- NRA mouthpiece Dana Loesch tastelessly smears daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal
- Dana Loesch falsely says #KYSen candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’s gun shooting photo was staged
- Tea Party kook Dana Loesch’s book, Defenseless, comes out in 2014 with falsehoods and distortions
- Peacock Panache: Dana Loesch Celebrates Navy Yard Violence With Pro-Gun Rantings
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch shills for murderer George Zimmerman
- Dana Busted: Once again, flagrant liar Dana Loesch has zero clue about Colorado politics
- Dana Busted: Typical from Loesch and Hoft: She falsely accuses Dr. Flood of “ceding US sovereignty to the UN”
- Dana Busted: Deranged gun fetishist moron Dana Loesch: “A Spoon ‘Can Be Classified As An Assault Weapon’”
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch visits TheBlazeTV’s The Glenn Beck Program to smear Jim Carrey some more
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch smears another pro-gun safety advocate: Jim Carrey
- Dana Busted: Even more of Dana Loesch’s smears against Colorado Dems
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch still making misleading attacks on Salazar and Democrats
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch baselessly attacks Colorado Rep. Joe Salazar (D)
- Dana Busted: NRA shill Loesch falsely accuses Missouri Dems of proposing “gun confiscation”
- Dana Busted: Dana Loesch visits CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, tells more tall tales on national TV
- Dana Busted: Unhinged Moron Dana Loesch on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight: “There Is No Such Thing As An Assault Weapon”
- Dana Busted: Wingnut extraordinaire Dana Loesch attacks Piers Morgan and “anti-gun” liberals
- Loesch on KFTK’s The Dana Show: Encouraging her listeners to buy a gun for Christmas
NRA News host Cam Edwards provided a platform for a guest to push a sexist attack against prominent gun safety advocate Shannon Watts in which the guest called Watts a “shrill harridan” and said she “stripped the most basic and threshold abilities of a man” from her husband.
On the October 9 edition of the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company, guest and conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter claimed that Watts, who founded gun safety group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, had stripped her husband “of the most basic and threshold abilities of a man; that is to defend his self, his family and his community, by being married to this shrill harridan.” Schlichter was unfavorably comparing Watts to actress Annette Bening’s American Beauty character Carolyn Burnham, provoking Edwards’ laughter.
KURT SCHLICHTER: Oh my gosh, I got to tell you something. I got to tell you something. I finally figured out who Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action reminds me of.
SCHLICHTER: Annette Bening in American Beauty.
SCHLICHTER: Yeah. Huh? Huh? Yeah.
EDWARDS: Boy, now I am going to have to go back and re-watch — I don’t think I’ve that movie since it came out.
SCHLICHTER: Oh yeah.
EDWARDS: But yeah, okay, okay.
SCHLICHTER: Yeah, yeah, and her husband has got to be named Lester.
EDWARDS: [Laughter] That’s awful.
SCHLICHTER: Stripped of the most basic and threshold abilities of a man; that is to defend his self, his family and his community, by being married to this shrill harridan. She is Annette Bening in American Beauty.
EDWARDS: Talking with Kurt Schlichter, writing at Townhall.
Over the past several years the NRA has made a concerted effort to recruit women into the male-dominated gun organization. However, the NRA’s media arm has frequently undercut those efforts by offering sexist commentary on women.
CHICAGO — The national gun lobby in Washington, D.C. is a big machine, motored by a multi-billion-dollar industry. The sprawling network of hardcore activists remaking the political gunscape in statehouses and the courts, on the other hand, is small. How small? It’s so small that when Jeff Knox stepped up to a microphone at the premiere gun-activist conclave and referred to “Dad,” no explanation was needed. Everyone at the Gun Rights Policy Conference last weekend knew who “Dad” was. Dad was Neal Knox, the hardline National Rifle Association board member who until his death in 2005 used his newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, as a machine gun nest aimed at his NRA colleagues, ready to fire at the first sign of weakness or perfidy in defense of the Second Amendment. For holding the gun lobby to his iron standard without mercy, “Dad” became a godfather to the activists who gather every September at an airport hotel under the banner of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Knox had the full power of the family name behind him on Sunday afternoon when he stepped to a microphone, invoked his father, and accused another gun-rights legend, GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb, of betraying the movement. The alleged betrayal concerned Gottlieb’s writing and backing of an initiative on the Washington State ballot in November. Few Americans have heard of bill 591, but the controversy it has stoked within the gun-rights world tells us much about fissures within its ranks.
