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  • National Review Misfires In Attack On Obama Judicial Nominee Halligan's Gun Rights Record

    ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    National Review Online blogger and conservative judicial activist Gary Marx accused Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan of having "a very troubling record of dismissing the Second Amendment" during her time as New York state solicitor general. In fact, Marx's attack consists of criticism of Halligan for doing her job as solicitor general by filing briefs on behalf of the state of New York, and neither of the cases Marx cites deal with Second Amendment issues.

  • UPDATE: Video Shows Alaska Militia Leader's Courtroom Theatrics

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID HOLTHOUSE

    As reported earlier, Francis "Schaeffer" Cox and five members and associates of a Fairbanks, Alaska, militia group were arrested yesterday for allegedly plotting to kidnap or kill Alaska State Troopers and a Fairbanks judge.

    Last year, Cox was arrested on a misdemeanor firearms charge. During a December 10, 2010 pre-trial hearing before District Judge Jane Kauva, Cox made this statement: "There are a lot of people out there who would just as soon come and kill you in your home at night as argue with you in your court by day."

    His comments were captured in a video espousing Sovereign Citizen ideology that was circulated among right-wing groups online.

    Earlier in the same pre-trial hearing, Cox said in open court:

    "Soulless federal assassins have made threats on the lives of my wife and children. This, coupled with your long established and well documented practice of refusing to ascertain the truth leaves me but one inescapable conclusion: You are rebellious impostors to reduce [sic] us under absolute despotism."

    The following week, Cox returned to the Fairbanks court house and tried to serve a different judge with a sovereign citizen arrest warrant.

  • BREAKING: Alaska Militia Members Arrested for Plot to Kidnap or Kill Police

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID HOLTHOUSE
    Francis "Schaeffer" Cox Photo from Anchorage Press

    Five members and associates of a Fairbanks, Alaska, right-wing militia group were arrested yesterday for allegedly plotting to kidnap or kill Alaska State Troopers and a Fairbanks judge.

    The five include Francis "Schaeffer" Cox, the founder and leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia. Cox also founded a pro-gun group and advocates armed resistance to gun control.

    Cox and the other defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit arson, in addition to gun charges and other crimes.

    According to an Alaska Department of Public Safety statement, an investigation of the militia group "revealed extensive plans to kidnap or kill Alaska State Troopers and a Fairbanks Judge."

    "Cox et. al. had conspired a plan to launch an attack on Alaska State Troopers and Court Judges. Investigation also revealed that extensive surveillance on troopers in the Fairbanks area had occurred, specifically on the locations of the homes for two Alaska State Troopers. Furthermore, Cox et. al. had acquired a large cache of weapons in order to carry out attacks against their targeted victims. Some of the weapons known to be in the cache are prohibited by state or federal law."

    Also arrested were Lonnie Vernon, Karen Vernon, Coleman Barney and Michael Anderson.

    An arrest warrant for Cox was issued last month when he failed to show up for a court appearance on a separate weapons charge.

    I previously reported for the Anchorage Press the unusual circumstances surrounding that gun charge and Cox's subsequent bizarre court appearances in an article on the Alaska militia movement last December:

    "Back in March, right around the time he was organizing his militia ... Cox responded to a distress call on the Liberty Bell Network, an online community of anti-New World Order conspiracy theorists, which sends out mass email bulletins whenever one of its members feels his or her constitutional rights are being violated."

    "In this case, a Liberty Bell Network member in Fairbanks claimed that police were conducting a warrantless search of his residence. (Police said they were responding to a 911 hang-up). Cox arrived on the scene armed with a concealed Ruger .380 semiautomatic pistol. Alaska state law requires that anyone carrying a concealed firearm must immediately notify any law enforcement officer they come into contact with of the concealed weapon.

    "Cox, who doesn't regard state or federal laws as valid, did not do so and was subsequently charged with a crime."

    Cox is a self-declared "sovereign citizen," a movement that preaches violent resistance to the federal and Alaska state government.

