Wayne LaPierre

Tags ››› Wayne LaPierre
  • Meet Troy Newman -- The Anti-Choice Extremist PBS Is Hosting To Talk About Guns

    Newman And His Associates Have A Long History Of Spouting Violent Rhetoric And Harassing Abortion Providers

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 10, PBS will air the documentary “The Armor of Light” and host an accompanying town hall encouraging audiences to examine “the relationship between guns and faith in America.” Notably, PBS’ town hall participants include Troy Newman, best known for harassing abortion providers and serving on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s pro-life coalition.

    “The Armor of Light” is an anti-gun-violence documentary that “profiles the faith journeys of two Christians as they fight gun violence.” One of these Christians is the Rev.  Rob Schenck, an anti-choice minister trying to “preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America” to communities that largely favor gun ownership.

    Newman appears in a single scene of “The Armor of Light” as a contrast to Schenck’s pro-gun-safety views. In this scene, Newman parrots NRA talking points, such as leader Wayne LaPierre’s statement that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Despite this minor role in the film, PBS invited Newman to appear in a post-screening discussion.

    Membership in Cruz’s pro-life coalition is only Newman’s most recent credential. He has long served as the president of Operation Rescue -- an anti-choice group with a history of spouting violent rhetoric, and harassing abortion providers.

    For example, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison in 1987 for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location. A Rolling Stone profile of Operation Rescue described the organization’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.” Newman’s explanation for this harassment was that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that “they can’t live a normal life.”

    To further  this strategy, Newman has trained others and supported the development of spin-off groups that continue Operation Rescue’s work across the country. Newman previously served as a board member for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood so fraudulent that CMP earned the title of Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year. CMP’s  deceptively edited videos purporting to show the illegal sale of fetal tissue have been repeatedly discredited, while numerous state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

    Newman claims that Operation Rescue has never endorsed violence yet in his book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman wrote that U.S. government had “abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” which would involve “executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes.” Similarly, when Paul Jennings Hill was executed for the murder of an abortion provider and a clinic escort, Newman argued that Hill should have been able to mount the defense that it was “necessary” to kill the providers in order to save "the lives of pre-born babies."

    Beyond his work with Operation Rescue, Newman also has a personal history of harassing providers -- a reputation that caused Australia to deport him out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

    Harassment, violence, and threats against abortion providers and clinics have all been increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.

    Given this alarming trend of anti-choice violence, PBS’ decision to invite Newman’s participation while also failing to disclose his long history of harassment is as puzzling as it is troubling.

  • NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Says Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Disavowed The U.S. Constitution” In 2012

    LaPierre Cites Interview In Which Ginsburg Actually Praised The “Wonderful Words” Of The “Genius” U.S. Constitution

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre distorted past comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a column warning that “our guns and our culture would be a favored target for eradication” if Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are successful in the 2016 elections.

    In order to attack the possibility of Clinton being elected president and filling multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court with nominees like Justice Ginsburg, LaPierre smeared Justice Ginsburg by distorting her past comments about what new democracies should consider when adopting a constitution.

    In 2012, Ginsburg traveled to Egypt to offer advice to the country as it began the process of adopting a constitution. In an interview, Ginsburg said she advised Egypt to look at “all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II” and that she “would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Ginsburg then singled out the South African constitution, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the European Convention on Human Rights as modern examples for drafting constitutions.

    During the interview, Ginsburg also praised the U.S. Constitution, saying, “The United States in comparison to Egypt is a very new nation, and yet we have the oldest written Constitution still enforced in the world. And it's a Constitution that starts out with three wonderful words: It's we the people.” Ginsburg praised the U.S. Constitution several other times during the interview, calling the document “an instrument that endured” and referencing “the genius of the Constitution.”

    But in his monthly “Standing Guard” column in the May 2016 edition of America’s 1st Freedom, LaPierre smeared Ginsburg as part of his rallying cry that the NRA "must defeat Hillary Clinton."

    LaPierre wrote of Ginsburg, “In an Egyptian television interview in January 2011 [sic], she disavowed the U.S. Constitution.” Distorting Ginsburg’s remarks, LaPierre added, “You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior?”

