Acts of desperation: NRA pushing lies and conspiracy theories

February 26, 2013

[…and we’re back! New week, more tales of NRA paranoia and fear. Are they really as frightened as they sound? Well, gun manufacturers could see their profits take a hit, so…]

In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has released the bills they will consider in regard to gun violence prevention. As legislative proposals like universal background checks and a new assault weapons ban come closer to getting the vote that the President has demanded for them, the NRA counterattack has become increasingly unhinged.

They seem to be testing the ability of fact-checkers to keep up with their lies, and today I see Media Matters has tackled a series of programs the NRA ironically titled “Media Misinformation”…in which the misinformation taking place is coming from the NRA.


To be fair, I can’t excerpt too much of the Media Matters article, and it’s worth the read for the variety of NRA mythbusting in it. But it’s clear that the gun enthusiasts have been busy. On their Cam & Company show, the NRA spokesman Cam Edwards has done several segments about “Media Misinformation.” Intended as some sort of media criticism, the NRA’s rebuttals are themselves founded on falsehoods and debunked by Media Matters.

   In five recent “Media Misinformation” segments, Edwards…        …cited the long-debunked research of criminologist Gary Kleck to claim that up to 2.5 million defensive gun uses occur each year while also pushing the false claim that loosening concealed gun carry laws reduces crime.

…falsely claimed that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in terms of gun homicide rate when the U.S. actually ranks first in a more comparable study among high-income nations.

…used discredited research to attack an accurate claim by Mother Jones that guns in the home are more often used in criminal acts, accidents or suicides than for self-defense.

…made a flawed and anecdotal comparison to deny that increased gun availability is associated with increased firearm homicide.

…denied that a link exists between firearm access and suicide while suggesting that making firearms less accessible to a suicidal individual was not a plausible way to prevent a suicide attempt.

For example, the discredited research of Gary Kleck was used twice — while Cam Edwards was pushing concealed carry laws, and in his attack on Mother Jones. I was particularly amused by the way in which this research was debunked by Dr. David Hemenway, Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director: simple math. Not even fuzzy.

[I]n 34% of the times a gun was used for self-defense, the offender was allegedly committing a burglary. In other words, guns were reportedly used by defenders for self-defense in approximately 845,000 burglaries. From sophisticated victimization surveys, however, we know that there were fewer than 6 million burglaries in the year of the survey and in only 22% of those cases was someone certainly at home (1.3 million burglaries). Since only 42% of U.S. households own firearms, and since victims in two thirds of the occupied dwellings were asleep, the 2.5 million figure requires us to believe that burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100% of the time.

There’s much more, of course — other research from around the same time as the old Kleck study showing a fraction of his numbers, and more recent data from the CDC showing a ratio of 32 gun homicides to each “legal intervention,” or justifiable homicide by firearm. 32 to 1.

Cam Edwards was also caught in a lie while attacking Stephen Colbert, who is more than capable of defending himself, of course. But it’s interesting to see how the NRA uses statistics to make a misleading argument.

On January 10, Edwards claimed that Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert was wrong to say that the United States has the highest firearm homicide rate among industrialized countries. Instead, Edwards claimed that the United States ranks 28th in the world in firearm homicide.

Media Matters tracked down the chart that the NRA used to make this claim, and found that the U.S. ranks 28th when compared to a whole range of countries that submitted data for the 2007 Small Arms Survey. And sorted by Homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 pop, sure enough, the U.S. is 28th — after 27 industrialized nations with similar income and living standards? No, not so much. The NRA is using a chart that treats America the same as Honduras, or Mexico, or Zimbabwe.

To look for, say, European countries, one has to look further down; that is, through countries with much lower homicide by firearm rates. Countries like, say, Switzerland, with its conscripted militia and mandatory gun ownership and training laws often admired by the NRA, and its homicide by firearm rate of 0.77, compared to ours at 2.97 on the same chart.

And there’s more still, whether it’s data collected by the Violence Policy Center showing the link between more guns and more homicide, a link that the NRA disputes. Almost makes me want to move to New Jersey.

Or, how about data collected by the New York Times showing the link between more guns and more suicide, which the NRA also disputes. Because even if restricting access to guns is the most effective suicide-prevention policy, that might mean…horrors! Less guns!

