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  • NRA spokesperson calls pediatricians “irresponsible” for pointing out link between firearms and adolescent suicide

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch used her NRATV show to take on a doctor who recommended “a better strategy” to prevent teen suicide “is simply not to have a gun in the house.” Instead, Loesch argued to focus on homes where “the parenting is absent or subpar.”

    Loesch highlighted a November 30 article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that “the safest home for a kid is one without guns.” The article highlighted that “adolescents, in particular, are at a higher risk for suicide when there is a gun in the home” and mentioned the recent example of a local teenage girl, Ivey Mustaki, who died from suicide using her grandmother’s firearm.

    The NRATV host took particular issue with the article’s quotes from Dr. Daniel Blumenthal, a retired pediatrician and former president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. Blumenthal speculated that if the teenager’s family had “only known that there are far more gun-related suicides than homicides. If they’d only known that is it next to impossible to hide a gun from a teen, … perhaps Ivey would be alive today.” Blumenthal reiterated that “there are things individuals can do, and one of them is not have a gun in the house.”

    Loesch rejected the doctor’s recommendations, saying that maybe “a firearm in a house where the parenting is absent or subpar” is a problem, but it is “irresponsible” to “pretend that this is a universal rule and not an outlier.” Loesch suggested focusing on “the correct precautions” and called Blumenthal’s recommendations an attempt “to incite fear into the hearts of every family across America.” From the December 3 edition of NRATV’s Relentless:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): It seems a little bit like it’s trying to incite fear into the hearts of every family across America. And what’s lost in all of this is, what about making sure that Ivey had the mental help that she had needed, identifying maybe perhaps that she was going through depression and doing everything possible to make sure that she got the attention and the help that she needed in order to remedy the situation. I mean maybe perhaps taking just the correct precautions that millions of families across the country take every single day in determining how they would like to store their firearms -- how it works best for their own personal needs and their family’s needs -- maybe that would have been helpful in this situation. I mean there are definitely some instances when a firearm in a house -- a firearm in a house where the parenting is absent or subpar, where storage and responsibility and respect for privacy and/or life isn’t paramount. Then yeah, maybe we definitely need to have a conversation with those individuals about where their priorities are and how they’re storing things. But to pretend that this is a universal rule and not an outlier -- that this is somehow indicative of every gun-owning family across the country as opposed to an exception -- that in itself is irresponsible. Because if that were the case, then we would have far more of these awful instances than we do.  

    Contrary to Loesch’s claims, firearm suicides account for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “over half of suicide deaths are with firearms,” and 80 percent of child firearm suicides “involved a gun belonging to a family member.” While studies have found that nine out of 10 people who fail in their first attempt do not go on to die from suicide later, Everytown notes that firearm suicide attempts “are by far the most lethal, with a fatality rate of approximately 85 percent.”  

    While Loesch insisted that there is no connection between firearms in the home and suicide, an analysis of research conducted by the the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that “preponderance of current evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for youth suicide in the United States.”

    The NRA was recently raked over the coals by medical professionals for suggesting that doctors should “stay in their lane” after the American College of Physicians released a position paper recommending several gun safety regulations from a medical perspective.        

  • NRATV host Dan Bongino used doctored Infowars video of Jim Acosta in White House press briefing

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    One day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a deceptively edited video of an exchange between CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump, NRATV host Dan Bongino highlighted that same misleading video to attack Acosta.

    Acosta’s White House press pass was revoked following a contentious exchange during a November 7 briefing, when a White House intern attempted to take the microphone from Acosta while he was asking the president a question. During the interaction, “Acosta’s hand appeared to briefly brush” the intern’s arm, but Sanders later accused the reporter of “placing his hands on a young woman.” To bolster her accusation, Sanders then shared a deceptively edited video that originated from Paul Joseph Watson, editor at large of conspiracy theory website Infowars.com. The Washington Post noted that the video “appeared to have been altered to make [Acosta’s] actions at a news conference look more aggressive toward a White House intern.” 

    Bongino used that same deceptively edited footage for his coverage of the event on the November 8 edition of NRATV’s We Stand, despite multiple reports debunking the edited footage:

    DAN BONGINO (HOST): Acosta is claiming right now that he didn’t put his hands on this woman. This is a White House intern who has to move the mic -- folks, I worked in the White House for a long time, this is how this works. They walk the mic around. Jim Acosta -- now I don’t wanna overdramatize this, Denise was right before the show -- he didn’t attack her, it’s not a karate chop, he wasn’t trying to -- I sincerely doubt he was trying to hurt the woman, I would not even venture to go that far. But can we all acknowledge this is grossly inappropriate behavior? This is the president of the United States, he answered your question, move on. You don't put your mitts on the woman. It’s disgusting, you know I was very upset about this on Twitter yesterday. Have some dignity, Jim. Apologize and move on. This is the president of the United States, this young lady didn’t ask for this. She works for a living too, you know. Give up the microphone. Pathetic.    