    LaPierre went on to claim that the South African Constitution encourages “civil disarmament,” writing, “It’s senseless, but here we have a U.S. Supreme Court justice who might find herself in the majority embracing the very essence of undefined and unknown ‘social justice.’”

    LaPierre’s smear of Ginsburg is recycled from claims the NRA made about the 2012 elections and the prospect of President Obama’s reelection. The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, released an article that distorted the Egypt comments to argue “most troubling of all is the possibility that if elected to a second term, President Obama could appoint even more justices who share Justice Ginsburg's views.”

    During the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre also attacked Ginsburg in a speech, calling her a “giddy school girl” for hugging Obama at the State of the Union and again distorting her Egypt comments.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • NRA's Wayne LaPierre Just Called "Gun-Free Zones" The "Worst And Most Dangerous Of All Lies" While Speaking From A "Gun-Free Zone"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre decried so-called "gun-free zones" during a speech at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), calling such areas "the worst and most dangerous of all lies."

    As Daily Beast politics reporter Betsy Woodruff noted, "absolutely" no guns or other weapons are allowed at CPAC:

    The NRA frequently tells supporters that "gun-free zones" imperil their lives, enable mass shootings, and invite terrorists, even though the group often holds its annual meeting at locations that do not allow guns.

    During his speech at CPAC 2016, LaPierre claimed that "as a result" of the NRA's call for armed personnel in schools, including armed teachers and volunteers, "millions of children go to school today no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies, gun-free zones." He went on to claim, "The news media, protected by their own armed security, they never admit it, but today millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA." He ended his riff on "gun-free zones" with a false talking point: "The simple truth [is] that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned."

    During the 2015 CPAC meeting, 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."

    In remarks following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, LaPierre also compared the practice of announcing no-gun policies to placing an advertisement for an "insane killer."

    Yet, despite the supposed perils of "gun-free zones," LaPierre agreed to participate in the 2016 CPAC meetings.

    No evidence exists that "gun-free zones" -- a term used by the NRA and conservative media to describe anywhere civilians are not allowed to carry guns -- are actually more unsafe than anywhere else.

    According to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings by Mother Jones, there is no evidence that any of the gunmen chose their targets because of a policy that prohibited the carrying of guns. For example, 20 mass shootings included in the analysis took place at workplaces because they "involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues." Furthermore, none of the 62 shootings was stopped by an armed civilian.

    Gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety tracked all mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2014 and found that just 17 percent of incidents occurred in "gun-free zones," while the rest occurred where guns can legally be carried.

    Overall, the presence of more firearms tends to increase violence rather than reduce crime.

  • NRA Silent On Ted Nugent's Anti-Semitism As It Abets An Anti-Muslim Smear Campaign Against Another Board Member

    The NRA Is Investigating Grover Norquist's Alleged Ties To Islamists But Not Ted Nugent's Anti-Semitism

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Apparently at the National Rifle Association (NRA), being the target of a conspiratorial, religiously-motivated smear is a good way to get yourself investigated and possibly kicked out of the organization. Putting forward conspiratorial, religiously-motivated smears is not.

    As the NRA continues to avoid addressing an anti-Semitism controversy that has embroiled organization board member Ted Nugent, a recall campaign against another board member -- conservative activist Grover Norquist -- is moving forward, even though the campaign's basis is a conspiratorial and anti-Muslim smear.

    Following a decades-long campaign by anti-Muslim think tank head Frank Gaffney, which in the past year has been amplified by conservative radio host Glenn Beck, ballots to officially recall Norquist from the NRA board will appear in the March editions of the NRA's magazines, according to a report by Right Wing Watch.

    For at least 15 years, Norquist, a well-known tax activist who founded Americans for Tax Reform, has been targeted by Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy, with the claim that he is a surreptitious agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Critics of Gaffney have alleged that his smear campaign is largely motivated by the fact that Norquist is married to a Muslim woman and has Muslim in-laws. One high-profile conservative group investigated Gaffney's claims in 2012 and found them to be meritless.

