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After Republicans led a vote in the House of Representatives to repeal President Barack Obama’s executive action preventing some severely mentally ill Social Security recipients from purchasing a firearm members of conservative media, particularly those with ties to the National Rifle Association, falsely labeled the regulation a “gun grab.” They claimed the Obama administration had deemed any recipient receiving financial aid “mentally deficient” and stripped them of “due process,” even though the regulation covers only 75,000 severely mentally ill individuals and has a due process component allowing for an appeal.
Outcry over GOP nominee Donald Trump’s claim that “Second Amendment people” could do something about Supreme Court nominations made by Hillary Clinton follows years of National Rifle Association efforts to normalize the notion that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to overthrow a “tyrannical” government. As NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has put it, “The guys with the guns make the rules”
Trump To Address NRA Faithful At Forum
The co-sponsor of the NRA’s upcoming leadership forum routinely attacks African-American youths killed in controversial shootings, and he has more than once smeared the mothers of two deceased Florida teenagers as liars motivated by money in their opposition to Stand Your Ground laws.
On May 20, Donald Trump and other Republican politicians will speak at the National Rifle Association's annual Institute for Legislative Action leadership forum. The event is being held at the NRA’s annual meeting in Louisville, KY, which runs from May 19-22.
According to the NRA’s website, the forum will be co-sponsored by Bearing Arms and Townhall Media. Bearing Arms is a well-known gun blog run by Bob Owens.
Owens frequently makes inflammatory claims. In October 2015, he authored a post on his blog suggesting that “radical” Democrats will be hanged after they start a civil war against Republicans over issues including gun ownership. Owens illustrated his post with an image of gallows. In 2010, when Media Matters documented another instance in which Owens fantasized about a second civil war in the U.S., Owens responded by writing that he hopes the "propagandists" at Media Matters “feel threatened.”
Owens has weighed in on the shooting deaths of African-American youths Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Tamir Rice, in each instance also attacking a member or members of the deceased’s family.
In a recent post on his website, Owens called Martin “a semi-literate violent criminal,” among other insults. Owens has also claimed that Martin’s mother opposes controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense laws because she wishes to enrich herself through a lawsuit.
Owens has also attacked the mother of Jordan Davis, a Florida teenager who was killed in a gas station parking lot by a man angry about the volume of Davis’ music. Owens called Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, a “serial liar” for accurately noting that Stand Your Ground played a role in the George Zimmerman trial.
Owens has also attacked Tamir Rice, blaming both the 12-year-old and his parents for Rice’s death.
Owens frequently directs invective toward deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. In February 2012, Martin, then 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. A confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman occurred after Zimmerman began to follow Martin as the high school student walked from a convenience store to his father’s house.
While Zimmerman has a well-documented history of violence -- both before and after the Martin shooting, including an assault on a police officer and multiple domestic violence allegations -- Owens routinely attacks Martin’s character.
In a May 11 blog post, Owens called Martin “a violent, drug-abusing thug who appeared to get off on hurting people” and “a semi-literate violent criminal,” and he slammed an upcoming musical about Martin’s life, which he claimed would be “whitewashing a black heart” and which he called an attempt to “whitewash a thug’s death.”
In a 2014 post, Owens argued that “good people … will arm themselves against violent young predators like Trayvon Martin” because “any society that hopes to survive simply has no choice.”
Owens has also attacked Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton. In a 2013 post, he claimed that Fulton had raised a “monster” and that her advocacy against Stand Your Ground laws, like the one cited by a juror in explaining Zimmerman’s acquittal, was really about personal enrichment.
As for why Fulton and her attorneys and Democratic lawmakers in general want Stand Your Ground laws repealed, that’s blisteringly obvious as well.
A provision of Stand Your Ground law in many states is that if a person is found not guilty during a criminal trial, then that defendant win (sic) civil immunity, and that keeps the families of deceased street thugs from suing the survivors for millions of dollars in civil court.
Owens called the mother of slain Florida teenager Jordan Davis a “serial liar” over her advocacy against Stand Your Ground laws following Davis’ killing. In fact, Owens is the one lying about Stand Your Ground.
In November 2012, Davis, 17, was murdered by Michael Dunn in a Jacksonville, FL, gas station parking lot. Dunn had told Davis and his friends to turn down their music before he fired 10 rounds into the car Davis was sitting in.