    In a major report covering the rise of the sovereign citizen movement in recent years and the corresponding violence against law enforcement officers, the Southern Poverty Law Center last fall characterized it as a "sprawling subculture" of "hundreds of thousands of far-right extremists who believe that they -- not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials -- get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and who don't think they should have to pay taxes."

    Cox is also the founder of the Alaska-based Second Amendment Task Force, a "pro-gun rights" group. Its website details a supposed United Nations-orchestrated conspiracy to deprive Americans of theirs constitutional right to bear arms.

  • Lone Wolves: A Recent History of Violent Right-Wing Extremism

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID HOLTHOUSE


    Yesterday, as conservative media hyped the commencement of Rep. Peter King's contentious hearings on Muslim radicalization in America, details continued to emerge about Kevin William Hardham, the 36-year-old Army field artillery veteran accused of planting a "weapon of mass destruction," along the route of a Martin Luther King Day unity parade route in Spokane, Washington earlier this year.

    The backpack bomb Hardham allegedly planted contained shrapnel dipped in rat poison. It was discovered just minutes before hundreds of MLK Day marchers arrived. Hardham appears to have a long track record of fantasizing about politically and racially motivated violence in various online extremist forums.

    The attempted MLK Day bombing in Spokane was hardly an isolated incident. Right-wing domestic terrorist plots and extremist violence are on the rise in America. Earlier this year the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a report analyzing domestic terrorism statistics reported by the FBI and other crime agencies since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The MPAC report shows that since 9/11, right-wing extremists including neo-Nazis and other white supremacists have been involved in 63 domestic terror plots, while radical Muslims have been involved in 45.

    Meanwhile, the number of hate groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) topped 1,000 this year for the first time since the SPLC began counting such groups in the mid 1980s, and the resurgent antigovernment militia movement is exploding, with more than 300 new groups forming in the last year alone.

    SPLC Intelligence Project director Mark Potok attributes this dramatic increase in right-wing extremist activity to three factors: "Resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government's handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities."

    Below is a list of some of the right-wing extremist terror plots and violence from recent years.

    July 27, 2008

    Unemployed truck driver Jim David Adkisson opens fire on the congregation of a Unitarian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing two people and seriously wounding six. Adkisson tells police he targeted the congregation because its members included gay men and mixed-race couples. A suicide note that Adkisson left in his car outside the church describes the attack as a "hate crime," "a political protest," and "a symbolic killing."

    "I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done," Adkisson wrote. "If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country. Go kill liberals."

    Adkisson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

    October 22, 2008

    Two white power skinheads are arrested for allegedly plotting a multi-state robbery and murder spree that would have culminated in an attempt to assassinate then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

    Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, were later charged with conspiracy, possessing a sawed-off shotgun and threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a major presidential candidate. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 14 years and 10 years, respectively.

    The skinheads told police they formulated their plot in Bells, Arkansas, after shooting out the windows of a black church. According to a written statement they provided to investigators, the skinheads planned to rob gun stores and kill 88 non-whites, beheading 14 of their victims.

    Those numbers are significant in the white supremacist movement. Eighty-eight stands for "Heil Hitler," as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. The number 14 refers to the number of words in the white supremacist catchphrase coined by domestic terrorist David Lane: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

    "The final thing we had discussed was dressing in white tuxs [tuxedos] with a top hat and trying to assassinate Obama. We did not plan on living past that day," Cowart wrote in his statement. "One day, while riding in my car, Paul told me that he wanted to go to a predominately [predominantly] black school and kill as many as he could."

    A Secret Service agent testified at Cowart's sentencing hearing that in dozens of chat messages found on his computer he discussed wanting to kill African-Americans and start a race war.

    December 9, 2008

    Law enforcement investigators find radioactive materials and other components for making a "dirty bomb" in the home of Belfast, Maine neo-Nazi James Cummings after Cummings is shot to death by his wife, who told police she killed her husband after years of physical and mental abuse.

