Media Credulously Repeat NRA’s False Claim That Clinton Opposes Gun Ownership
Research ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Media outlets reporting on the NRA’s new $5 million ad buy that claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “could take away” your “right to self-defense” failed to hold the gun organization to account for the falsity of that claim. While media reporting on the ad repeated and gave credence to the NRA’s claims, they often failed to cite Clinton’s actual positions on gun regulation or mention the fact-checkers who have debunked a nearly identical NRA ad targeting Clinton as “false.”
NRA Releases Ad Claiming Clinton “Could Take Away” Your “Right To Self-Defense”
NRA Ad Suggests Clinton Could Enact Ban On Gun Ownership. The September 19 ad shows a woman being awoken in her home as a man kicks in her door. She begins to open a gun safe to retrieve a weapon, but the gun vanishes into thin air as a narrator says, “Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense”:
NARRATOR: She’ll call 911. Average response time: 11 minutes. Too late. She keeps a firearm in this safe for protection, but Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense. And with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can. Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone. [NRA Political Victory Fund, 9/19/16; Media Matters, 9/20/16]
To read more about why the NRA’s claims about Clinton in its ad are false, click here.
Media Repeats -- And In Some Cases Give Credence To -- The NRA’s False Claim That Clinton Would Outlaw Gun Ownership For Self-Defense
CNN.com Quotes NRA Officials Without Giving Any Background On Clinton’s Positions Or Actions On Guns. CNN.com credulously repeated the NRA’s claims, writing that the NRA is spending $5 million on “a harrowing ad that shows what the NRA says would happen if Hillary Clinton appoints her chosen justices to the Supreme Court.” The article quoted an NRA spokesperson and the NRA’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox, but offered no information about Clinton’s position on gun regulation:
The NRA's Political Victory Fund is tasked with spending half the money on five swing states -- Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania -- while its Institute for Legislative Action, its lobbying arm, is spending the second-half on national cable. All of the money is going to a harrowing ad that shows what the NRA says would happen if Hillary Clinton appoints her chosen justices to the Supreme Court.
The advertisements targets rural voters in battleground states who might be Democrats or disillusioned Republicans, according to Jennifer Baker, an NRA spokeswoman.
"It is designed to run up the score with those Trump voters," she said.
The NRA's chief political adviser Chris Cox said the ad "underscores" how Clinton's position on guns creates "one set of rules for her, and a different set of rules for the rest of us." [CNN.com, 9/20/16]
Politico Headline: “NRA Warns Voters That Clinton Will Leave Them Unprotected.” Politico gave credence to the NRA’s claims with a headline and lead, which read: “The National Rifle Association’s new spot is aimed at people who are already afraid, and hammers Hillary Clinton for wanting to leave them defenseless.” Later the article acknowledged that Clinton “has not said she wants to ban firearms or repeal the Second Amendment,” but it followed that line with the NRA’s misrepresentation of Clinton’s remarks on the landmark 2008 Supreme Court Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller:
The National Rifle Association’s new spot is aimed at people who are already afraid, and hammers Hillary Clinton for wanting to leave them defenseless.
While Clinton has made tighter gun laws, including universal background checks, a centerpiece of her campaign, she has not said she wants to ban firearms or repeal the Second Amendment. However, the NRA points to comments she made at a fundraiser that the Supreme Court is “wrong on the Second Amendment,” an apparent reference to a 2008 case that affirmed an individual’s right to bear arms. [Politico, 9/20/16]
To read more about how the NRA misrepresents Clinton’s statement that Heller was “wrongly decided,” click here.
The Hill Repeats NRA’s “Claims Clinton Could Revoke People's Right To Keep Firearms In Their Own Homes” Without Acknowledging Clinton’s Record. The Hill’s summary of the NRA ad repeated the ad’s claims without offering any information about Clinton’s record or statements on gun ownership:
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is launching a $5 million television ad campaign attacking Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her stance on gun control.