Gottlieb’s controversial bill is a direct response to another initiative on the ballot, 594, which expands background checks to include sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It is polling high and expected to pass. If Washington votes “yes,” it will join the growing list of states that have taken gun policy into their own hands in the wake of Newtown. Both the NRA and Gottlieb’s organization oppose 594. But Gottlieb has done more than just denounce it. He has raised more than a million dollars to promote an alternative bill, 591, which wouldprohibit the state from ever “requir[ing] background checks on the receipt of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.”
Can you spot the offending language? It’s this: “unless a uniform national standard is required.”
For Jeff Knox and much of the gun-rights movement, to even accept the future possibility of federal background check legislation constitutes apostasy. Some of the groups represented at the GRPC are the ones who, along with stalwarts like the NRA and Larry Pratt’s Gun Owners of America, mobilized in April 2013 to torpedo the Manchin-Toomey Senate bill, which would have closed background check loopholes across the country. After looking at the polling data, Gottlieb initially supported Manchin-Toomey as a way for the movement to get some “goodies” (such as relaxing laws on interstate gun sales) while supporting something that he thought was going to pass anyway. (Gottlieb later dropped his support when Chuck Schumer stripped the bill of Gottlieb’s prized “goodie”.)
Gottlieb’s early support for the Senate bill earned him epitaphs like “sellout” and “traitor.” But it’s now looking like he understood something his critics did not. Steadfast opposition to a federal background-check bill would give rise to a growing and well-funded movement for background-check referenda in the states. In Washington, the coalition behind 594 is supported by a group of wealthy donors, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, the head of the gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety. In his newsletter, Gottlieb describes their efforts as the “Billionaire’s Club war against freedom.”
So when Knox asked Gottlieb to defend the language of 591 at this year’s GRPC, attendees sat up in their seats. After a weekend filled with enough policy weeds to replant the Everglades, the confrontation amounted to high-drama.
With his comb-over, pencil mustache, and brightly colored bowties, Alan Gottlieb has the presence of a harried, slightly eccentric accountant. But the Queens native is no dutiful CPA; he’s a convicted tax felon who does not flinch easily on questions of strategy, let alone challenges to his commitment to the Second Amendment. In the 1970s, while still in his twenties, Gottlieb began organizing the legal workshops that grew into the brain trust that won the landmark Supreme Court rulings of Heller and McDonald, which enshrined gun ownership in the home as an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. At the podium in Chicago, Gottlieb welcomed the chance to deliver a blunt message to the background-check dead-enders who had been calling him a traitor since Manchin-Toomey.
"The bottom line is that" the background check issue "is different" from other gun gun policy debates, Gottlieb explained, pointing to public opinion. "What issues do you find that get 70 to 90 percent of the people to agree on anything?"
After Knox asserted that he doesn’t believe polls showing support for background checks, Gottlieb responded, “You may not believe the number, but I’ve seen well over 500 polls all across the country over the last six years on background checks. They all say the same damn thing. They’re not wrong, believe me.”
Knox countered with another reality: many gun groups, especially those in the referendum states of the southwest, are never going to sign off on background checks, ever, at any level. In Arizona, “I wouldn’t be able to get our members to proactively concede anything,” said Knox. His hardline solution is to “let them go ahead and deal with the consequences.”
By “them,” Knox means the feds. In the purist view, the best way to deal with any gun law is to dig in, take the hits, and ignore the law, forcing the government to “deal with the consequences.” Knox said he wished the NRA had taken that approach with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulated machine guns and banned short-barrel rifles.
To Gottlieb, that’s a doomed strategy. In any case, he stressed, “the Bloomberg people” know gun groups will never support background check legislation, so they can “knock our teeth out and there’s nothing we can do about it.” He later added, “They’ve got us hogtied because they know we’re not going to change. I’m being honest with you. I’m not expecting you to change, but that’s why we’re going to lose.”
When subsequent questioners echoed Knox, Gottlieb reminded his audience that even without a background check system in place, there are good reasons not to sell guns to strangers. “If you’re stupid enough to sell a gun to someone you don’t know, forget the criminal liability — what about the civil liability?” he asked. “What about you getting sued” if the buyer kills someone?