    According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center, investigators found containers of uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon, along with neo-Nazi materials, including a completed application to join the National Socialist Movement, a major neo-Nazi group.

    A local painter who worked inside the Cummings residence earlier in 2008 told police that Cummings expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and showed off the swastika flag hanging in the house.

    Amber Cummings reportedly told police that her husband was "very upset" over the election of President Obama, was in contact with white supremacist groups, and had been mixing chemicals in their kitchen sink.

  • Fox News Turns To LaPierre, Who Once Called ATF Agents "Jack-Booted Government Thugs"

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is the last person a responsible media outlet should have on its airwaves to comment on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). That's because LaPierre once referred to ATF agents as "jack-booted government thugs" and reportedly called for "lifting the assault weapons ban to even the odds in the struggle between ordinary citizens and 'jack-booted government thugs.' "

    But that's just what Fox News has done. Today, Fox News did a report on a controversial ATF program that appears to have allowed weapons to flow into Mexico and hosted LaPierre to discuss the issue. LaPierre proceeded to attack the ATF and other federal government officials.

  • Alleged MLK Day Terrorist Apparently Has neo-Nazi Ties

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID HOLTHOUSE

    The man arrested today in connection with the attempted Martin Luther King Day parade bombing in Spokane, Washington, appears to have longtime connections to the white supremacist movement.

    Kevin William Harpham, 36, was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving and possessing an improvised explosive device.

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Harpham was a member of the National Alliance, an infamous neo-Nazi organization, in late 2004. It's not clear when he joined the National Alliance or whether he's still a card-carrying member.

    But an individual identifying himself as Kevin Harpham, who says he's a neo-Nazi who lives near Spokane, has been active on the crudely racist, anti-Semitic website Vanguard News Network since joining the online forum in November 2004.

    Since then, Harpham has posted 1,069 comments to VNN using the moniker Joe Snuffy, slang for a low-ranking U.S. soldier. (Kevin William Harpham was apparently in the army in 1996-1997 and was based at Fort Lewis, Wash., the Southern Poverty Law Center reported earlier today.)

    Harpham last posted to VNN on January 16, the day before the attempted MLK Day parade bombing.

    Ten days before that, Harpham offered shelter to violent neo-Nazi activist Craig Cobb, a part-time resident of Kalispell, Montana who is a fugitive from justice in Canada, where he's wanted on hate crimes charges.

    "Craig, if you read this and you need a place to stay for the winter I have an empty basement with a couple rooms, a bed and bathroom you can live in till spring," Harpham posted. "I live in Washington not too far from Kalispell."

    Kevin William Harpham was arrested today in a rural area south of Colville, Washington, just across the Idaho panhandle from Montana.

    A white supremacist website founded by Cobb in 2007, Podblanc, features tribute videos to "lone wolf" white supremacist killers, including Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, who in July 1999 went on a three-day shooting rampage targeting Jews and non-whites. Smith killed two people and wounded nine before turning his gun on himself.

    On Jan. 8, Cobb apparently posted a message to supporters on VNN encouraging them to follow the examples of lone wolf terrorists such as Joe Stack, who flew a small plane into a building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas in 2010, and James von Brunn, the neo-Nazi who killed a security guard after he opened fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2009.

    "Ask all to seriously internally take direct personal action upon furthering Our Cause, doing something they haven't yet done before, or repeating something that has been highly effective," Cobb wrote.

    Cobb wrote there was a "small chance" he'd take Harpham up on his offer of basement space.

    Harpham wrote about lone wolf violence in response to an August 2009 article in USA Today that reported, "Federal authorities have launched an effort to detect lone attackers who may be contemplating politically charged assaults." Harpham wrote: "A lone Wolf would be hard pressed to compete with the level of destruction the jew bankers are doing to the country right now."

