A new video from the National Rifle Association's (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre claims that President Obama "has all the laws he needs to stop the bloodshed" of gun violence in big cities but chooses not to because he supposedly refuses to enforce federal gun laws.
In fact, the NRA has engaged in a decades-long campaign to hinder the efforts of the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
In an October 27 video released by NRA News, LaPierre claimed, "Under the existing federal gun laws, [Obama] could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more. But he won't do it, his Justice Department won't do it, and the media never asks why."
The video also featured LaPierre's continued apparent use of racially coded language by contrasting "thugs like De'Eris Brown," "criminal gangbangers with illegal guns in Chicago," and "violent thugs" with "the good, honest Americans living out in farm towns in Nebraska or Oklahoma or working two jobs in inner-city Chicago or Baltimore." The video was introduced by LaPierre claiming "[n]othing illustrates America's breakdown like the way the president's hometown celebrates its holidays," before describing Chicago shootings as a "kind of third-world carnage."
LaPierre concluded with a false claim: "No organization has been louder, clearer or more consistent on the urgent need to enforce the federal gun laws than the NRA."
The NRA's lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, "lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them."
According to The Washington Post, "the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF's budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings."
The NRA's opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents "jack-booted government thugs" who wear "Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms."
Here are four things the NRA does that are detrimental to the enforcement of federal gun laws:
The NRA routinely cajoles its allies in Congress to limit the ATF's budget (even as other federal law enforcement agency budgets grow) and pass riders to appropriations legislation that further limit the agency's ability to enforce federal gun laws. As a 2013 report from Center for American Progress explained, one set of riders, often called the Tiahrt Amendments, "have limited how ATF can collect and share information to detect illegal gun trafficking, how it can regulate firearms sellers, and how it partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies." The NRA has also backed legislation to hamper the ability of the ATF to go after criminal gun dealers, in one instance backing a bill that the Washington Post editorial board explained, "would make it all but impossible for the ATF to press forward with any case."
In 2006, an NRA-backed amendment to the re-authorization of The Patriot Act created the requirement that the Senate confirm permanent ATF directors who are nominated by the president. The NRA subsequently opposed nominees for a permanent director, in one case comparing Obama's 2010 nominee Andrew Traver to an arsonist. After seven years of not having a permanent director, B. Todd Jones was confirmed by the Senate in 2013, but resigned after just two years. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement officials have told The New York Times that having a permanent director vacancy "has inevitably depleted morale and kept the agency from developing a coherent agenda."
While LaPierre repeatedly referenced felons with guns in his video, his organization attempts to make the ATF use its budget to rearm felons. For more than two decades, standard appropriations language prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. Without having to operate the program, the ATF has had more funding to enforce federal gun laws. In June, an NRA ally in Congress offered a successful amendment to reverse the longstanding language. While the amendment was under consideration the NRA repeatedly promoted it with the blatant falsehood that the program would only be available to nonviolent felons.
Under current federal law, gun dealers are allowed to proceed with a gun sale if the federal background check is not returned as a "proceed" or "denied" after three business days. Known as a "default proceed" sale, this feature of federal law is also called the "Charleston loophole" after the gunman who perpetrated the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME church, who received his gun without a completed background check (he would have been disqualified because of a drug charge). The "Charleston loophole" allows a significant number of prohibited persons to obtain firearms and diverts the resources of the ATF and other law enforcement agencies who must attempt to recover guns that would not have been sold without a completed background check. The loophole was created by an NRA-backed amendment to the 1993 Brady background check bill and following the Charleston massacre, the NRA vigorously defended the loophole as "a critical safety valve" to shield prospective gun purchasers from undergoing delays in the completion of background checks -- even though more than 90 percent of background checks are completed instantly.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's controversial comment -- that the number of people killed in the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed" -- echoes an old conservative media talking point that has long been condemned as "historically inaccurate."
The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their "survival" while warning of calamities including, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals." Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an "anti-aging" supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to "Tell Time Like a Man."
"The Light Of The South," an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, "Southern Pride Shines On." The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Right on cue, the National Rifle Association has unveiled its 2016 presidential election conspiracy theory with the baseless claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is harboring a secret plan to confiscate Americans' firearms. But Clinton has never endorsed such a plan and in fact has defended private citizens' right to own guns.
