Conservatives in media have adopted the false National Rifle Association claim that the term "assault weapon" was invented by proponents of assault weapons bans in order to arbitrarily single out certain firearms for further regulation. However, before the gun industry trade association attempted to rebrand assault weapons as "modern sporting rifles" in 2009 -- a change in terminology also adopted by the NRA -- the gun industry and firearm publications routinely used the term assault weapon to describe the very military-style semi-automatic rifles that would be covered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban.
As Sen. Feinstein prepares another hearing on gun violence for later this month, members of right-wing media are now dishonestly attempting to hide the history and special capabilities of assault weapons.
In a February 4 appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Ted Nugent, a NRA board member who uses his Washington Times column to argue against strengthening gun laws, covered up how assault weapons have been marketed when he claimed that President Obama's proposal to reduce gun violence "still calls personal defense weapons assault weapons, which is a nomenclature created by the anti-gun agenda."
As Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, who writes about gun policy for the conservative Townhall website, put it, "the term 'assault weapon' is a made up political term." Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller has also attempted to rewrite history, recently claiming, "President Obama and his allies, such as Mrs. [Dianne] Feinstein, deliberately misuse the term 'assault weapon' to confuse the public. Assault weapons are machine guns, automatic rifles that continue to fire until the trigger is released."
On the January 19 edition of Fox News program Fox & Friends Saturday, Miller claimed that the term assault weapon was invented during the 1980s by gun violence prevention organizations for "fearmongering" purposes:
Pundits like Miller and Pavlich are merely adopting the NRA screed on this subject. Miller's claim about the origin of the term assault weapon mirrored a January 14 press release from the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action, that claims gun violence prevention advocates coined the term during the 1980s.
During January, NRA News host Cam Edwards frequently spoke about the definition of an assault weapon on his Cam & Company show. According to Edwards, the term assault weapon is "a made up phrase" and assault weapons can be defined as "gun I'm trying to ban" or alternately "gun I want to ban."
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre reiterated his organization's position that armed guards are the solution to school violence. Yesterday the NRA's televised news show, Cam & Company, shed light on what the NRA envisions when it calls for armed guards in all schools when it previewed a special on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's school defense "posse."
The three-minute preview shows Sheriff Arpaio and a member of his self-styled "posse" discussing the workings of a group of armed volunteers who now patrol public school zones in Maricopa County, Arizona. While the NRA has called for school guards to be "an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens," no mention was made in the NRA feature of a March 2012 investigation's finding that a number of "posse" members had violent criminal records.
As Arpaio explains in the NRA News segment, "posse" members have "gone through 100 hours of weapons training, plus follow-ups. They buy their own jeeps, airplanes, cars. I swear them in. The only difference is no money, they don't get paid."
The preview also features an interview with "posse" member Jerry Johnson who says, "We're the eyes and ears of the sheriff's department. We're all volunteers. Some are ex-law enforcement, but me I'm retired. And some of us had no experience at all, but we've been trained," and concludes the preview by stating, "We've got so well trained people that you put them in a situation and they're ready to roll."
On March 14, 2012 Phoenix area CBS affiliate KPHO reported on "a number of posse members with arrests for assault, drug possession, domestic violence, sex crimes against children, disorderly conduct, impersonating an officer - and the list goes on." In one incident described by KPHO a "posse" member "threw his girlfriend to the ground and choked her while trying to sexually assault her" and on another occasion a "posse" member held at gunpoint a man who had backed into his car and driven off.
Arpaio has previously drawn criticism for using his "posse" to investigate President Obama's long-form birth certificate, finding it fraudulent, and for promoting what the Justice Department termed "a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos."
The NRA preview also takes a hard line against gun violence prevention measures with Sheriff Arpaio stating that, "It is sad [politicians supportive of stronger gun laws] are using us for politics. They are going through the pony show, they talking to everybody, but we know the fix is in."
During the inaugural episode of Cam & Company, a new National Rifle Association news program airing on Sportsman Channel, NRA board member Oliver North claimed that the NRA is "one of the greatest protectors of civil liberties that's ever existed on the planet Earth." North, who is a Fox News contributor, was also the central figure in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration, reportedly helping to funnel profits from arms sales to Iran to the human rights abusing Contras in Nicaragua.
North's characterization of the NRA came during a discussion of the President Obama's forthcoming recommendations on gun violence prevention:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: We heard the President say, right, in his first comments after the massacre in Newtown that this had to be different, we had to talk about our children, we had to talk about protecting our kids, it couldn't devolve into the same political debate. And yet that is exactly what has happened. This has gone from how to protect our kids to how do we push the gun control laws that we have been advocating for for a decade or more from these gun control groups.
