CNN Parrots National Rifle Association Falsehoods On Assault Weapons

A CNN article published yesterday about increased efforts by the National Rifle Association to defeat President Obama credulously echoed false NRA talking points on assault weapons, without noting Mitt Romney's well-documented flip flop on the issue.

The article notes that in responding to a question about assault weapons in Tuesday's presidential debate, Obama mentioned an assault weapons ban. Instead of offering independent reporting on the topic, CNN political director Mark Preston only provided readers with the take of the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, on the issue of assault weapons bans:

“Some gun owners took Obama at his word four years ago, when he said he wouldn't take their guns away,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. “So, after years of paying lip service to the Second Amendment, President Obama finally let it slip last night that he supports the most draconian form of gun control - a gun ban.”  

Preston, however, did not acknowledge that 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, favor assault weapons bans. Nor did he mention that President Obama never made a promise to gun owners to not restrict access to assault weapons, as Cox suggested.  

Turning to an exchange during Tuesday night's presidential debate where Romney was asked by moderator Candy Crowley about his changing position on assault weapons, Preston served as a stenographer for Romney without noting that the GOP nominee told a distorted version of events concerning his role in banning assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts.

When Romney was asked about assault weapons during the debate, he repeated that he is against instituting any new gun laws.

“I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal,” he said.

When asked why he no longer supports an assault weapons ban after signing one into law as governor of Massachusetts, Romney said the law was a compromise between pro- and anti-gun advocates.

“In my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation,” Romney said. “And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.”

The legislation in question, signed by Romney in July 2004, actually enraged “the pro-gun folks.” In a press release titled, “Romney Signs Off On Permanent Assault Weapons Ban,” the then-Massachusetts governor described the weapons as “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.” According to Massachusetts' leading gun advocacy group, Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), Romney told reporters at the signing ceremony that his position on assault weapons was the same as Democratic gun violence prevention stalwarts Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

GOAL called upon its members to “contact Governor Mitt Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and express their outrage with their betrayal of gun owners in Massachusetts.”

Romney's version of events, which suggest that his action on assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts was acceptable to state gun advocates, was concocted by the National Rifle Association.

On October 2, the NRA used its media arm, NRA News, to suggest that Romney's gun policies while governor was supported by GOAL. During a September interview, Cox prompted Romney to deny that he actually enacted a permanent assault weapons ban, asking, “As governor, you signed a major bill reforming Massachusetts' gun registration and licensing laws. Some in the media and elsewhere claim this bill was a reauthorization of the semi-auto ban in Massachusetts. What's your response?” In response, Romney did not acknowledge that he signed an assault weapons ban and instead claimed that he was “proud to support legislation that expanded the rights of gun owners” while governor.