    While admitting that Acosta didn’t “karate chop” the intern and wasn’t “trying to hurt” her, Bongino played the edited clip during the segment while calling Acosta “pathetic” and alleging that the CNN journalist put his “mitts on the woman.”

    Bongino is no stranger to Infowars, having appeared on the network multiple times from 2013 until 2016 with host Alex Jones, who was the chief architect of the conspiracty theory that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax 

  • NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch: The Thousand Oaks mass shooting was “horrific,” but “so are CA gun laws”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Several hours after a mass shooting at a bar in California, National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch compared the “evil” incident to the state’s gun laws.

    On November 7, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman with a .45-caliber handgun opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA, during a “country-music night” for college students. Just hours after the shooting, Loesch tweeted out a list of California gun safety measures, saying the latest shooting was “horrific” and “evil,” but that “so are CA gun laws”:

    It’s true that California does have some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country, including universal background checks, a ban on most assault weapons, regulations on gun show purchases, and 10-day waiting periods. The state also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country; it dropped by 56.6 percent between 1993 and 2013, which was “29.9 percentage points more than the decline in the rest of the nation.”

    Stronger gun safety laws have had positive impacts elsewhere too: Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, pointed out that permit-to-purchase gun safety laws in Connecticut caused a 40 percent decrease in firearm homicides and a 15 percent decrease in firearm suicides. Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center also found that in study after study, “where there are more guns there is more homicide.”     

    But in the wake of another horrific mass shooting, the NRA’s spokesperson once again shifted the blame to fearmonger about “evil” gun safety laws. 

  • “Guns Down at the Polls” to provide resource to report firearm-related intimidation at polling sites on Election Day

    Voters can text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 to report instances of voter intimidation

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A group called Guns Down America is providing a voter resource that will allow people to report voter intimidation, including intimidation carried out with firearms, occurring at polling sites on Election Day.

    The project comes after a wave of attempted bombings of prominent liberals, including former President Barack Obama, and a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections. The project’s partners include Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, among others. It was first launched in 2016 following reports that several far-right and white supremacist groups were encouraging their followers to bring guns to polling locations.

    Voters who observe intimidation at polling sites are encouraged to text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990. The reports will then be forwarded to the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, which can take further action.

    As the project’s website explains, “It’s critical that we make sure all voters can access the polling places without the threat of intimidation. Voter intimidation is any concerted effort to coerce the voting behavior of a group of voters and it’s a federal crime. Intimidating someone with a firearm at a polling place is a federal crime.”

    Although it may come as a surprise, there is no federal law prohibiting the presence of firearms at polling sites. Instead, regulation is left to the states, and many do allow guns to be carried.

    There has already been a firearm-related intimidation incident at a polling site in Georgia this election season. WBTV reported that a man was arrested in Charlotte after he threatened a GOP campaign worker at an early voting location:

    Officials say when officers arrived on the scene, a black man said he was working at the voting location when he saw the armed man in the parking lot with a camera taking pictures or recording the polling location.

    Police say the armed man approached the campaign worker - a retired detective - and began hurling racial slurs, according to a report from CMPD.

    The report stated the campaign worker said the armed man threatened to assault him before lifting his shirt and displaying a handgun which was in a holster on his belt.

    Police reportedly found a BB gun when the suspect was arrested. An image taken during the incident shows that the assailant was wearing a “Punisher” T-shirt, referring to a comic book series that has been co-opted by the alt right:

    Disturbingly, National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch recently suggested that NRA supporters may need to bring guns to polling locations in order to fend off attacks from “anti-gun progressives.” During the October 23 broadcast of her NRATV show Relentless, Loesch attacked the Guns Down at the Polls project and falsely claimed that its goal is “intimidating law-abiding gun owners legally carrying their firearms by potentially sending the police after people who are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutionally protected rights.” Loesch then called the project “a moderate, soft form of swatting,” a reference to an intimidation tactic involving false 911 calls.

    Loesch went on to say, “If God forbid some unhinged maniac with an illegally possessed firearm were to show up at a polling location, something tells me a lot of people would be grateful that one of those law-abiding gun owners was there.”

    Leading up to the election, a major conservative messaging effort has argued -- without evidence -- that mobs of Democrats are planning to kill conservatives. The NRA has also been involved in this effort, with its media operation NRATV misrepresenting peaceful protests against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as violent.

    Permissive laws that allow firearms -- often including assault weapons -- to be openly carried in public have emboldened the far right to bring firearms to events where people are exercising their First Amendment rights. There were multiple instances of counterprotesters bringing firearms to the nationwide March for Our Lives gun safety rallies early in 2018. After a May school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, an armed man showed up outside the school to protest gun rights. And in October, the Portland Police Bureau acknowledged that, as The Portland Mercury reported, “Members of Patriot Prayer, a group of right-wing provocateurs from Vancouver, brought a cache of loaded firearms to the top of a parking garage in downtown Portland prior to the group's August 4th protest.”

    Guns Down at the Polls aims to counter people who think they can intimidate others and stop them from exercising their voting rights.