In New Series Examining Gun Violence, CBS Evening News Gives A Platform To Discredited Misinformers

A new CBS Evening News' series that examines gun violence in America has featured prominent conservative misinformers on the issue, including a guest who once suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government. While “Voices Against Violence” has also featured advocates for stronger gun laws, CBS has given airtime to Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt -- whose group has donated money to a white supremacist group -- and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has raised the idea of justifiable armed revolution against the government and is well-known for his inflammatory commentary, such as that Hillary Clinton “is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote.”

CBS Promotes “Voices Against Violence” As Part Of “A New National Conversation On What To Do About Gun Violence”

CBS Launched “Voices Against Violence” In Response To The Umpqua Community College Mass Shooting. CBS News introduced its new series on its website, explaining, “The college shooting in Oregon that claimed the lives of nine people has started a new national conversation on what to do about gun violence. And CBS News asked several people to give their views, in a new series being called, 'Voices Against Violence.'” [CBS News, 10/2/15]

CBS Allows David Clarke And Larry Pratt To Make False Claim That Mass Shootings Tend To Happen In So-Called “Gun-Free Zones”

Pratt: “All But Two Of The Mass Murders In Our Country Have Occurred In Gun-Free Zones.” During an October 23 appearance on the CBS Evening News, Pratt claimed “the problem of mass murder in this country is the gun-free zone”:

LARRY PRATT: I'm Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, where we have advocated - really, ever since Columbine -- that the problem of mass murder in this country is the gun-free zone. We have a federal law that says that schools must be gun-free zones unless a state goes through an enormous amount of trouble. All but two of the mass murders in our country have occurred in gun-free zones. Even while our violent crime rate has been going down, more Americans are owning guns, but not in gun-free zones. [CBS, CBS Evening News, 10/23/15]

Sheriff Clarke: “These Gun-Free Zones -- Theaters, Churches, College Campuses, Elementary Schools -- Are Chosen By The Perpetrator For A Reason.” During the October 2 broadcast of CBS Evening News, Clarke claimed that mass shooters choose their targets based on whether or not guns can be carried:

DAVID CLARKE: I'm Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Any time we have a horrific incident like a mass shooting, these things have a tendency to become politicized. One of the things that I would do to reduce -- we're not going to be able to eliminate these entirely -- but to reduce the likelihood that there's mass carnage, is to get rid of these gun-free zones. These gun-free zones -- theaters, churches, college campuses, elementary schools -- are chosen by the perpetrator for a reason. He knows that nobody is going to be able to interrupt him until mass carnage occurs. And we ought to give people the individual freedom, the individual right to -- under certain circumstances like a concealed carry license -- to go armed in these venues in case something like this happens for their own protection, and to have a chance. Look at Chicago, Illinois. Look at Washington, D.C., the federal district. If gun control really worked, those would be two of the safest areas in the United States. In fact, they're two of the most violent. [CBS, CBS Evening News, 10/2/15]

Large Majority Of Mass Shootings Have Occurred Where Guns Can Be Carried, Civilians With Concealed Guns Have Not Stopped Mass Shootings

Everytown For Gun Safety: 87 Percent Of Mass Shootings Over A 6-Year Period Happened Where Guns Can Be Carried. According to an August 2015 report issued by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety, just 17 of 134 mass shootings that took place between January 2009 and July 2015 were in so-called “gun-free zones”:

[Everytown for Gun Safety, August 2015]

Mother Jones Analysis Of Public Mass Shootings: Gunmen Do Not Pick Target Based On Whether Or Not Guns Can Be Carried. An analysis of 62 public mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones concluded that “not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns” and also noted, “Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped” by an armed civilian:

Second Amendment activists have long floated this theme, and now lawmakers across the nation are using it too. During a recent floor debate in the Colorado Legislature, Republican state Rep. Carole Murray put it this way: “Most of the mass killings that we talk about have been effected in gun-free zones. So when you have a gun-free zone, it's like saying, 'Come and get me.'”