  • The Faces of The Gun Lobby

    Blog ››› ››› CHRIS BROWN

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) logo features a young man aiming a shotgun under the watchful eye of an older man, below them is a deer in a forest. Similar imagery is featured in logos used by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
    NRA Hunting Event Logo
    National Rifle Associaition Youth Hunter Education Challenge

    These images are attempts to brand the gun industry as focusing on hunting and hunters, but that quaint branding hides the gun lobby's political agenda and the gun industry's increasing emphasis on lethality.

    NSSF Logo
    National Shooting Sports Foundation Logo

    The gun lobby ceased to be about hunting and hunters long ago, but maintaining that image is a critical marketing tool for the NSSF and the NRA. The NSSF's idea of a modern hunting rifle are AR platforms, such as the M-16 civilian variant AR-15. The blurring of the lines can be explained by the gun industry's need to sell new firearms products to the eroding percentage of the population which owns firearms, when the firearms currently owned by Americans have very long lifetimes. While NSSF may present AR-15's as the modern hunting rifle don't expect them to redo the logo anytime soon.

    Of course not all gun lobbyists are afraid of rejecting the hunting label:

    CCRKBA Bumper Sticker

    The juxtaposition of these two faces was apparent at the 2011 SHOT Show where Kel-Tec salesman Chad Enos discussed his company's new model the KSG shotgun, which holds more then twice as many shots as a police shotgun, 15, and is designed to be as compact as legally possible. As Media Matters' David Holthouse reported not everyone at the SHOT Show was buying Enos' marketing pitch:

    "This is good for self-defense, home defense, quail hunting, you name it," Enos said. "Those gangsters will never know what hit 'em."

    One onlooker, Cedric Steele of Knightcross Publishing, replied, "It's a lot of gun for the price, but the problem is, you're going to wind up selling a lot of them to gangsters."

    "No, no, no, no," said Enos. "Quail hunters. Not gangbangers. Quail hunters."

    That line got a big laugh.

  • Wash. Times Calls Obama A "Bigot" And Restrictions On Handgun Magazines "Pointless"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a March 1 editorial, The Washington Times stated that "restrictions on things like the size of handgun magazines" are "pointless." The Times also wrote that President Obama is "a bigoted man who derisively describes small-town America as a place where people 'cling to guns.'"

    From the Times' editorial:

    The left has permanently lost the argument on gun control. Despite their best efforts to take advantage of the tragic shooting in Arizona to promote pointless restrictions on things like the size of handgun magazines, the propaganda campaign is unlikely to go anywhere. Instead, the right to keep and bear arms continues to gain steam as state lawmakers around the country are enacting measures that would have been unthinkable not so long ago.


    At the national level, Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, and Rep. Heath Schuler, North Carolina Democrat, introduced a measure providing for national reciprocity of concealed carry permits. That means anyone with the legal ability to carry in his home state could do so in another state as long as he abides by all applicable state laws. It's unfortunate this common-sense bill has no chance of getting past the Oval Office as long as it is occupied by a bigoted man who derisively describes small-town America as a place where people "cling to guns."

  • Smuggler's Paradise: Guns, Drugs and Violence in the Southwest

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID HOLTHOUSE

    PHOENIX, Ariz.--The endless carnage of the Mexican cartel wars may seem a world away from the climate control and free Starbucks within the Phoenix Convention Center, where leading border security experts gathered this month for the fifth annual Border Security Expo. Yet it's only 150 miles from downtown Phoenix to the northernmost cartel war zone of Nogales, Sonora. Even closer are the badlands on the U.S. side of the border where last December a Border Patrol agent was killed in a firefight with Mexican drug smugglers. They were armed with AK-47s purchased legally from a gun store in Glendale, Arizona, less than a year before.

    Weapons seized in March 2010 by Mexican military police from La Familia Michoacana Cartel, more commonly known as La Familia, a Mexican drug trafficking organization and criminal syndicate.
    Weapons seized in March 2010 by Mexican military police from La Familia Michoacana Cartel, more commonly known as La Familia, a Mexican drug trafficking organization and criminal syndicate.

