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:
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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:
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From the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action April 10 leadership forum:
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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.
It is no secret that National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is known to use over-the-top conspiratorial and paranoid rhetoric to make it appear that the NRA is constantly locked in a life or death struggle to save America from nefarious forces -- while also raising a few dollars in the process.
LaPierre offered more of the same at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where he fearmongered about large-scale societal collapse and attacks by terrorists, "knockout gamers" and "haters." According to LaPierre, Americans are buying guys because "sooner or later reckless government actions and policies have consequences." Even worse, opponents of the NRA are purportedly supporting Hillary Clinton for president "to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment, their dream, of fundamentally transforming America. Into an America that I guarantee you won't recognize." In typical fashion, LaPierre positioned the NRA as salvation for a collapsing America, promising the gun rights organization "will not go quietly into the night."
Here are five over-the-top moments from LaPierre's speech:
1. LaPierre On America Becoming Too Dangerous For Children To Play Outside
"All across America, everywhere I go, people come up to me, and they say, 'Wayne, I've never been worried about this country until now.' And they say it not with anger, but they say it with sadness in their eyes. 'I've never been worried about this country until now.' We're worried about the economic crisis choking our budgets and shrinking our retirement, we're worried about providing decent healthcare and a college education for our own children. We fear for the safety of our families. It's why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air now sit empty and silent. In virtually every way, for the things we care about most, we feel profound loss. We're sad, not because we fear something is going wrong, but because we know something already has gone wrong."
Conservative website The Daily Caller published in its entirety an over-the-top fundraising pitch from National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that suggested the only way to save America is to buy an NRA membership.
The March 3 column posted in the Caller's "Guns and Gear" section included the phone number for an NRA membership hotline and a link to a website where Caller readers can purchase a discounted NRA membership:
Like other material published by the NRA at the Caller, the fundraising pitch was filled with paranoid rhetoric based on the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is plotting to confiscate privately owned firearms.
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: