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  • Here’s who the National Rifle Association is choosing to represent it at a CNN gun violence town hall

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & CYDNEY HARGIS

    On February 21, CNN will host a town hall on gun violence set to include a wide spectrum of people affected by the Parkland, FL, school shooting. The National Rifle Association was invited to participate and chose to send its national spokesperson, Dana Loesch, to join "students, parents and community members" at the event, breaking with its decision to not participate in a similar 2016 CNN town hall. The NRA’s decision to send Loesch, who is also a far-right conservative commentator with a long history of inflammatory rhetoric, to represent the organization in a town hall discussion about gun safety and legislation that includes survivors of a mass school shooting, clearly demonstrates the extremist, fringe views the NRA has embraced to advance its cause.

  • NRA board member Ted Nugent pushes conspiracy theory that Parkland school shooting survivors are actors

    Nugent “liked” Facebook comment calling student David Hogg a “crisis actor”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent promoted the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Parkland school shooting survivors who are currently calling for gun regulation are “coached” actors.

    In a February 20 Facebook post, less than a week after the shooting, Nugent shared a February 19 Natural News article claiming “these kids were coached to repeat scripted lines, just like actors reading lines for a movie production.” The article claims that “It’s all scripted, in other words, to push a gun control narrative rooted in emotional reaction rather than constructive solutions" and includes the tags “false-flag” and “hoax.” The bulk of the article is a reprint of Lucian Wintrich’s post at The Gateway Pundit, which first started spreading the conspiracy theory.

    Nugent then “liked” a comment left below his article claiming that one of the students, David Hogg, “is a paid crisis actor” who “has been at multiple shootings as a 'survivor'.”

    Nugent promoted similar conspiracy theories after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, CT, claiming that no assault weapons were used in the elementary school shooting despite the fact that authorities confirmed the shooting was carried out with a Bushmaster AR-15 assault weapon.

    Following the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nugent appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show and backed his baseless theory that the massacre was “scripted by deep state Democrats.”

    As recently as February 2016, there were calls for Nugent to resign from the NRA board after he shared a Facebook image claiming prominent Jewish figures were the ones “really behind gun control.”

    UPDATE:

    The post no longer appears on Nugent’s Facebook page.

  • The NRA was tasked with preventing the next Newtown. Instead, it helped train the Florida school shooter.

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    NRA Foundation -- the National Rifle Association subsidiary responsible for the group’s school safety initiative -- helped fund the marksmanship training of the gunman who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, this week.

    The Associated Press reports that the NRA Foundation gave a $10,827 grant to an air rifle program that gunman Nikolas Cruz participated in. According to one of his teammates, Cruz was a “very good shot.” The NRA Foundation’s website says it has “awarded nearly $335 million in grant funding in support of the shooting sports” since 1990.

    The NRA Foundation -- the “charitable” wing of the NRA --  is also where your money goes if you donate to an NRA program called “National School Shield,” the gun group’s purported solution to school shootings.

    National School Shield was first mentioned in December 2012 during a speech by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre a week after a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. When the program debuted in April 2013, NRA spokesperson (and current Arkansas governor) Asa Hutchinson claimed its findings were “independent” from the NRA. The program pushes more guns in schools, including arming teachers, and has been touted by the NRA’s media arm in the wake of the latest school shooting.

    Despite the claims of independence, National School Shield’s domain was registered by the NRA five days after Newtown:

    The National School Shield website currently  solicits donations for NRA Foundation with the tagline, “If We Truly Cherish Our Kids, We Must Give Them The Greatest Level Of Protection Possible”:

    At the bottom of the donation page, the website says, “Thank you for supporting The NRA Foundation and the future of our firearms heritage.”

    A disclosure provided on the website explains that the “NRA will receive 100% of the gross revenue generated by this solicitation,” and that “contributions raised will be used to advance the mission of the NRA.”         

    The NRA Foundation was supposed to prevent future school shootings. Instead, it helped fund the training for the latest school shooter.

  • 8 ridiculous NRA defenses of the AR-15

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the wake of yet another massacre carried out with an AR-15 assault weapon, here are eight ridiculous defenses of the murder machine from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a major recipient of donations from assault weapons makers:

    1. Banning assault weapons is like racial discrimination

    Discussing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill to ban assault weapons following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, past NRA president and current NRA board member Marion Hammer said, “Banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again: the color of a gun, the way it looks. It's just bad politics.”

    2. The NRA put on demonstrations of the AR-15 that downplayed the weapon’s capabilities by highlighting how it makes smaller bullet holes than some other guns​

    In 2013, the NRA held two AR-15 demonstrations at the shooting range it has at its national headquarters, one for Fox News show Hannity and the other for its own media outlet, then called NRA News. Each demonstration dishonestly highlighted the small bullet hole the weapon makes compared to some other guns in order to to downplay the weapon’s lethality. In fact, the AR-15 inflicts grievous harm on human bodies, even in comparison to other commonly owned firearms.