    Norquist has called Gaffney his "stalker" and has accused Gaffney of also spreading rumors that he is gay and a member of "the Jewish-Russian mafia."

    Gaffney's smear campaign against Norquist made headlines again in March 2015 after it was repeatedly promoted by Beck on his nationally-syndicated radio show. Beck, a longtime supporter of the NRA, is a frequent keynote speaker at the gun group's annual meeting.

    Following Beck's endorsement of Gaffney's conspiracy theory, the NRA, at the request of executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, agreed to open an investigation into Norquist's alleged ties "to Islamist groups that have ill intent towards the United States and its allies." The findings of the investigation have yet to be released to the public.

    During the NRA's annual meeting in April 2015, Norquist was reelected to the board, but he also issued a statement saying he had "voluntarily suspended his Board activities pending the outcome of the investigation."

    The NRA has handled controversy surrounding Nugent, who posted an anti-Semitic image to his Facebook page and then subsequently made inflammatory posts and statements about the Holocaust, in a much different manner. Nugent's image suggested that laws regulating guns were the result of a Jewish conspiracy and included descriptions of alleged conspirators such as "Jew York city mayor Mikey Bloomberg," and deceased former U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) who "Gave Russian Jew immigrants your tax money."

    After declining to comment on Nugent to several media outlets, the NRA released its only statement to date on the controversy: "Individual board members do not speak for the NRA."

    The NRA's refusal to seriously address Nugent's anti-Semitic post comes as the controversy has begun to become enmeshed with Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, which continues to tout Nugent's praise. (Cruz has also lavishly praised Gaffney, calling him "a patriot" who is "clear eyed about radical Islamic terrorism.")

    Unlike the controversy surrounding Norquist, the NRA has given no indication that it intends to investigate Nugent.

  • The NRA's Implausible Conspiracy Theory About CNN's "Guns In America" Town Hall

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association is claiming that CNN's recent "Guns in America" town hall event was "staged" by President Obama as it attempts to explain why NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre declined to participate in the event, but then days later challenged Obama to a TV debate.

    The NRA leveled several accusations against the Obama administration and CNN in a January 15 article, including that Obama was able to see questions in advance, that Obama "personally selected" the anchor of the event, and that the White House "personally selected" questioners for the event.

    On January 7, CNN hosted an hour-long primetime program on gun violence. During the broadcast Obama answered questions about guns posed by CNN host Anderson Cooper and eight audience members who were split along ideological lines. CNN conceived the event and invited President Obama and the NRA to participate in the event. Obama accepted CNN's offer and the NRA declined. In declining to participate, the NRA claimed the event was "orchestrated by the White House," a false claim that was corrected by CNN in a January 6 article.

    Then on January 13, days after skipping his chance to go face-to-face with Obama on national television before millions of viewers, LaPierre released a video challenging Obama to "a one-on-one, one-hour debate -- with a mutually agreed-upon moderator -- on any network that will take it."

    LaPierre's challenge was ridiculed by some in the media who pointed out that the gun group leader had his chance to confront Obama but declined to take it.

    In order to deflect from questions about why the NRA did not participate in the CNN event, the gun group has become increasingly brazen in promoting a conspiracy theory that the event was not CNN's doing, but rather was organized by the Obama administration.

    A January 15 article in the NRA's online magazine America's 1st Freedom leveled several allegations against the White House and CNN:

    • The NRA claimed CNN's town hall was "staged and choreographed by the White House publicity machine." According to a CNN spokesperson, the event was conceived of by CNN.
    • The NRA claimed "Obama and his handlers" were allowed to see questions in advance. It is obvious to anyone who watched CNN's town hall that this was not the case and the NRA's claim requires the belief that Obama was putting on an elaborate act as he reacted to questioners.
    • The NRA claimed that Obama "personally selected" Anderson Cooper to host the event and that Cooper's "career depends on having access to, and friendly relations with, the president and politicians in his party." CNN invited Obama, not the other way around. And again, anyone who watched the event would be puzzled by this claim given Cooper's challenging and sometimes adversarial questions to Obama.
    • The NRA claimed the people selected to ask questions during CNN's town hall were "personally selected by the White House" so that Obama could rehearse responses to their questions. This claim is debunked by an interview on the NRA's own radio show, Cam & Company. The day after the town hall, Cam & Company hosted one of the pro-gun questioners, who explained that she was selected by CNN. The guest also noted that CNN screened her question, but explained that as the event was live television, she could have said whatever she wanted to the president.
  • The NRA's Wayne LaPierre Wants To Debate President Obama -- He Should Debate 1999 Wayne LaPierre First

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    After skipping his chance to go face-to-face with President Obama during CNN's January 7 "Guns in America" town hall, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has released a video challenging Obama to a nationally televised one hour debate.