The gun lobby’s ad, which will air nationally, claims Clinton could revoke people's right to keep firearms in their own homes. The Supreme Court has previously defended this right, but the NRA says Clinton could appoint justices who would overturn this Second Amendment protection. [The Hill, 9/20/16]
AOL News Shows How To Report On The NRA’s False Claims
AOL News: “Both Trump And The [NRA] Have Repeatedly Claimed That Clinton Wants To ‘Take Your Guns Away,’ Despite There Being No Mention Of Seizing Guns From Average Citizens In Her Gun Policy.” AOL News noted that there is no evidence for the NRA’s claim and that Clinton’s policy “mostly focuses on expanded background checks and limiting access for those with a history of violence or mental illness”:
The NRA's new commercial, which is part of a $5 million campaign, depicts a woman reacting to a break in at her house. A narrator claims, "Hillary Clinton would take away her right to self defense, and with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can."
The ad also tells viewers that the average 911 response time is 11 minutes, claiming Clinton would leave voters with nothing but a phone to protect them.
Both Trump and the gun rights organization have repeatedly claimed that Clinton wants to "take your guns away," despite there being no mention of seizing guns from average citizens in her gun policy. The policy mostly focuses on expanded background checks and limiting access for those with a history of violence or mental illness. [AOL News, 9/21/16]
In August, Fact-Checkers Rated As “False” An NRA Ad Making An Almost Identical Claim About Clinton
NRA Released Ad Claiming Clinton “Doesn't Believe In Your Right To Keep A Gun At Home For Self-Defense.” [CNN.com, 8/9/16]
PolitiFact North Carolina: Clinton “Never Said” What The NRA Claims. Declaring the NRA’s ad “false,” PolitiFact North Carolina explained that Clinton “thinks more regulations are OK to try to curb gun violence,” but “she says she respects the Second Amendment.” The fact check noted that the Bush administration shared this view that the Second Amendment is not an “absolute right” and allows for the regulation of firearms:
Clinton has had a fairly consistent view on gun rights: She says she respects the Second Amendment but thinks more regulations are OK to try to curb gun violence. Her website has details of her specific proposals, and she has also made a number of public statements.
Conservatives and liberals alike might not like to hear this, but it’s true: Clinton’s stance is similar to Bush’s. They would likely disagree on specifics. Yet both have argued that the right to bear arms needs to be upheld, but that it’s not an absolute right and can be regulated, just like the right to free speech.
The NRA said Clinton "doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense."
Clinton has never said that, nor could she do anything about it on her own even if she wanted to. She would need to rely on a new Supreme Court justice, who would first have to be approved by the currently Republican-led Senate.
Clinton did say she disagreed with the Heller ruling, as the NRA points out. But she was talking about specifics and cited the same worries raised by the Bush administration, about looser restrictions on automatic weapons or carrying in public.
We rate this claim False. [PolitiFact, 8/11/16]
Washington Post Fact-Checker Glenn Kessler: “This Is A Classic Example Of A Fear-Mongering Ad Based On Little Evidence But Leaps Of Logic.” The NRA ad received “Four Pinocchios” from the Post’s fact check, its worst rating reserved for claims that are “whoppers.” Kessler cited the PolitiFact North Carolina analysis of the ad’s false claims and also noted that it was premised on “predicting the rulings of Supreme Court justices not yet selected,” which is a “fool’s errand”:
In many ways, the NRA’s attack is a more sophisticated version of Donald Trump’s repeated claim that Clinton wants to “abolish” the Second Amendment.” The NRA’s fear is that Clinton, as president, will have a chance to name a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who wrote the Heller decision. The Supreme Court narrowly decided the case, with bitter opposition expressed by the minority, so gun-rights advocates fear a new justice will help the Supreme Court chip away at the sweeping nature of the Heller decision.
But this fear may not be realized, as predicting the rulings of Supreme Court justices not yet selected is a fool’s errand. Moreover, Clinton’s public positions on gun control are far less extreme than suggested by the ad. Her main focus has been on taking steps that she contends would reduce gun violence.