    3. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was carried out with handguns (it was carried out with an AR-15)

    Months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, NRA board member Ted Nugent cited a conspiracy theory surrounding the tragedy to claim that “no so-called assault weapon was used in the grisly murders of the children and teachers in Newton,” but that instead “NBC has reported the butcher used four handguns.” The day after the shooting NBC had reported that only handguns were recovered at the site, but corrected its reporting the same day. The weapon used in the attack was an AR-15 manufactured by NRA donor Bushmaster.

    4. Blaming AR-15 manufacturer Bushmaster for Sandy Hook is like “blaming Kleenex for the flu​"

    Then-NRA News commentator Natalie Foster made the claim in a 2014 video released by the NRA:

    5. If the Founding Fathers had foreseen the invention of the AR-15, they would have “fortified” the Second Amendment “in stone”

    Days after a gunman used an AR-15 to massacre churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, TX, (and weeks after a gunman used assault weapons to carry out a massacre in Las Vegas), the NRA released a video that encouraged people to buy more AR-15 weapons. NRATV commentator Dom Raso said in the video, “I guarantee if the Founding Fathers had known this gun would have been invented, they wouldn't have rewritten the Second Amendment -- they would've fortified it in stone. Because they knew the only way for us to stay free was by having whatever guns the bad guys have.”

    6. The AR-15 is “easy to learn, and easy to use. It’s accurate, it’s reliable” and more people should buy it as protection from terrorists

    The NRA released another video days after the Pulse nightclub shooting also narrated by Raso. The video made a number of arguments praising the abilities of the AR-15: “It’s easy to learn, and easy to use. It’s accurate, it’s reliable." All these characteristics also inadvertently explained how the Pulse gunman was able to kill and wound so many people in a short period of time:

    7. The AR-15 as a good defense against the government

    On June 15, 2017, one day after Rep. Steve. Scalise (R-LA) was shot and others were wounded in a mass shooting, then-NRATV commentator Bill Whittle said, “I personally think it is a mistake for people to say [the AR-15] is used for hunting, or it's used for target shooting. I have my AR-15 to kill people.” Whittle added, “I am not worried about a deer breaking into my house at 4 o’clock in the morning and coming through the window and maybe murdering me or raping my wife, or anything. I am not worried so much about a coalition of deer marching people into extermination camps.”

    He also added, “My weapons are here to defend me against my government.”

    (Whittle left NRATV in September 2017. He was recently uninvited to be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for an Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate after his history of making racist comments was raised.)

    8. Regulating the AR-15 “is a war on women”

    During a discussion of assault weapons days after the Pulse massacre, Dana Loesch appeared on Fox News to claim proposals to regulate the AR-15 were “about disarming women” and were a “war on women.” Earlier that day the NRA had announced Loesch had been hired to be the group’s “Special Adviser on Women’s Policy.” She is now the NRA’s national spokesperson.

  • Maker of assault weapon used in Florida school shooting has donated over $1,000,000 to the NRA

    Smith & Wesson also sponsors NRATV’s NRA Women

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The assault weapon used during the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, was a Smith & Wesson M&P15 .223, according to a report by the Associated Press.

    Smith & Wesson is a major donor to the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied against efforts to ban the M&P15 and other assault weapons.

    The NRA profiled Smith & Wesson’s CEO James Debney on its website, writing that “he and the company he leads have not only joined the ranks of the National Rifle Association’s premier donor recognition program, the NRA Ring of Freedom, but have ascended to its upper echelon, the Golden Ring of Freedom, with gifts well in excess of $1 million.” The profile praises Debney’s business acumen, including noting that Debney attributed an increase in net sales during the first quarter of 2013 “to strong sales of the M&P product line.”

    Smith & Wesson also sponsors programming geared toward women on the NRA’s media outlet NRATV:

    The M&P15 was also used in a 2012 massacre at an Aurora, CO, movie theater and the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA.

  • NRA’s denial it has illegal ties to Russia hits stumbling block with revelation of FBI investigation

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The FBI is investigating whether Russian money was illegally funnelled through the National Rifle Association (NRA) and spent on activities to support the election of Donald Trump as president.

    Citing two sources, McClatchy reported on January 18 that “FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA.”

    Noting that the NRA’s spending on the 2016 presidential race dwarfed the association’s previous efforts, McClatchy reported that at this time “the extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.”

    The McClatchy article also corroborated previous reporting by Bloomberg on Torshin’s involvement in money laundering in Spain, revealing that the news outlet has reviewed a summary of a “still-secret report” that “links Torshin to Russian money laundering and describes him as a godfather in a major Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.”

    Media Matters’ routine monitoring of NRATV, the NRA’s news outlet and chief messaging mechanism, has found that the gun group has largely avoided the Trump-Russia collusion issue. (One exception was in February 2017 when an NRATV segment claimed that the reporting on the issue was a “concerted effort with Obama loyalists” who are “trying to destroy America from the inside.”)