    While it might make an interesting spectacle to watch LaPierre confront Obama with his signature paranoid gun confiscation fantasies, what would be truly remarkable is a debate between 2016 Wayne LaPierre and adamant background check supporter 1999 Wayne LaPierre.

    The NRA has gone apoplectic since Obama's January 5 announcement of executive actions on gun violence, a key component of which expands background checks on gun sales.

    Having already positioned itself as a virulent opponent of expanding background checks following legislative battles in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, the NRA turned its rhetoric up even higher leading up to Obama's announcement, labeling the president "our biggest threat to national security" in a January 4 video posted to its NRA News website.

    In a follow-up released on January 6, LaPierre strongly attacked the notion of expanded background checks, claiming in a video called "The Truth About Background Checks" that "the only thing the average American has heard about background checks is the absolute fallacy that what we need is more."

    Now LaPierre has issued a challenge to Obama, stating in a January 13 video, "I'll tell you what. I'll meet you for a one-on-one, one-hour debate -- with a mutually agreed-upon moderator -- on any network that will take it. No pre-screened questions and no gas-bag answers."

    Before LaPierre debates Obama, he may want to reconcile his organization's January 2016 position with what the NRA advocated for in 1999. During a May 28, 1999, appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, LaPierre represented the NRA and said, "Let's talk about what's reasonable and what's not. We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale, at every gun show no loopholes anywhere for anyone."

    So are more background checks "reasonable" or are calls for more checks an "absolute fallacy"?

    Also significant to LaPierre's debate challenge is that he already had the opportunity last week to confront Obama live, before millions of viewers. In trying to create cover for this telling fact, LaPierre and the NRA have repeatedly lied about the nature of CNN's town hall event on gun violence.

    First, in declining to participate in the event, the NRA claimed the town hall was "orchestrated by the White House." That wasn't true; the event was conceived by CNN, which invited both Obama and the NRA. Only Obama accepted.

    Then the NRA repeatedly advanced the notion that questions during the town hall were screened by the White House.

    During a Fox News appearance that immediately preceded the end of the town hall, top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox attempted to explain the NRA's refusal to participate by telling Fox News host Megyn Kelly, "I know that you don't send your questions over to the White House so I would rather have a conversation with you that's intellectually honest than sit through a lecture and get one opportunity to ask a pre-screened question." At the time, Cox scoffed at the notion of the NRA meeting with the president to have a serious conversation about gun violence, saying, "So what are we going to talk about, basketball?"

    The notion that the CNN event was stacked against the NRA also surfaced in LaPierre's January 13 video, where he claimed the NRA "won't get suckered into any of Obama's fixed fights" where "pre-screened questions that lead to [Obama's] long-winded answers are anything but an honest dialogue."

    But for the NRA, the notion that CNN's event was "fixed" was debunked by a guest on their own NRA News program Cam & Company. The day after the event, NRA News hosted Kimberly Corban, a pro-gun sexual assault survivor, who unlike the NRA, did have the courage to challenge Obama with a question during CNN's town hall.

    As Corban explained, the questions were screened by CNN (not the White House) and because the event was live she could have said whatever she wanted to the president. Host Cam Edwards asked Corban, "[CNN] said, 'Come up with a couple questions and we'll tell you which one we want you to use?" She replied: "Yup. Which isn't - to a point I was able to at least craft those questions on my own, those are my own words, and I could have gone as much off script as I wanted to as the event was live, but they knew basically what I was going to ask."