The argument claims to explain both the motive behind mass shootings and how they play out. The killers deliberately choose sites where firearms are forbidden, gun-rights advocates say, and because there are no weapons, no “good guy with a gun” will be on hand to stop the crime.

With its overtones of fear and heroism, the argument makes for slick sound bites. But here's the problem: Both its underlying assumptions are contradicted by data. Not only is there zero evidence to support them, our in-depth investigation of America's mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.

Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008.


No less a fantasy is the idea that gun-free zones prevent armed civilians from saving the day. Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped this way. Veteran FBI, ATF, and police officials say that an armed citizen opening fire against an attacker in a panic-stricken movie theater or shopping mall is very likely to make matters worse. [Mother Jones, 4/1/13]

Larry Pratt Has Lengthy Record Of Extremism, And Has Suggested Politicians Who Support Gun Safety Laws Should Fear Being Shot

Pratt: “The Second Amendment Was Designed For People Just Like The President And His Administration.” During a June 4 appearance on fringe radio program The Roger Fredinburg Show, Pratt endorsed the notion that the Second Amendment allows for the violent overthrow of government, claiming that it was “designed” for people like President Obama:

ROGER FREDINBURG, HOST: I think the next revolution is going to start and be won by people with rifles and Leupold [brand] scopes. I don't think it's going to be won by guys in the trenches with machetes.

LARRY PRATT: We figured that that was kind of what they were up to and the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration. And, yes, if The New York Times and the Rolling Stone and whoever else wants to have a hissy-fit, yes our guns are in our hands for people like those in our government right now that think they want to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em. That's what it's all about. The Second Amendment is not about hunting, it's not about target shooting, it's about Democrats who want to take our rights. [The Roger Fredinburg Show, 6/4/15, via Right Wing Watch]

Pratt Has Repeatedly Said Politicians Should Fear Being Shot By A Gun Owners Of America Supporter If They Pass Laws Regulating Firearms. [Media Matters, 11/20/14]

Pratt: “We Have To Admit” That The Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater Mass Shooting Could Have Been Staged By The Government. During a discussion of the July 2012 mass shooting in Colorado that left 12 dead and scores wounded, Pratt said on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, “Now, we have to admit that maybe this is something that our government is capable of.” [Genesis Communication Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/27/12]

Pratt Was Forced To Leave Presidential Campaign Of Pat Buchanan After His Past Ties To White Supremacists Were Revealed. Pratt, who was a co-chairman of Republican Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential run, was forced off the campaign after it was revealed that he had spoken at white supremacist gatherings:

Last week, Larry Pratt, a co-chairman of the Buchanan campaign, took a leave of absence after the disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements.

Mr. Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said in an interview that he did not know the other speakers. He also said he did not harbor anti-Semitic or racist views, although his articles on gun ownership often appear in The Jubilee, a tabloid published in California by leaders of the Christian Identity movement, a white supremacist organization. [The New York Times, 2/18/96, via Media Matters]

Pratt's GOA Donated Money To White Supremacist Group. A 2014 Rolling Stone profile of Pratt noted that under his leadership, GOA donated “tens of thousands of dollars” to a white supremacist group:

But the NRA stopped short of supporting the Christian Identity lawyer Kirk Lyons, who was representing multiple victims of Waco. Pratt and the GOA had no such compunction and donated tens of thousands of dollars to Lyons's white supremacist organization CAUSE (short for the Aryan bastions of Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa and Europe), “Not $50,000 -- but a lot of money for us,” Pratt told Rolling Stone in 1995. [Rolling Stone, 7/14/14]

David Clarke Warned Of A Second American Revolution If Guns Are Confiscated

During Appearance On Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones' Radio Show, Clarke Discussed “The Second Coming Of An American Revolution, The Likes Of Which Would Make The First Revolution Pale By Comparison.” During a 2013 appearance on Alex Jones' show, Clarke addressed Jones' claim that “the Obama Marxist types want to start a civil war in this country” by confiscating people's guns:

ALEX JONES: What is your take on the fact that from a lot of analysists I talk to think that the Obama Marxist types want to start a civil war in this country? They've got to know what's going to happen if they try to confiscate guns.