OLIVER NORTH: Sure. And they have been advocates for it.
EDWARDS: They have been.
NORTH: And what you now see is a sea change in the political climate in Washington, D.C., at the White House where they now expect that they can do things they otherwise would have been unable to do. That which he cannot accomplish legislatively is now going to be done by executive action. That is contrary to my understanding of what the Constitution's all about. I think it's contrary and foreign to most of our thinking. When we raise that right hand and take that oath, we don't pledge fealty to a political party, to an individual, unlike many other countries around the world. What we've done is we have now decided that one man can decide what is or isn't legal under certain circumstances. I think civil libertarians -- and by the way the National Rifle Association is one of the greatest protectors of civil liberties that has ever existed on the planet Earth.
From the January 4 edition of Current's The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur:
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Former National Rifle Association president Marion Hammer compared a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to ban assault weapons to racial discrimination. According to Hammer, "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
Hammer's comparison came during a discussion on NRA News about Sen. Feinstein's plans to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons during the new Congress. Hammer warned that the United States government could engage in firearm confiscation "in order to control the masses."
Since Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed a plan to introduce legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, members of the right-wing media have launched hysterical, and often false, attacks against her proposal to crack down on weapons like the one used in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
In two December 27 pieces published on Brietbart.com, contributor AWR Hawkins grossly exaggerated the scope of Feinstein's legislative proposal to suggest that the assault weapons ban would require that all firearms be registered with the government and claim that "the details of Senator Dianne Feinstein's pending assault weapons ban show that her real goal is to ban handguns."
Sen. Feinstein's actual proposal allows current owners of assault weapons to keep their firearms so long as the owner fulfills a registration requirement and includes no mandate to register firearms that are not assault weapons. While the proposed ban would cover some handguns with military characteristics, Hawkins' claim that the legislation would lead to a general handgun ban is based on the speculation "that as soon as a public crime is committed with a double-action revolver, Feinstein and Co. will try to add those to the list as well."
But an even bigger problem lurks -- right now the focus is only on "assault weapons" and semi-auto handguns, however, as soon as a public crime is committed with a double-action revolver, Feinstein and Co. will try to add those to the list as well.
The bottom line: If we are foolish enough to embrace a ban on any weapon in the coming Congress then we are unwittingly embracing a ban on every weapon.
Hawkins repeated these claims on National Rifle Association News, calling the proposed assault weapons ban "garbage" and "anti-freedom to the core."
On last night's edition of Cam & Company on National Rifle Association News, host Cam Edwards and guest Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online baselessly attacked the methodology of a bipartisan poll that showed voters in Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina trusted President Obama more on gun policy than Mitt Romney.
A poll by Democratic pollster Momentum Analysis and Republican pollster Chesapeake Beach Consulting found that voters in Virginia trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney on guns by a 9 point margin, and in Colorado and North Carolina by four and one point margins.
Edwards and Geraghty erroneously claimed that the poll could not have produced meaningful results because they said it only sampled 500 voters across three states, and they questioned whether the sample was representative. In fact, the poll's methodology clearly states that 500 voters were sampled in each of three states polled, a sample size commonly used among professional pollsters. Reached for comment, the pollsters indicated that they used "industry accepted" techniques in conducting the poll.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, where the National Rifle Association spent $18 million dollars to little effect, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promised to defeat Democrats who do not support his organization's agenda in the 2014 elections. According to LaPierre, a columnist for the organization's publications, Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will "go out on that plank" with President Obama and "the American public and the NRA will saw it right off."
From the November 9 edition of The Daily News on NRA News:
LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom.
But the NRA had an abysmal track record for the 2012 elections. Besides failing to achieve its primary goal to defeat President Obama, the NRA backed the losing candidate in six out of seven Senate races where it spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of incumbent House members who lost re-election bids were endorsed by the NRA.
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, recently downplayed the public safety threat posed by a loophole in federal law that allows domestic abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase firearms without undergoing a background check. But the alleged perpetrator in an October 21 shooting at a Brookfield, Wisconsin spa that left three dead and four wounded reportedly abused that same loophole to obtain his firearm.
Today the Associated Press reported that Radcliffe Haughton purchased a handgun without a background check from a private seller, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming subject to a restraining order that required him to turn any firearms he owned into police.