  • New NRA Lie: We Were Responsible For Creating The National Instant Criminal Background Check System

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A video from National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre offered a false history of the passage of the 1993 Brady background check bill in order to attack President Obama's recently released executive actions on gun violence.

    In the video, the NRA attempts to position itself as the heroic creator of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), when in reality the gun group fiercely fought the passage of the Brady bill and then later attempted to have the Supreme Court invalidate the entire law.

    On January 5, Obama announced during a speech from the White House that his administration is taking executive action to address gun violence in light of Congress' inaction following several high-profile mass shootings.

    A large share of media coverage on Obama's move focused on the president's plan to expand background checks by clarifying what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, although the plan also includes provisions addressing effective enforcement of existing gun laws, funding for mental health treatment, and developing gun safety technology.

    In a January 6 response video, the NRA attempted to cast itself as the actual authority on background checks. In purporting to tell a history of the Brady bill, the legislation that was responsible for the creation of the national background check system for gun purchases, LaPierre falsely claimed, "The best-kept secret is that the National Instant Check System wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for the NRA":

    LAPIERRE: The best-kept secret is that the National Instant Check System wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for the NRA. It's true. Back in the '90s, President Clinton forced passage of a mandatory waiting period on every handgun purchase in America. Not a background check. A wait.

    But NRA said as soon as the technology was available, their wait had to be replaced by an instant background check, done by the dealer, at the point of sale. NRA supported it, NRA got the votes and NRA got it passed.

    The NRA's claim is false for several reasons, many of which can be found in a legislative history of the bill's passage in UCLA law professor Adam Winkler's 2013 book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms In America.

    • The NRA only proposed what became NICS in an attempt to derail the Brady bill by including provisions that were not technologically feasible. To their chagrin, a compromise was introduced that gave the federal government five years to develop the technology before it became mandatory. Winkler writes, "Sarah Brady was an incredibly sympathetic character, and LaPierre knew that tackling her head-on was a recipe for a public relations disaster. So he pushed the NRA's allies in Congress to add to the Brady bill a provision that critics said would render the law ineffective. LaPierre's amendment would mandate instantaneous computerized background checks and a waiting period no longer than twenty-four hours. According to critics, this reasonable sounding proposal had one major flaw: it was not yet technologically feasible."
    • The final version of the Brady bill included the creation of NICS, which was to go into effect in 1998. The NRA was furious. According to Winkler, an NRA publication claimed, "When Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law on November 30, a drop of blood dripped from the finger of the sovereign American citizen."
    • The NRA challenged the constitutionality of the Brady law in a case that made it to the Supreme Court in 1997. The NRA's primary argument was that the law was unconstitutional because it "commandeered" state governments by forcing them to carry out functions that the federal government cannot force them to do under the 10th Amendment. The NRA could have limited its argument to say that state authorities did not have to perform Brady background checks, essentially pausing the national background check system until 1998 when NICS would come online (states would still be free to run background checks under the Brady bill, but the federal government couldn't force them to do so). Instead, the NRA argued, "the whole Statute must be voided." If this argument would have been successful, NICS would have never been implemented.
    • Claims that the NRA wanted comprehensive background checks during the legislative fight over the Brady bill should be treated with extreme skepticism, as the gun group repeatedly fought to weaken the bill. One example is the Gekas amendment to the Brady bill, where the NRA urged its allies in Congress to introduce a provision allowing a gun dealer to go forward with a sale after three business days, even if the background check had not been completed. The amendment received widespread attention following the June 2015 mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman in that shooting should have failed the background check he underwent while purchasing the gun he used in his attack, but instead the sale proceeded after three days because NICS had not yet been able to locate his prohibiting record.
  • What 2016 Holds In Store For Guns, The NRA, And The Presidential Election

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Following another series of horrific mass shootings in 2015 that captured the public's attention, gun safety has emerged as a major campaign issue for the 2016 elections. It's already clear how the National Rifle Association (NRA) will use the issue to try to swing the elections and hamstring any attempts at new legislation - after all, they've been using the same playbook for years.