DAVID CLARKE: Well, first of all, to me, that would be an act of tyranny. So the people of Milwaukee County do not have to worry about me enforcing some sort of order that goes out and collects everybody's handguns or rifles or any kind of firearm and makes them turn them in, and the reason is I don't want to get shot. Because I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude, you would see the second coming of an American revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison. So the people of Milwaukee County don't have to worry about me engaging in that sort of tyranny. [Alex Jones Show, 2/18/13, via YouTube]

Clarke Was Named Sheriff Of The Year By Radical Group. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "No Quarter" column reported that in 2013, Clarke was named “sheriff of the year” by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group “known for anti-government views”:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. recently announced that he had been named the “sheriff of the year” for 2013 by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.

Clarke put out a press release saying he was “both honored and humbled” by the award, which will be given out at a convention later this month.

What the sheriff doesn't disclose, however, is anything about the little-known group behind the award.

It's not your typical trade association.

Founded in 2011, the sheriffs association is the brainchild of Richard Mack, a former Arizona lawman who says he wants to organize sheriffs who understand their primary duty is to protect local citizens from the tyranny of the federal government.

His association, he says, will be the army to set our nation free" - albeit a nonviolent army, he adds.

“The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government,” Mack says on his personal website. “If America is conquered or ruined it will be from within, not a foreign enemy.”

In a 15-minute chat this week, Mack - or “Sheriff Mack,” as he prefers to be called - reaffirmed these sentiments and went even further. He voiced his support for states to nullify federal laws they deem unconstitutional. He also called the U.S. government “universally corrupt.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center - an Alabama-based nonprofit that tracks hate groups - has accused Mack of espousing “radical-right” views and trying to create a “nation of county sheriffs who believe the government is the enemy.” Mack's group got some media attention when it compiled a list of more than 400 sheriffs who vowed not to enforce President Barack Obama's gun control measures. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/15/13]

Clarke On “Mrs. Bill Clinton”: She “Is Willing To Prostitute Herself To Secure The Black Vote.” During an October 12 appearance on Fox News, Clarke said, “Mrs. Bill Clinton is showing that she is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote.”

SHANNON BREAM: Sheriff, we have two, now, outside investigations, one by a former FBI agent, I believe, another by a prosecutor saying that the officer, you know, lamenting the death of a 12-year-old but saying the officers acted in a reasonable manner. You gotta make split-second decisions. But still there are those who are casting doubt on the case. Sheriff?

DAVID CLARKE: Well, first of all, Mrs. Bill Clinton is showing that she is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote. Look, she knows that's her ace in the hole when it comes to Bernie Sanders, especially when they get into the primaries in the southern states. She knows better than that. That sort of pandering is unbecoming of someone who wants to become the next president of the United States. She's well aware, as an attorney, of the objective reasonableness standard in Graham v. Connor, that officers have to make split second decisions on how much force and when to use force, and you can't use 20/20 hindsight. She knows that, that it's the reasonable officer standard. Once you strip away the emotion, the hyperbole, and the rhetoric involved in this tragic case, all that's left are the facts and circumstances. And it's the rule of law standard that has to prevail. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/12/15]

CBS Evening News Previously Gave Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott A Platform To Push Falsehoods

Lott Falsely Claimed Every Place That Has Banned Guns Has Seen An Increase In Murder. During an August 27 appearance on CBS Evening News that pre-dated the “Voices Against Violence” series, Lott claimed, “Every country in the world, or place in the world, that's banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates, it's not just Washington, D.C. and Chicago.”

[CBS, CBS Evening News, 10/27/15]

Lott's Claim Is Contradicted By The Examples He Cites. Data collected for a Yale University study clearly indicates that the murder rate in Chicago was far higher in 1982, when the city's gun ban went into effect, compared to 2010, when the ban expired:

[Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies, 12/3/13]

Lott Mischaracterized Washington D.C.'s Homicide Data. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 than it was in 2008, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership. [Media Matters, 8/28/15, District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute, accessed 10/26/15]