Earlier that morning, a speaker had flattered the GRPC crowd by calling them “the most sophisticated gun-rights gathering in the country.” This is probably true. It’s also telling. All of the room’s combined political experience, intelligence, and savvy still does not add up to the ability to grasp how America’s largely unregulated gun trade has become a public health crisis, or why background checks and other common-sense measures poll so well. The gun-rights movement continues to see background-checks through the same paranoid prism it sees everything else: the threat of door-to-door gun confiscation.
This is the shared nightmare lurking beneath all the policy weeds, one so taken for granted that it’s left unspoken. But never for very long. In Chicago, Sean Maloney of the Buckeye Firearms Association warned, “A universal background check equals universal confiscation. Look it up, it’s history, it happens every time.” Stephen P. Halbrook delivered a lecture on the discredited theory that gun confiscation was responsible for Hitler’s rise to power. California activist Stephen D’Andrilli argued that his state’s new microstamping law is not really about solving crime and tracking illicit gun transfers, but setting up a confiscatory police state. All told, around a third of GRPC speakers invoked the unstoppable logic of confiscation.
The coming wave of background check referenda was just one threat assessed in Chicago. Another peril, one less easily tied to the confiscation scenario, is the current stall in the upper courts. In his luncheon keynote, the celebrated gun lawyer Alan Gura discussed his desire to build on Heller by getting a concealed-carry case before the Supreme Court, and thus extend the right to bear arms beyond the home. But he wasn’t holding his breath. Gura noted that the court has rejected all of his petitions since taking McDonald in 2010. Moving down a notch, Gottlieb noted with alarm that “our enemies” control nine of 13 circuit courts: “Four more go down, and we can’t even create a conflict between circuits to get cases to the Supreme Court, where we are hanging on by, disgustingly, one vote.”
The movement is also increasingly aware of enemies within. A recurring theme of GRPC 2014 was the danger posed by hucksters preying on the pro-gun community. The most successful and least-trusted of these groups is Dudley Brown’s Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights. Brown has built up a fundraising juggernaut with a combination of hyperbolic and fact-challenged advocacy, violent culture war rhetoric, and attacks on other activists. He’s widely considered to be a snake in the grass. At GRPC, Brown’s name drew as many hisses as Eric Holder’s.
"We need to be careful," said D. Allen Youngman, a veteran gun lobbyist. "If all a United States senator hears is cut-and-paste talking points from a huckster like Dudley Brown — ’black helicopters are coming to take the guns’ — then you can imagine how they are going to characterize communications from you." Youngman would know. He represented the U.S. small arms industry at both the Capitol and the UN during that body’s Arms Trade Treaty talks, giving him perfect vantage to observe how the rhetoric and falsehoods spread by groups like Brown’s take root and undermine the work of more sober activist campaigns.
In Washington State this November, none of that will matter. There are no phone calls to Senate offices in referendum campaigns. The losses that Alan Gottlieb worries the American public may inflict on the gun-rights movement will be delivered directly, by ordinary people checking boxes on pieces of paper. In other words, pretty much the exact opposite of a police state.
Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association’s media outlets are undermining the organization’s political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker’s Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts “as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!” The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women — in a series titled “Good Guys” — promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of “Mom and Dad”; one stars a woman emphasizing the “courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to “keep your hands off our guns.”
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that “guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women,” falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN’s S.E. Cupp, The Blaze’s Dana Loesch, and Fox News’ Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA’s annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Just two months ago, for example, an NRA commentator fetishized assault weapons by comparing them to attractive women. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir, aired two separate ads that at first appear to feature a narrator describing stylishly-dressed, flirtatious women (“Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it … She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink”), only to reveal at the end that he was describing a gun the entire time. One of the ads aired just days after a mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, which was reportedly inspired by the shooter’s admitted hatred of women.
Last year, the NRA featured Fox News’ Sean Hannity as a keynote speaker at the 7th Annual NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon, despite his association with a group whose leadership has claimed that one of America’s greatest mistakes was allowing women to vote.