    As U.S. gun deaths continue to tick upwards -- now on par with automobile deaths -- public interest in gun issues in 2015 rose to its highest level since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. This year, Americans watched news reports of public shootings targeting parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee, moviegoers in Lafayette, Louisiana, students and educators in Roseburg, Oregon, people visiting a Planned Parenthood health clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and attendees of a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.

    Presidential candidates in favor of reform on gun laws released policy proposals, addressed the issue during debates, and argued for stronger background checks on gun sales and other proposals during campaign events.

    Meanwhile, candidates who oppose stronger gun laws remained largely in line with the National Rifle Association, with the majority of the GOP field speaking at the NRA's 2015 annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Republican members of Congress also fell in line with the NRA -- Politico summarized the state of affairs with the headline, "GOP unmoved on gun control as massacres pile up."

    As The Washington Post noted, the attention paid to the issue by Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton indicates "a shift in presidential politics." Business Insider identified gun violence prevention as an issue that "suddenly looms large over the first Democratic presidential debate," and Politico called gun safety "one of the most volatile issues of 2016."

    As the NRA gears up to poison the well on another national debate over gun violence, four main themes are likely to emerge:

    1. The NRA Will Spend A Large Amount Of Money On Federal Elections, Without Necessarily Achieving Any Notable Return On Investment

    2. The NRA Will Cast The Eventual Democratic Nominee As A Player In An Elaborate Conspiracy To Destroy The Second Amendment And Possibly The Whole Country

    3. The NRA Will Frame The 2016 Election As The Last Chance To Save The Second Amendment, Just As They Have In All Other Recent Election Cycles

    4. Media Who Credulously Report The Myth That The NRA Can Determine The Presidential Election Will Becoming Unwitting Partners With The Gun Organization

    Wild Attacks Preceded NRA's Failed "All In" Campaign In Last Presidential Election

    With all indications pointing to the NRA utilizing its fearmongering playbook against the eventual Democratic nominee, it is worth examining the rhetoric used by the NRA to attack President Obama before the 2012 elections and what impact the NRA actually had on those elections.

    The NRA began its 2012 campaign work in earnest with a September 2011 speech by NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre at the Conservative Political Action Conference. During the annual gathering of conservative powerbrokers, LaPierre announced the existence of "a massive Obama conspiracy" to destroy the Second Amendment during a second term. Claiming that during his first term Obama sought to "play us for fools," LaPierre said, "We see the president's strategy crystal clear: get re-elected, and with no other re-elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom. Erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and exorcise it from the U.S. Constitution."

    As Election Day approached, the NRA's rhetoric against Obama went even further off the rails, including when LaPierre analogized the prospect of Obama's reelection to the 2004 tsunami in South Asia in an article in the NRA's magazine that announced an "All In" campaign against Obama.

    Describing the tsunami as "faster than a 747" and "carrying more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs," LaPierre noted the disaster's 250,000 person death toll before writing, "Today in the United States, just as in Indonesia, too many Americans don't see -- or don't recognize -- the tidal wave that's bearing down on our nation and our freedoms. If we don't warn our fellow Americans in time, disaster could be upon us on Election Day -- just nine short months from now." According to LaPierre it was up to NRA supporters to "mobilize the American people to defeat Barack Obama before he dismantles our Second Amendment freedom -- and all of our freedoms as Americans -- completely and forever."

    The NRA, however, failed on Election Day 2012. In an election year that was bad for conservatives generally, the gun group fared particularly poorly. The NRA Political Victory Fund (PVF) and the NRA Institute for Legislative Action spent over $12 million in the NRA's ill-fated quest to defeat the president.

    More than 95 percent of the more than $18 million the NRA spent on federal elections went to races where the NRA-backed candidate lost on Election Day. The PVF in particular was one of the most ineffective outside spenders during the 2012 elections, achieving a "return of investment" on campaign spending of less than one percent.

    The NRA also failed to garner Congressional victories. In six of seven Senate races where the NRA spent over $100,000 during the general election, the candidate supported by the NRA lost. Of 26 House incumbents who lost their seats -- including Democrats and Republicans -- 18 were endorsed by the NRA.