In a May 11 article published in the NRA's magazine and on its lobbying website, the gun group wrote, "Whether or not she understands the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton disdains and distrusts that freedom," and claimed Clinton "wants control over every aspect of your right to keep and bear arms -- so she can deny it at will."
Clinton's own recent statements about "the right of people to own guns" meant the NRA was forced to juxtapose a series of old Clinton quotes -- some dating back to the late 1990s -- and hope that its readers would make implausible leaps of logic to buy into the conspiracy theory that a President Hillary Clinton would confiscate firearms. The NRA ran a similar fearmongering campaign about President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections that also had zero basis in fact.
In the article, the NRA purports to describe a secret plan by Clinton to confiscate firearms. The alleged starting point for the plan, however, is based on a distortion of the truth.
National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre relied on numerous falsehoods to claim that President Obama will move to ban sales of all firearm ammunition before he leaves office, thus making "the very real nightmare of every single gun owner in this country" a reality.
In the May issue of the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre wrote, "President Barack Obama is setting the table to ban your ammunition -- all of it," and claimed that "the remaining two years of Obama's term pose the greatest threat ever to the Second Amendment and our freedom."
LaPierre imagined a ludicrous scheme where "two fatal turns of events" would lead the EPA to ban all lead ammunition and, subsequently, the Obama administration to ban all non-lead ammunition. According to LaPierre, "The president's bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are partnering with private enviro-radicals to ban lead projectiles -- including all hunting bullets -- as hazardous."
Despite the fact that the EPA has given no indication that it is preparing regulations on lead ammunition, LaPierre insisted that the agency is still seeking a ban.
The facts prove him wrong. In December 2014, FoxNews.com reported that "[i]n a decision favorable to gun enthusiasts," a federal court ruled against environmentalists who argued that the EPA has the authority to regulate lead ammunition. According to FoxNews.com, "The National Rifle Association and much of the pro-gun lobby intervened on the EPA's side in urging the federal appeals court to uphold the dismissal of a lawsuit by 101 environmentalist organizations." (The EPA does not believe it has authority to regulate lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act.)
From the April 15 edition of CNN's New Day:
Loading the player reg...
From the April 13 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
From the National Rifle Association's annual meeting of members on April 11:
Loading the player reg...
From the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action April 10 leadership forum:
Loading the player reg...
The NRA is choosing to host the pinnacle event of its annual meeting at a venue that does not allow members of the public to carry firearms, a decision that stands in sharp contrast to claims from NRA leadership that "gun-free zones" are not safe and should be avoided.
The NRA will hold its annual meeting April 10 through 12 in Nashville, Tennessee, with events primarily occurring at the Music City Center, which is an exhibition hall, and the Bridgestone Arena.
Some attendees are upset that they will not be allowed to carry guns at the Bridgestone Arena during the event, due to the venue's policy prohibiting firearms, according to Nashville Public Radio.
The NRA frequently tells supporters that gun-free zones imperil their lives, enable mass shootings, and invite terrorists.
For example, during the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told the crowd that the Islamic State is "carving a bloody trail that leads to our doorstep" and suggested it is not a matter of "if" but "when" a terrorist attack will occur at "the supposedly gun-free zone of the Mall of America."
As media turn to cover a high-profile gathering of potential Republican presidential contenders at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, the extreme stances taken by the NRA on a wide range of gun issues over the past year will also be on full display.
Numerous Republicans expected to run for president in 2016 are scheduled to appear on April 10 at a NRA Institute for Legislative Action "leadership forum" during the NRA's 2015 annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
But as candidates seek to improve their stature in the eyes of the NRA, they will be ingratiating themselves to an organization whose continued opposition to popular expanded background checks on gun sales represents just one extremist position it has taken in the debate over gun regulation.
According to the NRA, this year's "leadership forum" will feature Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconin Gov. Scott Walker, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump. NRA's bombastic executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and top lobbyist Chris Cox, as well as a handful of non-contenders, will also address the forum.
Since last year's meeting, the NRA has taken several extreme positions in policy debates, including opposing legislation to disarm convicted stalkers, backing "open carry" extremists who carry assault weapons in public, attempting to hijack the issue of campus rape to push guns on campus, and floating the idea of requiring children to learn how to use a gun to advance in school.
