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  • NRA fundraises off of its ridiculous claim that “the mainstream media love mass shootings”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) is trying to raise money off of its idiotic claim that “the mainstream media love mass shootings.”

    Since the deadly February 14 shooting in Parkland, FL, the NRA and its affiliated personalities have repeatedly lied about guns; pushed the conspiracy theory that the school shooting survivors are crisis actors (they obviously are not); and argued that more teachers should be armed in schools -- an idea that lacks any backing evidence but would surely serve to increase the profits of gun manufacturers who support the organization.

    The organization is also attempting to divert attention from its own role in the country's culture of gun violence by attacking the “mainstream media” for its purported “love” of mass shootings.

    The NRA’s media arm, NRATV, sent a February 23 email with the subject “Help Us Fight The Dangerous Media” and featuring the statement from NRA commentator Colion Noir that the media loves mass shootings. That claim is also part of a recent NRA ad, in which Noir says that “mass shootings have become [the media’s] Game of Thrones, their House of Cards, their Seinfeld, and their Friends, all wrapped into one.” The quote is superimposed over a composition of television screenshots and includes a “Donate Now” button:

    NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch pushed the claim that "many in legacy media love mass shootings” while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday. Reporters have responded to the NRA’s argument by noting their own “horrific” and “devastating” experiences covering mass shootings.

    CNN reporter Brian Stelter wrote in a February 23 piece: "Some analysts have speculated that the NRA has ramped up its anti-media messaging to motivate existing members and to recruit new ones. In the absence of a Democratic president in power to focus their attacks, the NRA has taken to criticizing media outlets instead. Condemning the news media doubles as a way to market the NRA's own publications and TV shows." 

    The email also claims, among other things, that the “NRA took on the socialist wave at CPAC” and has been “fighting the dangerous media’s violent lies.” It adds: “At NRATV, We're Not Members of the Media. We're Members of the NRA. And Our Ultimate Weapon Is Truth.”

  • President Donald Trump runs with conservative media’s horrible idea of arming teachers

    Even the NRA used to have a “zero tolerance” position against arming teachers

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    President Donald Trump is pushing a fringe idea to arm school teachers that has been promoted by conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

    Trump made the proposal during a February 22 meeting at the White House, suggesting that armed teachers could receive a pay bonus. He also defended the idea on Twitter, promising that it would end attacks at schools:

    Trump continued to push armed teachers during his speech at CPAC: 

    According to NBC News, “Gun violence experts, educators, and school safety advocates immediately panned the idea.”

    Trump’s outrageous proposal has its roots in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. After that attack, conservative media figures increasingly began pushing the idea of arming teachers, and the proposal was also backed in a post-Sandy Hook report issued by the NRA. The push to arm teachers has come full circle, with conservative media now celebrating the president’s adoption of their idea.

    There is no evidence that arming teachers will stop school shootings. Even the NRA used to acknowledge this fact. After the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the gun group’s annual meeting where he said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ... with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.”

    Even armed individuals with extensive firearms training have failed to stop school shootings. In the case of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, an armed deputy present at the school took a defensive position outside the building where the shooting was taking place and never went inside to confront the gunman, contrary to  department policies. At Columbine, an armed police officer present at the high school attempted to fire on one of the shooters, but was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon. Jeanne Assam, a retired police officer who did actually stop a gun rampage at a Colorado church in 2007, has rejected the notion of arming teachers, telling CNN in 2012 that “a teacher wants to be a teacher. He or she doesn't want to be a police officer” before concluding that the proposal is “ridiculous.”

    Proposals to arm teachers do not appreciate the reality of the highly chaotic scene an active shooter incident creates. According to the Violence Policy Center, research has shown that “trained law enforcement officials have only an average 20 percent hit ratio in armed confrontations, meaning that only 20 percent of shots fired hit the intended target.”

    Some states already allow teachers to carry guns, although it’s unclear whether the educators widely adopt the practice. But when armed teachers make headlines, it is not for stopping school shooters. As HuffPost noted:

    In September 2014 at Idaho State University, a teacher accidentally shot himself in the foot when his concealed handgun discharged. Students in the chemistry class watched.

    Later that month at a Utah elementary school, a teacher carrying a concealed weapon accidentally shot herself in the leg as she used the restroom.

    In 2016, a group of elementary school students in Pennsylvania found a loaded gun in the bathroom after a teacher accidentally left it behind.

    In general, the presence of firearms makes people less safe. Research has demonstrated time and time again that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings. The concealed carry of firearms -- which conservative media claim without evidence to be a solution to mass public shootings -- also makes people less safe. Instead of preventing crime, laws allowing permissive gun carry increase violent crime and are particularly associated with aggravated assault.