    In addition to ineffective spending, the NRA's message, which largely cast the group as the singular force that could save the Second Amendment and America from destruction by Obama, was also ineffective. In three key swing states - Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina - voters said they trusted Obama more than his opponent, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), to oversee gun laws.

    The NRA's Unhinged Attacks On Pro-Gun Safety Presidential Candidates

    The NRA is already busy launching attacks against pro-gun safety candidates ahead of the 2016 election. The majority of the attacks have focused on Hillary Clinton - who the gun-group has a long-held disdain for, dating back to the Bill Clinton administration - but the NRA has also included former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley in its unhinged attacks.

    In fact, the first cover of the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, to focus on the 2016 elections, published in September, was for a story that amounted to a lengthy smear of O'Malley.

    The NRA's feature falsely attacked O'Malley on two fronts, claiming that he poses a threat to Second Amendment rights and accusing him of taking the side of criminals in Maryland -- even though courts have sided with O'Malley on the constitutionality of Maryland's gun laws and violent crime fell significantly during his tenure as governor. Echoing language seen during the NRA's 2012 attacks on Obama, the NRA's top lobbyist Chris Cox predicted that an O'Malley presidency could trigger "a fight for the survival of Second Amendment freedom as we know it."

    The NRA's attacks on Clinton -- "the most anti-gun first lady in the most anti-Second Amendment administration in American history," according to them -- are perhaps more unhinged.

    During a video montage shown at the NRA's 2008 annual meeting, the NRA linked Clinton to a plan to exploit a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. While showing an image of Clinton on screen, followed by archival footage of the aftermaths of major terror attacks, a narrator said, "If an anti-gun president occupies the White House, then the perfect storm is upon us. Its arrival would be hastened by a terrorist attack; an event that experts say is inevitable. Then the final disarmament of law abiding Americans will take place beneath the shroud of anti-terrorism legislation."

    In 2007, the NRA was silent as one of its most prominent members of leadership, longtime board member Ted "I Am The NRA" Nugent, called Clinton a "worthless bitch" who should "ride" on his machine gun during an on-stage rant he delivered while wielding assault weapon props. Nugent, who has referred to Clinton as a "whore" and a "cunt," has also called for the former secretary of state's arrest. (The NRA has remained in the gutter on Clinton; during the 2014 debut of its web series targeted towards millennials the host said, "it's pretty blatant that Hillary is no longer sleeping with Bill Clinton, because if she were, he would inform her that this whole gun issue thing and trying to walk this elusive line of gun control but still for the Second Amendment rights is probably not the smartest thing to do because we're not idiots and we're not falling for it.")

    The NRA began its 2016 attacks on Clinton with LaPierre's 2014 CPAC speech where he predicted that anti-gun forces were "laying the groundwork to put another Clinton back in the White House" with the ultimate goal being "to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment, their dream, of fundamentally transforming America."

    LaPierre ramped up his attacks on Clinton during the NRA's 2015 annual meeting in April. During a speech before the NRA's leadership forum, LaPierre predicted that Clinton's potential election "will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair" to America while vowing that "in 2016, by God, we will elect our next great president of the United States of America and it will not be Hillary Rodham Clinton."

    In widely criticized remarks before members during a later speech, LaPierre turned up the volume even more, launching a gender-based attack on Clinton while taking a racial dig at Obama. On the 2016 elections, LaPierre said Obama "intends to go out with a coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough."

    The NRA has also been busy crafting its massive Clinton conspiracy, which is copied from its Obama playbook. In 2008, the NRA distorted and strung together past statements on the gun issue by Obama to push the claim that as president, he would ban the use of guns for self-defense among other extreme positions. This claim garnered a "false" rating from PolitiFact and led FactCheck.org to conclude the NRA "falsely claims in mailers and TV ads that Obama plans to ban handguns, hunting ammo and use of a gun for home defense."

    In a May article appearing in America's 1st Freedom, the NRA took the same approach, purporting to offer a history of Clinton's views on firearms in order to push the unsubstantiated theory that a Clinton presidency would bring about gun confiscation.

    The NRA Says This Election Will Be The Most Important Election Of Our Lifetimes ... Again

    The NRA frequently argues that the only thing to stop the cataclysmic destruction of the Second Amendment and possibly America as we know it is the election of NRA-favored candidates for office. Despite these repeated predictions from the NRA not coming true, 2016 is proving to be no different.

