NRA News Promotes Dubious Acts Of Self-Defense To Advance False Gun Violence Narrative

Daily segments on NRA News that push the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime recently celebrated the actions of a shooter who police want charged with a felony and the case of a man whose murder conviction for shooting his tenant under disputed circumstances was recently overturned.

“The Armed Citizen File” and “Hero of the Day” are daily features on NRA News' televised show on The Sportsman Channel and radio show on SiriusXM, respectively. In both segments, host Cam Edwards shares media accounts of defensive gun use, which often conclude with the demise of alleged criminals. Online gun retailer sponsors “The Armed Citizen File” segment.

The purpose of the segments is to advance the notion that guns are often used for self-defense in the United States. Indeed, promotional material for one of the segments cites repeatedly discredited research to advance the claim that "[f]irearms are used more than two million times a year for personal protection":

The “more than two million” figure likely comes from the research of criminologist Gary Kleck, whose claim that up to 2.45 million defensive gun uses occur each year has been promoted on NRA News and throughout right-wing media.

But an analysis of Kleck's data has shown his figure to be an overestimation so great that it is mathematically impossible. David Hemenway, who heads the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, noted “serious methodological deficiencies” in Kleck's work that lead to absurd outcomes. For example, if Kleck's data about defensive gun uses and burglaries is accurate, in more than 100 percent of burglaries the victim defends themselves with a gun.

While the actual number of defensive gun uses is very difficult to estimate due to the rarity of the event, Hemenway and others at the Harvard Injury Research Control Center asked individuals to describe both defensive gun uses and instances where they were threatened by a gun in a 2000 study and found that as a ratio "[g]uns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense. Most self reported self defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society."

Considering the dearth of actual defensive gun uses in the United States it is no surprise that NRA News promotes less than clear-cut instances of self-defense. By comparison, a daily feature on shooting victims would have to cover close to 300 incidents a day considering that over 100,000 people are shot each year in the United States.

Here are two instances of gun use that seem less-than-heroic featured on NRA News during the last week:

  • On January 8, “The Armed Citizen File” featured the story of a confrontation between Mervin Brewer and suspected shoplifters in Arizona. In Edwards' telling of the incident, Brewer observed a security guard following two suspected shoplifters out of a store and admitted to opening fire on them after the suspected shoplifters pointed guns at the security guard and Brewer. No one was injured. Although details of the incident are still vague, on January 9 local news reported that Glendale, Arizona police are recommending to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that Brewer be charged with felony of unlawful discharge of a firearm. A local Fox affiliate reported that the gun brandished by the alleged shoplifter was a toy. Edwards acknowledged on January 9, “had we known that those charges might have been filed, we probably not would have used that story.”
  • During the January 9 “Hero of the Day” segment, Edwards discussed the case of Wyoming resident Gabriel Drennen who was released from prison in December 2013 after being convicted of first-degree murder in 2011. Edwards relayed how Drennen's conviction was overturned because of erroneous instructions to the jury and that a new prosecutor -- who described himself as “a staunch proponent of the Second Amendment” -- declined to retry Drennen. While throwing out an error-tainted verdict may have been the correct legal outcome, court documents reveal that Drennen's actions the day he shot Leroy Hoster were hardly heroic.

    In a ruling on Drennen's appeal, the Supreme Court of Wyoming explained that Drennen killed an unarmed tenant who threw him over a fence during an argument over the tenant's inability to leave Drennen's property because of a flat tire. The incident started with Drennen approaching the tenant, Leroy Hoster, and stating, “You push me around, I push you around,” and ended with Hoster exclaiming, “Shoot me!” before Drennen shot him multiple times:

    As Mr. Drennen walked toward the mobile home, he said to the other two men, “You push me around, I push you around.” Mr. Hoster threw his jacket to the ground and walked toward Mr. Drennen, insulting him. Mr. Drennen responded, “No trespassing.” Mr. Hoster then told Mr. Drennen to “get the f* *k out of here,” grabbed him, and threw him from the porch and over a three to four foot high fence into the yard. According to Mr. Drennen, Mr. Hoster also said, “I'll kill you, you son-of-a-b* *ch!” Mr. Drennen landed on his back and tried to scoot backward when Mr. Hoster started coming over the fence. Mr. Drennen yelled “hey, hey, hey!” but Mr. Hoster kept coming towards him and said, “Shoot me!” Mr. Drennen fired five shots, hitting Mr. Hoster multiple times.

    Discussing his move to dismiss all charges against Drennen, Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett said of Drennen, “While he may be condemned in the court of public opinion for his decisions, the same will not be true for his actions in a court of law.” Hoster's family expressed shock at the decision, with this mother of his child stating, “I don't see how [Bennett] thinks he can't get a conviction.” Still, Edwards claimed that the incident was “a clear-cut case of self-defense.”