    In addition to carrying out their teaching responsibilities, teachers, if armed, would be tasked with preventing students from accessing their firearm. As Lily Eskelsen García, president of National Education Association, explained in a statement opposing Trump’s proposal, “Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators.” And as Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted, “We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

  • Video: How conspiracy theories and attacks on the Parkland shooting survivors spread across the internet and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Survivors of the Parkland, FL, mass shooting, in which 17 people lost their lives, are speaking out and demanding action on gun violence. In response, right-wing media figures are spreading conspiracy theories and attacking these students, and online platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, are enabling the spread of these lies. (Videos spreading these conspiracy theories have gone viral, with one video even trending No.1 on YouTube.)

    These are some of the conspiracy theories and attacks the right-wing media figures have launched against the students:

    • Infowars' Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and host of The Alex Jones Show, called the attack "the perfect false flag." (He also claimed that "there's a cover-up going on.")

    • CNN political commentator Jack Kingston doubled down on his earlier tweet that the “left-wing gun control activists” are setting up the Parkland high school students for political reasons. Kingston said on CNN that he doubted these students could plan a rally without “being hijacked” by pro-gun control groups.

    • A Twitter account that regularly peddles in "The Storm" conspiracy theory, accused the students of being “crisis actors” who should be “charged and sent to jail.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)

    • Discredited author Dinesh D’Souza mocked students on Twitter for speaking out.

    • Lucian Wintrich, The Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent, called the students “little pricks” who are “completely entitled” and are “milking the deaths of their peers for careers.”

    • Tucker Carlson, while interviewing NRATV’s Dan Bongino, claimed anti-gun groups are using the students as “a kind of moral blackmail, where you are not allowed to disagree or you are attacking the child.”

    • TruePartisan, a fringe right-wing site, claimed that student survivor David Hogg, who spoke out about ending gun violence, was a plant because his father formerly worked at the FBI. (Donald Trump Jr. promoted this conspiracy theory.)

    • NRA board member Ted Nugent shared an article on Facebook that claimed David Hogg was “coached by cameraman.” (The post has since been deleted.)

    These attacks are nothing new. Whenever there is a mass shooting, right-wing and far-right figures and outlets spread conspiracy theories to avoid talking about the real problem: the need for gun reform. Students are tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They demand an end to gun violence. They want action, and they won’t stop until they get it.

  • The NRA’s new talking point about background checks is bullshit

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) leadership has broken its silence following last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Comments made by its leadership at CNN’s February 21 town hall on gun violence and during speeches at CPAC indicate that the NRA is coalescing around a misleading talking point that attacks the national background check system for gun purchases.

    Three different times during a 24 hour period, NRA leadership bemoaned that states are not required to submit disqualifying records into the background check system:

    • At CNN’s town hall, NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch said, “We had three lawmakers on this stage and only one of them hinted at reinforcing the background check system. It is only as good as the records submitted to it. Only one of them even got anywhere close to mentioning that. We have to have more than 38 states submit records.” Loesch also asked Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez, “Do you know that it is not federally required for states to actually report people who are prohibited possessors, crazy people, people who are murderers?”

    • Loesch used the talking point again during her February 22 speech at CPAC, saying, “I want you to all ask yourselves, where are the stories about how only 38 states submit less than 80 percent of criminal convictions to the background checks system. It’s only as good as what’s submitted to it. How many of you knew that? No. Why isn’t [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] calling for that? I have to question whether or not they want this system to fail.”

    • NRA CEO LaPierre hit the same point to attack the press during his speech, saying, “No one gets ratings by telling the truth about how to stop mass killers. So they don’t report that 38 states submit less than 80 percent of their felony convictions to the system, leaving more than 7 million felony convictions in the dark.”

    There’s one major problem with this talking point: The NRA’s actions are the reason states can’t be required to submit disqualifying records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

    During the 1990s, the NRA backed a lawsuit Printz v. United States that sought to block the implementation of NICS, which was created by the 1993 Brady Bill.  

    While the system eventually went into effect, the outcome of Printz damaged its effectiveness, as the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in favor of the NRA’s argument that requiring states to perform background checks for a federal system violated the 10th Amendment.

    The ruling also had implications on whether states can be required to submit disqualifying records into the background check system. As the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence explains, “Federal law cannot require states to make information identifying people ineligible to possess firearms available to the federal or state agencies that perform background checks” because “case law suggests that a federal statute requiring states to disclose records to the FBI would violate the Tenth Amendment” due to the Printz ruling.

    As a result of this state of affairs, all Congress can do is encourage states to submit records using a carrot-and-stick system that provides incentives and disincentives for states to submit records.

    In Loesch’s CPAC comments, she asked “Why isn’t Dianne Feinstein calling for” more records to be put in the system. In fact, Feinstein is the co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) that would further incentivize states to provide records into the system.

    LaPierre revived the NRA’s past claim today at CPAC that the NRA should be credited for the creation of NICS. But the reality is that when the law was being considered as legislation, the group tried to stymie it at every turn, and once it was enacted attempted to sue it out of existence.