NRA News host Cam Edwards once attacked Glamourmagazine’s Women of the Year Awards for making “the world a more dangerous place for women,” because the event honored victims of gun violence, including Pakistani education reformer Malala Yousafzai, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) — who was wounded during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
Most outrageous is NRA board member Ted Nugent, whose rampant sexism - including calling Hillary Clinton a “toxic cunt,” comparing abstaining from drugs and alcohol to avoiding “fat chicks,” telling a CBS producer “I’ll fuck you, how’s that sound?”, and featuring a nude, bound woman with a grenade in her mouth on an album cover — has never been a problem for the organization.
Gun safety advocates and progressives have also been talking about women more lately, as part of a new push to recognize the dangers guns pose to women in domestic violence situations. The presence of a gun in an abusive situation increases the risk that a woman will be murdered by 500 percent, and women are more than three times as likely to be murdered when there is a gun in their house even when domestic violence isn’t a factor. In fact, more women in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner using a gun from 2001 to 2012 than the total number of troops killed in action in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
As for the argument that those women could have defended themselves if they had a gun, The Atlanticexplained that according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed women across 67 battered women’s shelters, and found that nearly a third of them had lived in a household with a firearm. “In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4 percent) them. A very small percentage of these women (7 percent) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away.”
The NRA doesn’t want to talk about the realities of domestic violence. Instead, they prefer to fearmonger about liberals attempting to “insult” women by “taking” their guns. But they can’t have it both ways, talking about women as nothing more than sex objects and housewives one day, and liberated gun owners the next.
Kopel takes issue with Watts’ description of the group as a “grassroots” effort since she is an experienced public relations professional with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as a client. Moms Demand Action is now part of Bloomberg’s group of gun control organizations.
And Kopel is upset that Watts “purports to speak for all mothers” when she actually “speaks only for a relatively small group of highly gullible people, including some mothers.”
He points readers instead to gun rights activist Julie Globb, “captain of Team Smith & Wesson” and “mother of two.”
There is no excuse for this one. It’s been universally recognized as a racial slur since its derogatory use during World War II.
Nugent, who is also a spokesman for Outdoor Channel, appeared alongside birther and former Fox News contributor Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Vallely at an August 2 rally hosted by the Big Horn Basin Tea Party. At the end of the event, Nugent and Vallely were deputized by the local sheriff.
During his remarks Nugent described his belief that the government has “turned on us” since the United States defeated the “Japs and Nazis” in World War II, citing his claim of “ranchers being arrested because of gerbils on their range.” The term “Jap” is universally recognized as a racial slur since its derogatory usage during World War II.
Music Industry Experts Say Pants-Pooping Draft Dodger Ted Nugent's Ongoing Diatribes Damaging Concert Promotion
Ted Nugent’s recent spate of offensive and racist comments that have sparked protests and canceled shows are damaging his image and could well cripple his income if he continues, according to veteran concert promoters and industry journalists.
In a week when two casinos operated by different Native American tribes canceled three separate Nugent shows set for next month and dozens protested a concert in New Jersey, concert touring experts say the National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator is doing real damage to his money-earning potential.
"If you’re going to say something political, you’re going to have some backlash, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say," said Larry Magid, a Philadelphia-based promoter who has handled Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, and Bette Midler. "Nugent seems to have taken it to extremes. I don’t know that you can blame anyone for not wanting to play him for all of the baggage that he brings."
Magid, who also organized the famed 1985 Live Aid benefit show in Philadelphia, said Nugent was never a huge concert draw, but his declaration earlier this year that President Barack Obama is a "subhuman mongrel"may mark a turning point.
"I don’t know if that is frustration at not being a viable act, but it is stupid," Magid said of Nugent. "If you are a musician, you are trying to bring your music, your art to a broad group of people. It is one thing to take a stance, it is another thing when you are talking about the president of the United States.
"For all of the people enamored with him, there are 20 or 30 or 40 times that who are not enamored with him. To me, it’s not bright. If I’m a promoter I have to think two or three or four times before I take a shot with this performer."
"No one should be surprised by any of this," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar USA, which tracks concert touring receipts. "It’s a free country and Nugent has always had a big mouth. But if he keeps making incendiary statements his future tours may be limited to NRA conventions and Fox News events."
Bongiovanni said the public reaction is not unusual: “Why be surprised if you can’t sell tickets to them after you insult people who are gay, animal rights, or gun control advocates, or just in the majority of people who voted for Obama?”
