidence, however, that Nugent's recommendations would prevent school shootings or reduce gun violence generally.
Channeling the NRA's first-post Newtown comments, Nugent claimed that, "The only way to stop a madman with a gun is a good guy or two with guns. Nothing else will work." Thus, according to Nugent, "supporting arming teachers and other faculty members is clearly the right choice."
In fact, an analysis of public mass shootings by Mother Jones that covered the past 30 years did not find a single mass shooting ended by an armed civilian. While the Obama administration and the National Education Association have supported funding for placing more armed members of law enforcement in schools, there is no evidence that the NRA and Nugent's unpopular proposal to arm teachers would prevent shootings.