On August 29, Cam Edwards, the host of Cam & Company on NRA News, obfuscated the loophole during a segment in which he expressed opposition to a proposal by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to require background checks on nearly all gun sales.
CAM EDWARDS: As you know, the gun laws in this country are the same for private citizens at gun shows or at their home. The laws in the country are the same for federally licensed firearms retailers whether they are at their brick-and-mortar store or whether they are manning a table at a gun show. The laws don't change based on the location.
Edwards' focus on where guns are sold is a distraction from the real issue: the lax regulation of private gun sales creates a venue for prohibited persons, like Haughton, to obtain firearms.
A CNN article published yesterday about increased efforts by the National Rifle Association to defeat President Obama credulously echoed false NRA talking points on assault weapons, without noting Mitt Romney's well-documented flip flop on the issue.
The article notes that in responding to a question about assault weapons in Tuesday's presidential debate, Obama mentioned an assault weapons ban. Instead of offering independent reporting on the topic, CNN political director Mark Preston only provided readers with the take of the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, on the issue of assault weapons bans:
"Some gun owners took Obama at his word four years ago, when he said he wouldn't take their guns away," said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "So, after years of paying lip service to the Second Amendment, President Obama finally let it slip last night that he supports the most draconian form of gun control - a gun ban."
Preston, however, did not acknowledge that 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, favor assault weapons bans. Nor did he mention that President Obama never made a promise to gun owners to not restrict access to assault weapons, as Cox suggested.
Turning to an exchange during Tuesday night's presidential debate where Romney was asked by moderator Candy Crowley about his changing position on assault weapons, Preston served as a stenographer for Romney without noting that the GOP nominee told a distorted version of events concerning his role in banning assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts.
In an October 16 column, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller praised Mitt Romney's opposition to gun violence prevention legislation while fearmongering about President Obama' s support for an assault weapons ban. But Miller did not acknowledge that Mitt Romney has been a proponent of assault weapons bans -- as recently as the last time that he ran for president.
Criticizing former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for backing some gun restrictions, Miller warned that Obama "would put another liberal justice -- or three -- on the bench if given a second term." Miller presented Romney in sharp contrast to Justice Stevens, and reprinted Romney's claim that his "Sportsmen for Romney" coalition, whose members include representatives of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, "will have a friend in the White House" if he becomes president. Obama, who has not enacted any new restrictions on firearms while president, was characterized by Miller as "an outspoken gun-control advocate before he ran for president."
By presenting Romney as a vigorous defender of gun rights, while attacking Obama on the issue, Miller effictively hid Romney's own well documented past support for rigorous gun violence prevention measures.
During tonight's presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed a false claim from the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company that whitewashes the former Massachusetts governor's record on guns.
News outlets will surely report on what was a contentious exchange between candidates on an issue that has thus far been ignored in the presidential race. But will they get to the bottom of Romney's past support for gun violence prevention measures?
Romney echoed the NRA talking point that an assault weapons ban he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts was agreeable to that state's leading gun advocacy group after moderator Candy Crowley suggested that his position on assault weapons has changed in recent years.
CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that given the kind of violence we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you've changed your mind?
ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually in my state the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had -- at the signing of the bill both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.
The NRA has endorsed Romney and recently used its NRA News radio outlet to rewrite history in an attempt to hide Romney's past support for tough gun control measures.
During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards told viewers that Romney's gun policy while governor was in line with the positions of Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), the Massachusetts state gun advocacy group. Edwards also claimed that Romney loosened restrictions on assault weapons while governor instead of enhancing them. Neither claim is accurate.
On Wednesday, the Discovery Channel aired "an inside look at American gun culture" starring controversial National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent. Discovery Channel documented Nugent shooting a scimitar-horned oryx, an animal extinct in the wild, and also showed him spending time with a group of heavily armed doomsday "preppers."
Now the question remains: Will the Discovery Channel continue to allow Nugent to use the channel as a "resource" to help him win the "culture war"?
In a September 26 press release, Discovery Channel billed Ted Nugent's Gun Country as a "one-hour special." But during an appearance on Armed America Radio, Nugent stated that the Discovery Channel "want[s] to do it as a regular feature." He told listeners to "expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year."
MARK WALTERS, HOST: Ted, is this going to be a regular series?
NUGENT: Well just the title, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, I mean even if Discovery doesn't air anymore shows it's still alive and well. They want to do it as a regular feature. We expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year.
NUGENT: Every month. And we are really excited about it. I think it came off great. We trained with a bunch of zombie killers, we did a lot of ammunition testing.