Although Nugent has long been a hardline conservative and pro-gun advocate, his “subhuman mongrel” comments triggered a massive media firestorm and led prominent Republicans to disassociate themselves from the rocker earlier this year. Nugent’s offensive and racist comments have more recently caused a backlash against his concerts.
Among the results:
- Three Nugent concerts scheduled in early August at Native American tribe-owned casinos in Washington and Idaho were canceled this week due to the performer’s commentary. Puyallup Tribe Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud has said Nugent is a “jackass” and will never be booked again.
- Earlier this summer controversy surrounded a concert scheduled for an Oshkosh, WI, music festival after a letter to the editor decrying Nugent’s concert received heightened attention. Nugent subsequently described his critics as “unclean vermin.”
- "Picket signs lined the street" outside a July 22 concert in New Jersey as Nugent was greeted by “at least 75 protestors.”
- While Nugent will perform at The Toledo Blade’s Northwest Ohio Rib-Off festival next month, the paper’s sales director told Media Matters he had received numerous complaints and strongly suggested Nugent would never be booked again.
- The City of Longview, TX in March canceled Nugent’s concert at a Fourth of July festival and paid him $16,000 (reportedly half his fee) not to show up.
John Scher of Metropolitan Entertainment Consultants, a longtime New Jersey promoter who has booked Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Billy Joel, said he’s never seen such a public backlash in his 40 years promoting concerts.
"I can’t really, really recall this kind of reaction because of political beliefs," Scher said, later adding, "All in all, I don’t think it can be a plus. Where’s the tipping point? I think he’ll find it will probably shrink to the places where his views are not so contrary to the views of the general population. You might see him doing most of his touring in the south or certain states in the west that are gun-toting conservatives. In the Northeast and in California he is probably not getting booked as much … I don’t see from an overall point of view how he is helping himself."
Michael Maietta, a promoter at Creative Entertainment Group in New York, which has handled the Neville Brothers, John Popper, and George Thorogood, said the financial impact is obvious when a musician offends so many people.
"Of course it will have an effect on how much money Ted will make going forward if he is not getting booked," Maietta said via email. "Soft ticket events, such as fairs and township gigs will get pressure not to book him with public dollars."
Steve Knopper, a Rolling Stone contributing editor who covers the rock concert business, said this is clearly a trend.
"It does seem like, whether it is a movement or people deciding to be offended by this en masse, it seems like it’s having an impact and that can’t be good," Knopper said. "I don’t know if Ted Nugent’s main source of income is from concerts, but the way right now to make money in the music business is to tour."
Knopper added, “I’m guessing that he needs to tour to make money and if his comments are preventing him from doing that he may well have to rethink how he handles his public image. He has said some incredibly offensive stuff in the past few years, now maybe it is hitting home.”
H/T: Joe Strupp at MMFA
One morning during the winter weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, the gun lobbyist Larry Pratt made the short drive from his offices in Springfield, Virginia, to the Arlington headquarters of the Leadership Institute, a training center for young conservatives. Pratt and the Institute’s founder, Morton Blackwell, share a history in conservative activism going back four decades, and Pratt had spoken there many times, providing legislative updates on the politics of guns. Today, there seemed to be a jauntiness to the oddly boyish-faced 71-year old, who’d found himself at the center of a national media story just beginning to fade. He opened with a joke.
"Piers Morgan sends his regrets he won’t be able to attend," Pratt deadpanned.
The audience chuckled at the reference. On December 18th, 2012, four days after Adam Lanza’s killing spree, the CNN host had invited Pratt to debate gun control, as most major networks have over the years. When Pratt stated that gun-free school zones — and, by extension, gun control advocates like Piers Morgan — were to blame for the tragedy in Newton, Morgan stuttered and seethed. “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” said the host.
Pratt’s critics have called him many things over the years: extreme, radical, pernicious, creepy, dogged, effective. But no one who’s studied his multi-faceted career could describe him as stupid. On CNN, Pratt was smart enough not to tell Piers Morgan what he really thinks about the Second Amendment. Because what he really thinks resonates deeply with the theocratic tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, which holds that American government should be ordered according to events and dictates found in the Old and New Testaments. Nor is Pratt so stupid as to use his regular access to mainstream media to promote the “active measures” he believes American gun owners will one day be forced to unleash on a secular federal government. As he explained in his 1999 essay, “What does the Bible Say About Gun Control?” Pratt writes, “If Christ is not our King, we shall have a dictator to rule over us, just as Samuel warned.”