On her campaign website, Clinton calls for more comprehensive background checks, repealing the gun industry’s immunity from lawsuits for negligence, revoking the licenses of gun dealers that knowingly supply weapons to straw purchasers and gun traffickers, and toughening laws and regulations to prevent domestic abusers and the mentally ill from obtaining guns. She also calls for a renewal of the assault-weapons ban.
None of these proposals would restrict a person from buying a gun to keep at home for self-defense (unless that person was convicted of domestic abuse).
This is a classic example of a fear-mongering ad based on little evidence but leaps of logic. While the NRA does not go so far as to claim that Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment, the wording of its claim suggests that.
Clinton has said that she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, but she has made no proposals that would strip Americans of the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. Clinton is certainly in favor of more gun regulations and tougher background checks, and a more nuanced ad could have made this case. Conjuring up a hypothetical Supreme Court justice ruling in a hypothetical case is simply not enough for such a sweeping claim. That tips the ad’s claim into the Four-Pinocchio category. [The Washington Post, 8/15/16; 9/11/13]
Clinton Has Explained That The Country Can Regulate Guns While Also Respecting The Second Amendment
Clinton “Knows That Gun Ownership Is Part Of The Fabric Of Many Law-Abiding Communities” And Her Proposals “Focus On … What Can Be Done To Prevent” Gun Deaths. ThinkProgress reported that Hillary Clinton’s proposal to tackle gun violence includes “universal background checks and” a closure of “the gun show and internet sales loophole that currently allow criminals to purchase firearms.” Clinton’s campaign policy briefing says gun ownership "'is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities,'” as ThinkProgress, reported, but “her proposals focus on violent criminals, the mentally ill and domestic abusers and what can be done to prevent the roughly 30,000 gun deaths the United States sees every year.” From the October 5 ThinkProgress report:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her aggressive plan to tackle gun violence on Monday, saying she would enact universal background checks and close the gun show and internet sales loophole that currently allow criminals to purchase firearms.
According to her campaign’s policy briefing, Clinton “knows that gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities,” including many in New Hampshire where she presented her plan. But her proposals focus on violent criminals, the mentally ill and domestic abusers and what can be done to prevent the roughly 30,000 gun deaths the United States sees every year.
Under her plan, Clinton will advocate for comprehensive federal background check legislation, but if that fails, she has vowed to take administrative action to tighten the gun show and internet sales loophole. Her plan also calls for repealing a law which prevents victims of gun violence from suing gun manufacturers and pushing for legislation to prevent domestic abusers from buying guns. [ThinkProgress.org, 10/5/15]
Clinton: Having A “Gun Anywhere, Anytime” Is Not “In The Best Interest Of The Vast Majority Of People,” But “You Can Say That And Still Support The Right Of People To Own Guns.” During a May 6, 2014, question and answer session at a National Council for Behavioral Health conference, Clinton said, “We've got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith than anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime, and I don't believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people. I think you can say that and still support the right of people to own guns.” [Media Matters, 5/20/14]
Clinton: We Should Protect Second Amendment Rights While Enacting "Common-Sense Ways To Make Sure People Are Not Using Guns To Commit Mass Murders." A March 14 PolitiFact article debunking the false claim that Clinton wants to ban handguns included several mentions of Clinton's common refrain that guns can be regulated in a "common-sense" manner while still protecting gun rights:
On Aug. 26 in Ankeny, she responded to the on-air murders of a news crew in Virginia:
"We've got to do something. It's a very difficult political issue. But we are smart enough, compassionate enough to balance legitimate Second Amendment rights concerns with preventive measures and control measures, so whatever motivated this murderer ... we will not see more needless, senseless deaths," she said.
On Oct. 6, she described her views again, in response to a mass shooting in Oregon: "I feel like this is unfinished business in our country, and I am very determined that we are going to try to bring some sanity back, so that people's Second Amendment rights are protected — but they are not absolute, the way the NRA wants them to be," Clinton said at an event in Davenport. "There are common-sense ways to make sure people are not using guns to commit mass murders." [PolitiFact, 3/14/16]