A graphic accompanying an October 1 promotional appearance on NRA News described Ted Nugent's Gun Country as a "series."
NRA News is deliberately misleading its supporters about Mitt Romney's firearms policies while he served as governor of Massachusetts. During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards suggested that any action taken by then-Governor Romney on assault weapons was supported by Massachusetts state gun rights group Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) and further stated that Romney "actually undid some of the damage" of the commonwealth's 1998 assault weapons ban. In fact, legislation signed by Romney in 2004 made the Massachusetts assault weapons ban permanent.
A July 1, 2004 press release issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, titled, "Romney Signs Off On Permanent Assault Weapons Ban," leaves little doubt that the former Massachusetts governor was involved in restricting access to assault weapons. Indeed, at the bill's signing ceremony Romney stated that the "sole purpose" of assault weapons is "hunting down and killing people." In response to the new law, GOAL stated that the Romney administration "took a major shot at lawful gun owners and showed their true colors."
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Doc in Jacksonville, Florida says, "Cam, due to the fact that Mitt Romney signed a gun ban into law while he was governor of Massachusetts, does the NRA trust him to stand up for the Constitution and Second Amendment as president?" You know, I'm glad you asked this question, Doc. Last time -- I've got to promote this video because we've got it up I know on our YouTube page -- the last time we had Jim Wallace from the Gun Owners Action League in studio, that's the state-level organization in Massachusetts, we asked him about this. Because Mitt Romney did sign a bill as Governor of Massachusetts, but he did not institute an assault weapons ban. This was actually a bill that the Gun Owners Action League in Massachusetts supported. The quote unquote assault weapons bill, or excuse me the quote unquote assault weapons ban, was already law in Massachusetts. It was already permanent in Massachusetts. This bill actually provided some relief to gun owners in the state of Massachusetts. It was portrayed and it has been portrayed in the media as Governor Romney signed a bill to ban quote unquote assault weapons in the state of Massachusetts. But that's not the case. This was a bill, as I said, that was supported by the state gun owners' organization in Massachusetts because it actually undid some of the damage of that original legislation.
During an appearance on NRA News, Jim Wallace, the executive director of Gun Owners' Action League, the state firearms association of Massachusetts, suggested that strict gun laws did nothing to curb gun violence in his home state of Massachusetts. Wallace, who is also a candidate in this year's National Rifle Association Board of Directors elections, went on to deny that crime guns are trafficked into Massachusetts from states with weaker laws.
To the contrary, trace data made available by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicates that the majority of crime guns traced in Massachusetts originate from states with lax gun laws.
During the segment, Wallace also referenced supposed attempts by the media to "hype up" the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and a July 20 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater that left 12 dead and scores injured. From the September 14 edition of Cam & Company:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Because even in Massachusetts running explicitly on a "we need more gun control platform," I mean if that's your campaign you're gonna be facing an uphill battle? Is that--?
JIM WALLACE, GUN OWNERS' ACTION LEAGUE: Oh, absolutely. There is no doubt about it. You know the one thing that has been helpful -- and I don't know if [Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs executive director] Scott [Bach] has seen it as much as I have, I know we have talked about it-- is that no matter how much the general media tries to hype up issues like what happened in Florida with Trayvon Martin and so forth and in Colorado, for the most part, unless they are rabidly ignorant, the general public really gets this now--
WALLACE: --that random acts of stupid violence like this are occurring because of the people that we're allowing on our city streets. They are not occurring because guns are supposedly easily accessible. They understand for the most part now that times have changed, they've lived through in Massachusetts almost a decade and a half of severe gun control--
WALLACE: --with incomprehensible laws. And gun crime has gone up. So what do we do from there? "Oh, we blame New Hampshire," says the Mayor [of Boston Tom Menino]. Well, you know New Hampshire's crime rate is pretty low, mayor, so where are you going to go? I remember one time debating one of the mayor's people on the radio and he said, "Well, you know, we have the strict laws here, but it's the other states that are the problem." And they said, "You know people can go across the border to New Hampshire and legally buy guns." Well first of all that's incorrect. There are 13 legal steps you have to go through to get a gun from New Hampshire to Massachusetts.
WALLACE: But, being that said, you know, he said, "You can go to Georgia and buy them at gun shows." And I said, "So, okay, what you're saying is the mayor has the most loyal criminals in the country. Because they will travel a thousand miles to get a gun, but they will always come home to commit the crime."
WALLACE: So, you know, they are very friendly to criminals in Boston.