And if a series of lies and discredited research masquerading as criticizing “Media Misinformation” isn’t enough, there’s always Wayne LaPierre pushing the CT, to a standing ovation in Utah. Same old tale, background checking leading to registration, then confiscation. With an added bonus of gov’t hacking and criminals stealing your guns.

“Picture this: your name, your address on a map giving directions to your home that could include a list of all the specific firearms you own,” LaPierre said. “That’s a pretty handy list if you’re a seasoned criminal or a drug dealer or a gang member, isn’t it? How safe do you think that government list would be?”

Wayne figures we’re just one mass slaughter away from confiscation, showing his disrespect for the victims of gun violence in this country. He utterly fails to see this violence as an actual problem — that is, anything beyond portraying victims as political props, as a threat to gun manufacturers’ profits. More guns is, of course, the only solution the NRA will entertain.

“This so-called background check is aimed at one thing – registering your guns,” he said. “When another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns … Imagine right now your name on a massive government list.”

So it’s clear, at least to Wayne. Although the current proposals have no gun registry included, he sees that as inevitable. Certainly I would like to see a nationwide gun registry after reading about the success stories in some states, but in Congress it’s simply not on the table. And if the government won’t indulge his paranoid fantasies and confiscate guns, criminals will hack the database and steal them. I see I’m not alone in recognizing the paranoia and fear that the NRA seeks to instill in its membership; Miriam Walkingshaw, founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, was quoted for the Salt Lake Tribune about the speech.

“He made this chain of logic that universal background checks equate to registering guns and that leads to confiscation,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It went more and more into the paranoia, and then he mentioned the catch-and-release justice system – this constant fear that there are so many criminals out there.”It’s always more and more guns” with the NRA, she added.

Precisely. Always comes down to that, doesn’t it? Funny how that works.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this piece, and the latest move in the Senate. Since John Boehner’s Republican majority in the House has achieved total incompetence at its legislative function, it’s up to the Senate to make the first move and force the House into action.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has released a series of gun-violence preventions bills — including a controversial assault weapons ban being pushed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — for mark up in his panel on Thursday….

Other legislation being considered for Judiciary markup is a bill by Leahy to stop illegal gun trafficking; a “placeholder” proposal on universal background checks for all gun sales by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); and a measure by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to increase school safety.

Since procedural rules could delay this for a week, I expect that Republicans will force that delay. The NRA is expected to try to derail the legislation in committee — no doubt hoping to kill this effort before it reaches the entire Senate, and draws more attention. And Politico expects a Republican filibuster because of the assault weapons ban; I expect a filibuster because Democrats are sponsoring legislation, period.

The time is now, bring the noise — demand a vote.


One comment

  1. Hey, watch it there. Not for nuthin’, but I’m from Jersey. You know why we don’t need guns, ’cause we know how shoot off our mouths. It’s simpler, cheaper and no one gets hurt.

    But seriously, it does explain why I feel so puzzled, why I feel such a cultural disconnect when I hear the gun enthusiasts talk. This country really does have several different cultures, and they belong to a different one than I. Now I live in Maryland, and I already feel like I’ve moved too far south. I know very few people who own guns, but more importantly I don’t know anyone at all, including those few gun owners, who belongs to that gun culture. The people I know who have guns have one for a concrete reason. One is a ATF officer, as it happens. Most are hunters. None, except those in law enforcement, carries, or even wants to carry, a gun on a regular basis. It’s just a different mindset. Guns aren’t, for lack of a better word, normal.

    I actually think the public health approach that you mentioned last week would do more than people think. We need to make people aware of the dangers and make the idea of owning a gun seem less normal, just like smoking used to be normal and no longer is. This requires no restrictive legislation, yet I bet it would be opposed more viciously by the NRA than just about anything else except outright bans – because the NRA isn’t about rights, it’s about gun sales. If gun sales could be slowed through education without passing a single law, they’d still oppose it. Is it a coincidence that all their proposals result in the sales of more guns?

    People who advocate freedom of speech don’t necessarily want people to talk just for the sake of talking. Yet people who say they support the “right to bear arms” seem to want people to buy guns for the sake of buying guns.

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