    More than 73,000 firearms have been seized in drug raids or recovered from the scenes of cartel gun battles in Mexico since December 2006. According to law enforcement officials, "90 percent of the weapons that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the U.S." Weapons sold over-the-counter in the U.S., including thousands of cheap, military-style assault rifles, are being used in Mexico to commit horrific violence on a massive scale.

    Conservative politicians routinely demand that the federal government to do more to secure the border -- often championing nativist and draconian anti-immigrant policies. Yet they reflexively oppose even modest efforts by law enforcement to better track the flow of high-powered weaponry.

    Meanwhile, the violence in Mexico continues to escalate. More than 34,000 people have died in the cartel wars since late 2006, many of them law enforcement officers, elected officials, or innocent civilians. On February 15, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was shot and killed and his partner was seriously wounded while they were investigating cartel gunrunning in Mexico.

    That same day marked the start of the Border Security Expo, a gathering of law enforcement and government officials from the U.S. and Mexico, as well as private security and defense contractors.

    Standing at the Phoenix conference hall podium, U.S. border security expert Alonzo Peña, the former Deputy Director of ICE, called for America to own up to its responsibility for the bloodshed in Mexico.

    "We are the consumers of the drugs and we are the suppliers of the weapons," said Peña. "The drugs come to America, the money and the guns go back. U.S. weapons are giving these cartels the firepower they need. Much more needs to be done. There is a huge gap between what we are capable of doing to stop illegal gun trafficking to Mexico and what is actually being done."

  • Gun Owners of America Defends Blocking ATF Director on Misleading, Political Grounds

    Blog ››› ››› CHRIS BROWN

    On February 22, Gun Owners of America (GOA) president Larry Pratt appeared on America Live and presented a variety of misleading reasons for his opposition to Andrew Traver, President Obama's nominee to head up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Pratt's objections during the segment were political in nature, wholly ignored Traver's distinguished record as a law enforcement officer and veered into far-flung accusations of criminal conspiracies by the ATF.

    Asked about why he and other gun lobbyists have opposed the Traver nomination, Pratt first pounced on the opportunity to link the ATF to the case of border patrol agent Brian Terry, who was tragically killed in a firefight with five armed assailants in December. Questions recently surfaced about ATF awareness of the purchase of two of the weapons used in the attack against Terry and his fellow agents.

    PRATT: But with the, know the looming crisis that the agency breaking about how they were, their agents were literally running guns into Mexico to jack up the numbers to make it look like they needed more money for their agency. [1:27]

    Pratt and the GOA have been advancing the accusation that "the ATF is actually helping to move illegal guns across the border." In fact, according to the Washington Post, the accused straw buyer linked to the Brian Terry shootings has been arrested by the ATF as have 33 others. The paper also reported that court records "do not indicate that the agents deliberately allowed weapons to cross the border into Mexico. On at least two occasions, agents stopped and seized arms shipments headed for the border." The Department of Justice has responded to Congressional inquires regarding this allegation in a February 4th letter saying:

    At the outset, the allegation described in your January 27 letter- that the ATF "sanctioned" or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico- is false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico. [Emphasis added]

    Pratt's accusation distracts from the role American-bought guns play in fueling cartel violence, and to discredit efforts by the ATF to clamp down on the southward flow of firearms. More then 65,000 guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement have been traced to the United States, so to suggest that American law enforcement -- and not Mexican cartels -- are behind this widespread trend is not only pure fantasy, but deeply dishonest. Finally, there have been zero reports that have linked Traver, who runs the Chicago area office of the ATF, to the Brian Terry case.

    When pressed by host Megyn Kelly to actually discuss reasons he opposes Andrew Traver, instead of espousing conspiracy theories, Pratt continued to make unsubstantiated assertions and all but dismissed the relevance of Traver's record as a law enforcement officer.