In February 2014, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. During closing arguments, Dunn’s attorney cited Stand Your Ground in arguing against a murder conviction for Davis’ death. A mistrial was declared on the murder charge, and Dunn was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder during a second trial that concluded in October 2014.
Following Davis’ killing, his mother, Lucy McBath, has become an outspoken advocate against Stand Your Ground laws. Owens attacked McBath for this advocacy in a May 13 post, claiming, “She has become radicalized, and now travels the nation attempting to strip law-abiding citizens of their most basic natural right as a human being, the right [to] bear arms for self defense.”
According to Owens, “McBath has become a serial liar, and sadly seems to be more comfortable with her lies as time goes on,” because she wrote an opinion piece that said Stand Your Ground played a role in the Zimmerman trial.
While Owens claimed McBath is a liar because “Stand Your Ground laws had nothing at all do do (sic) with the [Zimmerman] case,” he is wrong.
The language of Stand Your Ground was included in instructions to the jury considering whether to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder. Prior to the law’s enactment in 2005, the instructions given to the jury were much different. As explained by a former Florida state senator, the change in the letter of the law “fundamentally changed the analysis used by juries to assign blame in these cases.” Following Zimmerman’s acquittal, a juror told CNN that Zimmerman was found not guilty “because of the heat of the moment and the Stand Your Ground.” Zimmerman also benefited from Stand Your Ground pre-trial, as local government officials cited the law as the reason Zimmerman was not initially arrested.
Owens also called McBath a liar because she wrote that Stand Your Ground laws “promote a culture of shoot first, ask questions later, a culture that upends traditional self-defense law and emboldens individuals to settle conflicts by reaching for their firearms, even when they can safely walk away from danger.” But McBath is correct; academic research has established that Stand Your Ground laws increase homicide by “lower[ing] the cost of using lethal force.”
Owens frequently defends the widely criticized police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. In November 2014, Rice was shot in a public park in Cleveland, OH, after a 911 caller reported seeing Rice waving around an Airsoft replica pistol. Police shot Rice within two seconds of coming onto the scene, apparently mistaking the toy gun for a real firearm (the 911 caller’s repeated suggestion that the gun was “probably fake” was not relayed to the responding officers).
After the city of Cleveland agreed to a monetary settlement with Rice’s family, the local police union caused controversy by arguing that some of the money should be used “to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms.”
Owens weighed in on the controversy, attacking the deceased 12-year-old and his family. Of Rice, Owens wrote that “it is entirely fair to ‘blame the victim’ when it was the specific actions of the victim that led to his demise” and that “Tamir Rice died because he made poor choices.”
He also suggested that Rice’s family was responsible for his death, claiming that the Rice family’s outrage over the police union suggestion means “perhaps the Rice family doesn’t care any more about being responsible after Tamir’s death than they did about teaching him to be responsible with realistic toy guns while he was alive.”
Well-known gun blogger Bob Owens slammed NRA board member Ted Nugent for promoting a video on Facebook that depicted Hillary Clinton being shot, writing that “In one stupid and pointless post, Mr. Nugent has done great harm” to the NRA’s efforts to market itself to the public.
In his May 11 blog post condemning Nugent’s actions, Owens implored the NRA board member, “If you can’t control yourself, sir, maybe it’s time to man up and resign, before you cause any more damage to the NRA and the 5 million people it represents.”
On May 10, Nugent posted a fake video that graphically depicted Bernie Sanders murdering Hillary Clinton with a handgun during a presidential debate, writing the comment “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!” above the video.
Owens’ condemnation of Nugent is particularly significant, given Owens’ own history of incendiary rhetoric. In October 2015, Owens authored a post at his blog suggesting that “radical” Democrats will be hanged after starting a civil war against Republicans. Owens illustrated his post with an image of gallows.
In fact, on the very same day Owens condemned Nugent, he also wrote a post calling deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin “a violent, drug-abusing thug who appeared to get off on hurting people,” “a semi-literate violent criminal,” and slamming an upcoming musical about Martin’s life, which he claimed would be “whitewashing a black heart.”
Owens’ website, Bearing Arms, is a co-sponsor of the NRA’s annual leadership forum, an event that will feature remarks from Donald Trump and other high-profile Republicans as part of the NRA’s annual meeting in Louisville, KY, from May 19 to May 22. Nugent will also deliver a speech at the meeting.