    The NRA has, however, denied illegal ties with Russia. In a July 2017 video focused on attacking The Washington Post, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said that “for years” the paper “has tarnished gun owners in an effort to take away our Second Amendment freedoms. The fake news outlet even went so far as to make the blatantly false claim that the NRA had illegal ties to Russia.” (The article in question described relationships between the NRA, Torshin, and other Kremlin-connected Russians, but did not allege illegality.)

    Ladd Everitt, the director of gun safety group One Pulse for America, has written extensively about ties between Torshin, the NRA, and Trump. According to his research, Torshin attended the NRA annual meeting for four consecutive years beginning in 2013 after forging a relationship with past NRA president and conservative activist David Keene. In 2016, Torshin was introduced to and spoke with Donald Trump, Jr. during a private dinner at the NRA’s annual meeting where the gun organization endorsed Trump for president.

    Following the NRA’s 2015 annual meeting in Nashville, TN, at which Trump delivered a speech, Torshin praised Trump for being an NRA member:

    Additionally, according to Everitt, “The NRA has also gone to Moscow, most notably in a December 2015 trip to meet with Torshin and Russian defense minister Dmitry Rogozin. The large NRA delegation included Keene, radical sheriff David A. Clarke and gun manufacturer Pete Brownell.” Brownell is now the president of the NRA.

    The McClatchy report comes amid the NRA’s full-blown attack against Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who recently criticized Trump. Even though Flake has been a key NRA ally in blocking overwhelmingly popular gun safety legislation, after he criticized Trump in a speech, NRATV reacted by heavily promoting a video that labeled the U.S. senator a “turncoat” and called him the new “Dmitri Shepilov, Stalin’s leader of Pravda and head of the state propaganda division.”

  • NRATV host carried a gun in public, despite admitting he "could not hit water if I fell out of a boat"

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Grant Stinchfield, the host of a news program for the National Rifle Association’s media operation NRATV, made on-air comments that he was “embarrassed” by how poor a shot he was until he recently participated in an NRA training and insurance program. Previously, Stinchfield had repeatedly talked about carrying a gun in public wherever it was legal to do so while encouraging others to do the same. Stinchfield’s admissions undermine the NRA claim that permissive concealed carry laws are a benefit to public safety and highlight how these laws often allow poorly trained people to carry guns in public.

    During the January 2 edition of NRATV’s news show Stinchfield, Stinchfield said his News Year’s resolution is to “always be carrying because I got lackadaisical at times last year about carrying my gun with me. If you don’t have it with you, it’s not going to do you any good.” Over the next weekend, Stinchfield took part in the NRA Carry Guard gun training program. Launched in 2017, NRA Carry Guard sells gun trainings and insurance policies packages. Policyholders are able to recover costs associated with shooting someone under some circumstances, including legal and “clean-up” expenses.

    After he completed his training, Stinchfield told NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch he was “embarrassed” that he had “a real hard time hitting the target” and may have been affected by “the stress of it all” during his first day of training. From the January 12 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield

    DANA LOESCH: So Grant, what did you think of Carry Guard training?

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): So you had to told me to be prepared that they were going to yell at me, and they were going to make me -- and guess what?

    LOESCH: No no no, hold up, hold up. You are being so dramatic about this. I just said that during some of the drills they’re going to yell, that’s all.

    GRANT STINCHFIELD: All right, well they did yell during the drills. So, but meanwhile, so me, because I am very dramatic about things, I’m waiting to just get attacked with a verbal barrage and so the whole time I’m thinking that this is going to be what happens, and it never happened. [...] And the first day, I’m embarrassed to say, I had a real hard time hitting the target, I was low and right on everything, from gripping down on my right hand and maybe just the stress of it all. By the third day, I finished tied for second in my shooting test.

    The NRATV host also interviewed his Carry Guard instructors and admitted to them that during the first day of training, “I could not hit water if I fell out of a boat.” When he asked the trainers whether they were “worried about me even coming close to passing this course,” one of them replied, “I honestly thought you would shoot a little bit better when we first started,” before saying that Stinchfield improved throughout the training.

    Despite having difficulty hitting his targets during the training earlier this month, Stinchfield previously said during a November NRATV broadcast that said he carries his firearm “everywhere I am legally allowed to”, and has repeatedly maintained that concealed carry holders “make everyone around them so much safer,” even in states that have repealed requirements to obtain a permit before carrying a gun in public.

    It is very worrisome that the NRATV host, who claims to carry wherever he is legally allowed to, was admittedly such a bad shot before taking a voluntary three-day training program. The state of Texas, where Stinchfield is based, only mandates between four and six hours of in-person or online instruction to obtain concealed carry. The range component of the training only requires the applicant to shoot a total of 50 rounds at three different distances.

    Research into the impact of allowing people to carry guns in public has demonstrated that these policies are actually associated with increases in crime, particularly aggravated assault. While NRA markets its Carry Guard program by promoting the notion that graduates will be able to take out mass shooters, there is no evidence that concealed carry is an effective deterrent to public mass shootings.