    PRATT: Well, if he wants to be the head of police agency where he has to get congressional confirmation he needs to get off his anti-gun kick. It's just totally unacceptable and we're not going to look at the rest of his record. If he thinks his job is to come after gun owners, legitimate guns owners in this country, then we're against him. And we just really don't care how many arrests he can tout, he will also be making arrests of gun owners who haven't done anything, because those are even easier arrests to make than going after real criminals. [2:50]

    Pratt offered no explanation why he thinks that Traver would come after, "legitimate gun owners" as part of his "job." Reached for comment on what actions Traver has taken against "legitimate gun owners," Pratt told Media Matters he was referring to the Great Lakes Summit States Summit on Firearm Violence. Traver was a "Summit Advisor" but the summit did not advocate in any way targeting legitimate guns owners for arrest. Pratt did not respond with any examples of actions Traver took as a law enforcement officer to backup his assertion.

    Pratt also seemed intent on exaggerating the influence of the ATF.

    KELLY: How much power does he have? Because the Obama administration did not, uh, did not propose to reinstate the lapsed the assault weapons ban. So, can this guy do it as head of the ATF? [3:20]

    PRATT: Sure, the ATF intervened with the State Department and got them to cancel permission to import 830,000, almost antique rifles now, M-1 carbines from Korea. That's a huge, that's probably the biggest gun ban in history. It was done all by regulation, by dictate from the FBI and BATF. [3:31]

    In fact, Traver would have no authority to reinstate the assault weapons ban, as doing so would require Congressional action. While the State Department's decision to deny permission for the importation of the Korean War-era guns was regulatory in nature, the authority to do so was based in previous legislation and in no way beyond the legitimate authority of the State Department.

    Even Kelly seemed to recognize the excessively political nature of Pratt's complaints as she unsuccessfully tried to get Pratt to address Traver's bipartisan support from Illinois' senators and his support from U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, who called Traver's actions to combat gang violence "excellent."

    Since 2006 the position of ATF director has been held by temporary appointees as the Senate has failed to confirm both Traver and President Bush's proposed director Micheal Sullivan. The ATF is going on 5 years without a permanent director -- is it time to ask if anyone can be confirmed by the Senate?

  • NewsBusters Attacks Good Morning America For Showing Picture Of Truck, Not Calling Bloomberg Liberal

    Blog ››› ››› CHRIS BROWN

    Today, NewsBusters decided to criticize ABC's Good Morning America over an interview host George Stephanopoulos conducted with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, complaining that Stephanopoulos didn't call Bloomberg a liberal and that the interview included a shot of a billboard truck that is currently driving across the nation to highlight the deficiencies in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The truck's banner highlights the 34 Americans who are murdered with guns each day.

    From the NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock:

    Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday conducted a softball interview with Michael Bloomberg, touting his new gun control campaign and never once calling the New York mayor a liberal.

    GMA even featured a truck promoting, highlighting the parked vehicle just outside ABC studios. Ignoring ideological labels, Stephanopoulos introduced, "New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg joins us now. He's co-founder of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns and he's unveiling a new campaign today to toughen gun control." [Emphasis in original]

    Highlighting the inclusion of's truck and discussing the issue of background checks for less than two minutes is pretty thin gruel for the "liberal media bias" that NewsBusters purports to expose. exists to highlight two common-sense policies -- entering the names of all people prohibited from buying guns into the NICS, and requiring a background check for every gun sale in America -- that are widely popular among all Americans.

    Fixing the gaps in the government background check databases by adding missing records, which currently number over 2 million, is broadly popular according to a recent poll that shows 89 percent of Americans and 90 percent of gun-owning households support doing just that. Closing loopholes that allow people to buy guns without a background check is also broadly popular, 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun-owning households support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check at gun shows. Even 69 percent of NRA members support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks. It seems that NewsBusters has its facts wrong in trying to paint these policies are "liberal."

    The practical reasons for these measures are laid out by Omar Samaha, who's sister Reema was shot and killed during the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, in his explanation of why he joined the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks:

    Our family's grief later turned into outrage when we were told that Reema's killer never should have been able to buy a gun. But because his mental health records hadn't been loaded into the background check database, he actually passed a background check and purchased the firearms that he used to murder 32 innocent people.