In his blog post on Nugent, Owens worried about the negative effect he believes Nugent has on the NRA’s image:
The anti-gun media is of course loving this. Nugent’s decision to share this stupid, pointless and violent sentiment of one Democrat Presidential candidate murdering the other in cold blood perpetuates the unwarranted stereotype that gun owners in general (and the NRA in specific) crave the deaths of opponents. The much different reality of the matter is that we regularly “slaughter” with facts, logic, and reason.
As an NRA member, I want to communicate to the world that is not who we are as an organization. This filth is not what we represent as part of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group. In particular, this is beneath Nugent as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association.
I’ve watched the NRA pour incredible time and effort into a 19-spot campaign over the past year depicting us for who we really are, “Freedom’s Safest Place.”
In one stupid and pointless post, Mr. Nugent has done great harm to that image, giving enemies of the natural right to bear arms more ammunition to depict us as being violent, dim-witted, and crude.
Donald Trump's momentum toward capturing his party's nomination for president has sparked a civil war within the conservative movement. Numerous right-wing commentators are vowing not to vote for Trump even if he's the Republican nominee, and some have pledged to back potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Conservative media are attacking Cosmopolitan magazine for working in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety to run a feature highlighting the dating issues surrounding gun ownership and domestic violence. Conservative media attacked the feature, comparing it to anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda and labeling it a "war on men with guns" while saying Cosmo wants its readers to be "slutty and defenseless." Several conservative media critics expressed skepticism that Cosmo was capable of publishing serious reporting.
The National Rifle Association is promoting an article that suggested "radical" Democrats will attempt to confiscate firearms in the United States and trigger a civil war where "the survivors of the Democrat rebellion" are ultimately hanged.
In an October 17 post, conservative gun blogger Bob Owens claimed that if the "radical left" attempts to "impose their ideas on the American people" -- which Owens claims includes gun confiscation -- "it would end poorly and quickly" for them after they are confronted by "armed free citizens."
Owens has previously fantasized about civil war breaking out in the United States and has responded to Media Matters documentation of his rhetoric by writing that he hopes the "propagandists" at Media Matters "feel threatened."
Owens began his October 17 article with an image of gallows and the caption, "This is where the survivors of the Democrat rebellion will meet their end." His article was promoted by the NRA on social media.
Writing, "I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections," Owens nonetheless described a scenario where gun confiscation supported by Democrats starts a civil war. Owens warned, "We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended":
I merely hope that we get to the 2016 elections.
The radical left is getting much louder, much more shrill, and much more insistent in their desire to use force to get their way and impose their ideas on the American people.
If they try such a radical path it would end poorly and quickly.
The military and local law enforcement agencies in the United States that the radical left has been trashing in public since the Vietnam War until now will not take part in any plot to disarm American citizens.
Soldiers, Marines and sheriffs may even defect to actively resist any federal officers from a pool of just over 100,000 who would take on the suicidal task of taking on the military, local police, and a hundred righteously-angry million gun owners, led by over a thousand angry Green Berets that warned President Obama in 2013 not push his luck.
Who is left to carrying out these confiscatory fantasies but the radicals themselves?
Are Cornell University Art Professor Carl Ostendarp or Coppin State writing instructor D. Watkins going to going on raiding parties? Are comedian Amy Schumer and her Senator-cousin Chuck going to kick in doors? Somehow, I don't see President Mom Jeans picking up a breaching ram and leading by example.
I'm glad that these totalitarians are finally showing their true colors to their fellow Americans, as it will assure a crushing defeat of their anti-American ideals at the ballot box. Perhaps then sane Democrats like Jim Webb can pick up the remains of the Democrat Party and either return it to something President Kennedy would have respected, or start something new.
Of course, we've got to get the elections, and these radicals are pushing hard for action, now, and they're proving with every passing day that reason and constitutionality are the least of their concerns.
We do not want a civil war against the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but let it be made abundantly clear that if they start one, they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens, as the Founders intended.
Conservative media used the Supreme Court decision affirming that marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans to argue that the Constitution also requires states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states. But the Supreme Court has never held that carrying a gun in public is a fundamental right.
Conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly seized on the decision to draw a parallel with concealed carry reciprocity, a top federal legislative priority of the NRA. Reciprocity legislation, also known as federally mandated concealed carry, would force states to recognize permits to carry concealed guns issued by other states, regardless of what the issuing state's standards are for issuing permits.