The NRA's leadership has also expressed outrageous views. NRA head LaPierre unleashed a signature paranoid rant just prior to the 2014 midterm elections, fearmongering over the threat of an EMP attack and other calamities to encourage supporters to back NRA candidates. LaPierre also indulged an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that targets one of the NRA's own board members in order to appease Glenn Beck. NRA board member Ted Nugent continued to offend, including suggesting just weeks before the meeting that veterans are committing suicide because Obama is "the enemy." Another board member who represents the NRA in New Jersey insulted a family who lost a child in the Newtown mass shooting as a "prop," garnering outrage.
Read below for more information on these topics and descriptions of other examples of NRA extremism over the past year:
In a "special two-cover election issue" published in October 2014, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom printed a paranoid column from LaPierre that fearmongered about terrorist attacks and social unrest in the United States before calling on supporters to "vote our guns" on Election Day.
The cover of the magazine featured a gun-toting Islamic State militant, while LaPierre's column was illustrated with a graphic that combined an image of Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John" and the exterior of a suburban home:
In a column that urged supporters to own guns and vote for NRA-endorsed candidates, LaPierre raised the specter of several calamities, including an electromagnetic pulse attack that could kill 9 of 10 Americans, terrorist attacks similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks or the Westgate shopping mall attack, and people rioting "just for the sheer hell of it."
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre warned that "all we've worked for" with regard to "our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy" in the 2016 elections while also stating that "every American owes NRA members and gun owners a debt of gratitude" for the 2014 election outcomes.
The NRA frequently rallies its supporters by suggesting each election cycle could bring about the destruction of the Second Amendment or even the entire United States of America while baselessly giving itself credit in instances where Republicans do well at the polls.
During a November 6 appearance on the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, LaPierre wasted no time turning to 2016, stating, "We've won the first half here of the game, but we won't win the battle until we win all the game and 2016 is a big deal."
"I mean if we end up with an anti-Second Amendment president in 2016, I mean all we've worked for in the last 30 years or our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy," LaPierre added.
Arguing that "we need to get NRA stronger," LaPierre went on to describe the 2016 election as "the fight of our lives for American freedom." LaPierre also said in the 2014 elections that the NRA had "beat the Bloombergs, we beat the Clintons, this time, but they're not going away and if they win in '15 and '16 the damage that they can do to the Second Amendment is unimaginable. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a prominent gun safety activist and was the primary backer of an "historic" 2014 ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales in Washington state.) LaPierre concluded his remarks by saying, "we are never going to have a bigger challenge than what we have to pull off together in 2016."
That sentiment from the NRA is one that observers have heard time and again.
Just days ago the NRA warned that the "the future of our Second Amendment rights comes down to one day -- Election Day 2014," which is "the most important of our lifetime" because "[o]ur fundamental right to keep and bear arms has never been in greater jeopardy."
A paranoid column from National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre appearing in the gun group's magazine fearmongered about terrorist attacks and "angry mobs" rioting "just for the sheer hell of it" in the United States before calling on supporters to "vote our guns" on Election Day.
As part of a "special two-cover election issue," the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, depicted a flag and gun-toting ISIS fighter along with the headline, "Chaos At Our Door?" Other text on the cover added, "Your Second Amendment Freedom Has Never Been More Important And Necessary. Vote Your Guns In November."
LaPierre's column was illustrated with a graphic that combined an image of a suburban house and an ISIS militant who has been seen in recent videos beheading U.S. and British hostages:
The image used by the NRA comes from an Islamic State propaganda video showing the execution of British aid worker David Haines.
The National Rifle Association has once again drawn condemnation from a Jewish group after one of its lobbyists invoked the Holocaust to attack a Washington state ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales. Despite regular denunciations from Jewish groups for misappropriating the history of Holocaust, the NRA routinely uses this type of rhetoric to demonize its opponents and gun legislation it dislikes.
According to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, recently released audio captured NRA lobbyist Brian Judy attacking Seattle businessman Nick Hanauer's support of Initiative 594 -- which would expand background checks in Washington -- because of Hanauer's Jewish background. Calling Hanauer "stupid," Judy argued that "he's put half-a-million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out of Germany by the Nazis."
Judy went on to mock the intelligence of anyone who is "anti-gun" and Jewish:
JUDY: You know, it's staggering to me, it's just, you can't make this stuff up. That these people, it's like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think: Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened?
And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them. And now you're supporting gun control -- you come to this country and you support gun control. Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place? Hello. Is anybody home here?
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has called for Judy's resignation and asked that the NRA "make clear that it rejects his ignorant and unproductive dialogue."
On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.