    I looked for ways to get involved in the campaign to fix this broken system. I learned that flawed background checks are just one way guns fall into the wrong hands. The truth is, even if my sister's killer hadn't passed a background check, he could have gone to any private gun seller in Virginia and bought his weapons. All you need is cash, and you walk away with guns -- no questions asked.

  • Fiancée of Murdered Giffords Staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, Supports Regulating High-capacity Magazines

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX LAWSON

    Kelly O'Brien, whose fiancee was murdered in the Tucson shooting, appeared on Good Morning America to make the case that regulating high-capacity magazines made sense. O'Brien stated:

    I absolutely support it...And it is so sad to see 19 people gunned down in just 15 seconds by one of these extended capacity clips


    As you know Jared was stopped when he ran out of bullets. And I believe, even if not Gabe, other people could have been saved that day. And absolutely more people could have not had the injury and stuff that they had to sustain.

    O'Brien's support for regulating high-capacity magazine follows similar calls from both Democrats and Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.

    Even Robert A. Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark legal case that established the Second Amendment as protecting an individual's right to bear arms, acknowledges that regulating high-capacity magazines would be constitutional. As reported by NBC:

    Robert A. Levy, who served as co-counsel in the landmark Supreme Court case that established a Second Amendment right to bear arms, said there was no reason the court's decision in that case should apply to the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines.

    "I don't see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines," Levy said in an interview with NBC. "Justice [Antonin] Scalia made it quite clear some regulations are permitted. The Second Amendment is not absolute."

  • UPDATED: John Lott Tries To Substantiate His Debunked Assertions By Repeating Them

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX LAWSON

    John Lott responded to a post here at Media Matters that debunked his assertions that, "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows," and that "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns."

    It is apparent from his history that John Lott does not understand the basic concepts of science,statistics or ethics, so it is not surprising that his latest post offers as "proof" only a reassertion of the debunked claims.

    First is his attempt to reassert that background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns:

    LOTT: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." These guys at Media Matters are pretty dense because they seem to believe that these initial denials are stops that involve criminals when in fact they are almost all false positives. Over 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were later determined to be misidentified. Take the numbers for 2008 (, the latest year for which data are available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns.

    In our original piece we used FBI data that shows that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has in fact stopped 800,000 sales since 1998-- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals.

    Lott asserts that we must be pretty dense to think that these 800,000 instances "involve criminals." He states that "[o]ver 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal" were later determined to be misidentified.

    Lott is either willfully or ignorantly misunderstanding the background check system. The federal background check system prohibits certain buyers, such as convicted felons, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence, and other categories. The NICS system is set up to prohibit certain buyers from obtaining weapons, during the course of the background check sometimes the NICS system identifies persons who are then prosecuted.

    M. Kristen Rand, Legislative Director for the Violence Policy Center explains further:

    RAND: The act of trying to buy a gun when you are in a prohibited category is not a crime per se. The bottom line is that when Lott says "The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns," he is not accurately describing the category.

    The 78,906 represents the universe of denials evaluated for referral for potential prosecution. Of those, 5,573 were referred to ATF field divisions for further review. Ultimately, the field offices referred 147 cases to prosecutors. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the NICS accurately identified the 1 percent of people denied for being in a prohibited category, e.g. the system identifies that a buyer has a felony record and the transfer is denied. That person is a "banned individuals trying to purchase guns," as Lott describes it. The fact that that person is not later singled out for prosecution is irrelevant to the fact that he is in fact a prohibited purchaser.

    Bottom line is that the NICS system and the background check system in place before NICS prevented1.9 million attempted gun purchases by prohibited persons, convicted felons, domestic violence offenders and other prohibited groups. So yes, in fact background checks do keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

  • Coulter: High-Capacity Magazine Put Loughner "At A Disadvantage" During Massacre

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Ann Coulter claims Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was at a "disadvantage" due the the 33-round high-capacity magazine he used:

    In fact, high-capacity mags put a predator like [Jared] Loughner at a disadvantage because they are so long, unwieldy and difficult to conceal.