Reciprocity legislation has been introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, but conservative media and the NRA view Obergefell as an opportunity to argue that the Constitution extends at least some right to reciprocal permit recognition regardless of whether Congress acts. The problem with that argument, however, is that the 2008 landmark Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller limited the scope of the Second Amendment right to gun possession to people's homes.
Despite this, on the June 26 broadcast of the NRA's news show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards made the argument that the marriage ruling "might present an additional argument to make at the legal level for extending reciprocity nationwide," remarking, "Since we're talking about licenses, a lot of gun owners are wondering, ok, does this, could this have an impact on the debate for instance over right-to-carry reciprocity?"
Conservative media are freaking out after Jay Leno canceled an upcoming gig at the gun industry's 2015 trade show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) SHOT Show, calling the comedian a "coward" who has "no spine." The NSSF had responded to the deadly 2012 school shooting in the association's hometown of Newtown, CT, by opposing all proposed gun safety measures.
Conservative media outlets are misleadingly promoting the report that a Washington state museum will return some firearms on display to their owners following the passage of a new background check initiative, while ignoring statements from law enforcement that there is no legal reason to remove the guns.
On November 4, a majority of Washington voters passed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales in the state, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members.
In response to the new law, which takes effect December 4, the Lynden Pioneer Museum released a statement claiming, "we have to return some unique WW2 era firearms to their owners on Dec 3rd" because "as of Dec 4th, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure."
The museum is misreading I-594. The law is not retroactive, so the museum is not required to take any action when I-594 becomes law. Furthermore, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum told the Associated Press that it was unlikely a museum returning a loaned firearm to its owner would require a background check either:
Seattle police officer James Ritter, who founded the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, said he doubted that returning a gun to its rightful owner would be considered a "transfer" under the law. Regardless, he said it was exceptionally unlikely that investigators would target museum exhibits for prosecution.
As pressure to act on a proposal to expand gun background checks in Pennsylvania builds in the state legislature, an error published by Harrisburg NBC affiliate WGAL is providing fodder to the bill's opponents.
Pennsylvania currently only requires buyers of handguns to undergo a criminal background check. Purchasers of long guns such as shotguns and rifles -- including military-style assault weapons -- can buy these weapons without a background check in "private sales." H.B. 1010 would extend the background check requirement to long guns.
Gun violence prevention group Ceasefire PA recently visited the legislature to lobby for the bill. In support of the bill, Ceasefire PA has argued that the proportion of murders with firearms other than handguns in Pennsylvania has more than doubled since 1998 and that long guns are disproportionality used to kill police officers.
In a September 16 article, WGAL sloppily attempted to share Ceasefire PA's argument for expanded background checks, but instead misstated the nature and year of the claim that Ceasefire PA has made:
Cease Fire says FBI figures show the number of murders committed with long guns has doubled since 1996.
In fact, Ceasefire had argued that the proportion of murders committed with guns other than handguns has increased. According to a September joint report from Ceasefire PA and Center for American Progress Action Fund, FBI data indicates that this figure has increased since 1998 from 8 percent to 21 percent:
The desert tortoise has become a symbolic scapegoat for right-wing media figures running defense for an anti-government cattle rancher who's threatening to wage a range war against federal law enforcement officers.
Conflict has erupted in Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the family and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy, a man who has refused multiple court orders to remove his cattle from public land. Bundy has stated that he does not recognize federal law and in fact argued in court in 1998 that the United States government didn't own the land in question (he lost). Now BLM officers and contract cowboys have begun confiscating Bundy's herd. And the scofflaw rancher has emerged as a right-wing folk hero after repeatedly stating that he owns firearms and is willing to "do whatever it takes to gain our liberty and freedom back."
At the center of the controversy -- according to right-wing media figures -- is the formerly endangered (and still threatened) desert tortoise. When Bundy's grazing rights were modified by BLM in 1993, it was in part to protect the species, which inhabits the same publicly-owned desert areas trodden by Bundy's cattle and was at the time on the brink of extinction.
That's where the connection to the tortoise ends, however. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay grazing fees required by the new rules. This led to an escalating series of reprisals from the judicial system that culminated in an order to confiscate Bundy's cattle in order to repay $1 million in fines and fees that over 20 years later remained unpaid. The current enforcement has less to do with protecting the tortoise, and more to do with Bundy's refusal to comply with the law or recognize the legitimacy of the federal government.
Nevertheless, right-wing supporters of Bundy's stand have tried to pin the conflict on the tortoise and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is being depicted in negative terms ranging from being dismissed as irrelevant and economically harmful to becoming the basis for conspiracy theories about unlawful land grabs by Big Government.