    2016: Just days after writing that "the future of our Second Amendment rights comes down to one day -- Election Day" 2014, and calling those elections "the most important of our lifetime," NRA leadership labeled the 2016 elections "the fight of our lives for American freedom." In the December edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre predicted that the 2016 elections could spell "the final defeat for the Second Amendment and every freedom we cherish" before announcing an NRA membership due increase.

    The NRA's apocalyptical predictions about 2016 echo rhetoric from previous elections, even if the Second Amendment - or America - never ends up getting destroyed.

    2012: On the 2012 elections, LaPierre wrote, "This isn't just the most important election of our lifetimes -- it's the most important election for our children's, grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's lifetimes." He also wrote (emphasis original), "It might seem like a stretch to compare an election to one of the deadliest disasters in modern history [the 2004 South Asian tsunami]. This year's election could prove the most disastrous in the history of this country. Why? Because this election will decide whether Americans remain free."

    2008: "The most important election battle of our lifetime" also took place in 2008, according to then-NRA president John Sigler and the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action.

    How The NRA Will Hope To Benefit From The Media Myth That It Can Determine Presidential Elections

    The 2016 election promises to revive longstanding -- but evidence-free -- conventional wisdom seen throughout media coverage of the role of the gun issue in electoral politics, which is the claim that the NRA has the ability to determine election outcomes at will and punish politicians who vote against its agenda. While this myth is oft-repeated in media, actual data analyses of federal election cycles have proven that the value of NRA election spending and endorsements is vastly overrated.

    Supposedly objective media outlets who push this narrative become unwitting allies of the NRA, which seeks to use overstated claims about its own electoral power to wield outsized influence in Congress.

    Following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, major media outlets were quick to suggest that politicians who supported gun safety reforms would be defeated by the NRA during their next reelection run.

    That never happened. While 2014 was a bad election cycle for progressive politicians generally, the gun issue fared significantly better, including the passage of a "historic" background check ballot initiative in Washington state and the successful reelection of governors who signed into law the most significant gun safety reforms in response to Sandy Hook. At the same time, Democrats in the Senate who sided with the NRA on a background check bill compromise that was blocked in April 2013 lost their reelections, with the NRA failing to aid them or in other cases actively spending against them in favor of the Republican candidate. As one leading gun safety advocate put it, "with friends like the NRA, who needs enemies?"

    The myth of NRA electoral dominance is actively being pushed by major outlets leading up to the 2016 elections. A January documentary about the NRA released by PBS and a July Washington Post article setting the stage for the role of guns in 2016 electoral politics pushed the claim that the NRA cost Al Gore the 2000 election. The Post article also posited that the 1994 assault weapons ban was responsible for Democrats losing the House during elections held that year.

    While these claims have become electoral apocrypha, there is no statistical support for their validity according to political science experts who conducted data-driven analyses of the two election cycles. The NRA, however, will be counting on media to share these stories as it puffs itself up before Election Day.

  • NRA Falsely Claims That Obama Refuses To Enforce Existing Gun Laws Even As It Attempts To Weaken The Agency Charged With That Task

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    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 Interferes With ATF's Ability To Enforce Federal Gun Laws Through The Congressional Appropriations Process

    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."

    The NRA Helped Create The Senate Confirmation Requirement For A Permanent ATF Director, Then Fought Against The Confirmation Of Any Permanent Director

    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."

    Just Months Ago, The NRA Attempted To Force The ATF To Divert Its Limited Resources To Restoring The Gun Rights Of Convicted Felons

    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.

    The NRA Opposes Closing The "Charleston Loophole" Which Makes The ATF's Job More Difficult

    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.

  • NRA Magazine Features A Lamp That Celebrates The Confederacy And Other Bizarre Products

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    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"

    "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.

  • NRA Debuts 2016 Conspiracy: Hillary Clinton Is Coming For Your Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    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.

  • Ridiculous NRA Conspiracy Theory Claims Obama Will Ban All Ammo

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    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.)