    Coulter does not indicate whether she asked any of the people present when Loughner killed six people and shot 13 others if they thought he was "at a disadvantage" because of the "unwieldy" high-capacity magazine he used. I'll go ahead and assume she did not. For the record, Loughner was subdued when he eventually had to stop to re-load after firing 31 shots.

    Coulter's rather odd views on guns are unsurprising when one considers the "experts" she relies upon:

    There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.

    The "highly regarded" John Lott has been caught using fraudulent data (and lying about it to cover his tracks) in his concealed-carry studies. And the National Research Council's Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearm said of its examination of research conducted by Lott and others on concealed-carry laws: "despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime."

    Finally, Coulter appears unaware of actual public attitudes about high-capacity magazines:

    During the presidential campaign, Obama said: "I don't know of any self-respecting hunter that needs 19 rounds of anything. You don't shoot 19 rounds at a deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be hunting." It would have been more accurate for him to end that sentence after the word "hunter."

    It's so adorable when people who wouldn't know a high-capacity magazine from Vanity Fair start telling gun owners what they should want and need.

    According to a recent bipartisan poll, a strong majority of Americans, and a plurality of those who live in households with guns, think the sale of high-capacity magazines should be banned.

  • UPDATED: John Lott Vs. The FBI

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    At first glance, it might seem problematic that this Newsmax piece about gun regulations makes flat assertions about gun sales without referencing any data or citing any sources. But when you consider that the author of the post, John Lott, has been caught using fraudulent data, lying about it, and using a fake internet persona to tout his bogus work, the lack of specificity may actually be a positive: At least Lott didn't fake a study to support his assertions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the result of laziness rather than a newfound commitment to the truth.

    Lott asserts "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows." He offers no data or expert opinion to support this contention. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, on the other hand, has concluded:

    The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... Firearms that were illegally diverted at or through gun shows were recovered in subsequent crimes, including homicide and robbery, in more than a third of the gun show investigations.

    So, on the one hand, we have the unsupported assertion of a person who has previously been caught using fraudulent data about guns ... and on the other, we have a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.

    Next, Lott asserts: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." Again, Lott just expects readers to trust him. Now, just because Lott has previously used bogus data and lied about it doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth this time. Still, it's probably a good idea to check in with the FBI on this one. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has denied more than 800,000 sales -- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals. Another 100,000 were either fugitives from justice or the subjects of restraining orders for domestic violence. So, John Lott, who has been caught using bogus data, says background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that has happened 600,000 times. Who to believe?

    More Lott: "With all the delays found in background checks, this imposes a real cost on law-abiding citizens who need guns quickly for protection and a one, two or three day delay can take the prevent a sale from even taking place at a gun show." Again, Lott offers no data or citations. Contrary to his suggestion that background checks routinely involve onerous delays, the FBI says that more than 90 percent of NICS background checks are completed immediately -- while the seller is still on the phone. That's why they're called "Instant criminal background checks."

    UPDATE 3/31/2011: from the author of the report titled, "Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearms Applicants Denied by a NICS check in 2008.", which Lott cites to justify the NICS inaccuracy claim.

    You [Media Matters] asked me if it was accurate for an article to state that "Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the [Brady] law were 'false positives' - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals." That statement cannot be supported by statistics on Brady Act background checks that have been collected since 1999.

    A person whose firearm transfer application is denied by a background check pursuant to the Brady Act may appeal the denial. Statistics on appeals of denials have been collected since 1999 in a series of publications entitled Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, and are summarized in Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008. During that ten year period, nearly 1.5 million firearm transfer applications were denied and nearly 237,000 of those denials were appealed. Over 86,000 appeals resulted in a reversal of the denial, which would calculate to about 6% of the 1.5 million denials. Some of the reversals may have occurred because a person was mistakenly identified as being prohibited; however, no data is available on the reasons for reversals. The URL for Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008 is