On Fox, the situation afforded the network the opportunity to perpetuate the conservative narrative that the ESA unjustly puts the rights of wildlife above the rights of people. One host declared, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition." His co-host sarcastically (and inaccurately) described the government's position as "get the cows off so they can have the desert tortoise live there in peace."
David Blackmon, a Forbes contributor, penned a piece titled, "Using Snipers To Protect A Tortoise." (It's since been taken down, but cached here). In it, Blackmon argued that protecting the desert tortoise was merely a pretext being used by the government "with the clear expectation of running the Bundys off the land entirely."
As evidence that the protection of the tortoise is a scam, some in conservative media have pointed to the Bureau of Land Management itself, claiming it's been euthanizing tortoises and/or "planting" them in the desert in order to make a case that they're endangered.
In fact, a BLM tortoise conservancy in Nevada was forced to shut down due to budget cuts. Prior to its closure, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center had to make the difficult decision to put down the tortoises that carried disease or were too feeble to survive on their own. The others were released back into the wild.
But despite how real the concerns about the future of desert tortoise may be, the reality is that the right-wing media is simply providing cover to a rancher who refuses to obey the law.
The federal government has alleged that four Georgia militia members who are accused of plotting to kill federal employees modeled their plan on right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh's online novel Absolved, which depicts underground militia fighters who declare war on the federal government over gun control laws and same-sex marriage, leading to a second American revolution. Vanderboegh is not alone in promoting such insurrectionism: several right-wing media figures, including other gun rights bloggers, have suggested the possibility of political violence or revolution as a means of responding to progressive policies.
I suppose it was inevitable.
For months, right-wing bloggers have been linking the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious to a wide array of increasingly ridiculous conspiracy theories. The operation itself was a failed attempt to take down Mexican cartels that certainly deserves (and is receiving) scrutiny after many guns involved in the program ended up at crime scenes, but the right-wing media's preference for wild theories over solid facts has gotten well out of hand.
Now, they've decided that the "ultimate goal" behind the program was to -- try not to laugh -- collapse the system as part of the "Cloward-Piven strategy" and initiate a "coup de d'état." You may recall "Cloward-Piven" as the Glenn Beck-pushed conspiracy which claims that the motive force of the last forty years of progressive policy is an article written by two obscure college professors that calls for "collapsing the system" by overloading government services in order to implement new policies. After Beck repeatedly devoted his programs to attacking the surviving professor, Francis Fox Piven, she began receiving death threats.
What does that have to do with a failed operation aimed at stopping Mexican drug cartels? Pajamas Media blogger Bob Owens provides the following "speculation" (emphasis added):
Gunwalker purposefully increases social unrest (increased gun violence/destabilizing Mexico), with the possible result of overloading the U.S. public welfare system (more illegal aliens fleeing the violence in Mexico and Central America). Gunwalker's perpetrators could then use that influx to create an insurmountable constituency of poor seeking handouts from the Democratic Party. The hope of the strategy is to force a system-wide collapse of the current system, and then to rebuild the government in a variant of the strongest socialist model they think the public will accept.
Operation Fast and Furious doesn't make sense as a anti-cartel operation, but it makes perfect tactical sense as a way of implementing Cloward-Piven, something that President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and Secretary Clinton have long embraced as followers of those radicals and Saul Alinsky. Gunwalker is the start of a coup d'état against the republic by the very souls entrusted to guard it.
The idea that the Obama administration wants dramatically increased illegal immigration in order "force a system-wide collapse of the current system" is, of course, at odds with their record of increasing deportations and reducing illegal immigration.
(As an aside, it's interesting that Owens now has a problem with "a coup d'état against the republic," given that he previously called armed revolution the "morally-required alternative" if other efforts to repeal health care reform fail.
Fast and Furious blogger Mike Vanderboegh, who thinks that if Hillary Clinton doesn't run for president again it must be because "she's got some dirty Gunwalker underwear she doesn't want outed in public," is also highlighting Owens' conclusions.
It's almost as if these people are desperate to not be taken seriously. But that's pretty much par for the course for the right-wing media.
It's a shame that Owens is just teasing us with the reference to how Obama, Holder, Napolitano, and Clinton are "followers of... Saul Alinsky." I was looking forward to a detailed explanation of the Alinskyite tactics.