Pratt doesn’t talk like this when being interviewed by The New York Times or answering questions on C-SPAN. Instead, he uses the more familiar language of ensuring public safety and respecting constitutional rights. He has employed this two-track communications operation with admirable efficacy and consistency since launching Gun Owners of America as the Beltway’s first “no-compromise” gun-rights lobbying group in 1976. Over 40 years, Pratt has blazed the path and built the model for a gun-rights movement that has transformed the landscape of American gun politics.
Today, Pratt, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, holds the power to derail and delay gun legislation enjoying broad public support, and quickly inject falsehoods and amplify paranoia among a growing network of gun activists. With the rise of the Tea Party scene, Pratt has discovered new constituencies and new platforms for spreading his message of a Biblically mandated rollback of all gun regulation. He has also found new champions in the forms of his favorite senators: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. He believes this November offers a chance to further grow the “Second Amendment Absolutist” bloc in Congress.Larry Pratt addresses about 500 demonstrators during a rally in support of the Second Amendment in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
"Look forward to 2014 as a time when we get involved as never before," Pratt told an audience at the Leadership Institute. "Look for those candidates that deserve our support. The Rand Pauls. The Ted Cruzes. The Steve Stockmans of the House and try to multiply their number … The RINOS [Republicans in Name Only] need to be humiliated. They need to be driven out of public life."
By Pratt’s design, today’s gun movement has little room for RINOS, but accommodates extremists and sometimes adopts their language. As the director of an organization claiming 300,000 members, Pratt understands the gun movement’s role as that of a heavily armed guard, holding a cautionary gun to the head of America’s would-be dictators.
"The Second Amendment is not for hunting, it’s not even for self-defense," Pratt explained in his Leadership Institute talk. Rather, it is "for restraining tyrannical tendencies in government…Especially those in the liberal, tyrannical end of the spectrum. There is some restraint, and even if the voters of Brooklyn don’t hold them back, it may be there are other ways that their impulses are somewhat restrained. That’s the whole idea of the Second Amendment." He reiterated the point this March during an interview with conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham. Speaking of a New York Congresswoman who had expressed fear that one of Pratt’s members wanted to shoot her, Pratt said, "You know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave."
And if they don’t? When speaking before smaller, conservative audiences, Pratt explains that it is necessary to both generate an undercurrent of fear and muster the organization and will to defeat the dictator prophesized in the Book of Samuel. When asked during a 2010 Q&A session, “Do we have the will to stand up to the government when they trample our rights?” Pratt replied, “That is an exceptionally important point to raise. We can have all the guns in the world, and if we don’t have the will to use them [against the government], then they are useless.”
This is the language found etched along the gun-movement’s aqueduct into the dark crosscurrents of the militia movement and the radical right. It is written in Pratt’s voice, because he has personally overseen engineering and construction of this aqueduct while building the larger gun-rights movement. This movement, considered as a whole, is not as conservative as Pratt. It is increasingly flavored with Libertarian ideas and language, building on outreach efforts designed to deflect attention from socially conservative politics that command ever fewer Americans. But it is no less zealous than Pratt on the question of gun reform. The gun-rights movement is distinct from, and often at odds with, the official gun “lobby” that is dominated by the National Rifle Association and its industry allies. The NRA remains the 500-pound gorilla of gun politics, with a budget and membership that dwarfs all other gun groups combined. But it is now surrounded, most heavily on its right, by a growing cluster of so-called “Second Amendment Absolutist” groups, from influential state-level activist networks like the Arizona Citizens Defense League, to ascendant fundraising dynamos like Dudley Brown’s National Association for Gun Rights.
Among the most pedigreed of these purist outfits is Pratt’s Gun Owners of America.
"The NRA describes itself as a religion, and Larry Pratt is the snake handler," says Tom Diaz, a former analyst at the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based gun control group, and author of two books on the gun lobby. "The NRA debates using arguable premises of the American system: What is the meaning of the Second Amendment, of self-defense? Pratt unconnects from all that, and appeals to the least informed, most paranoid people." In parallel with his frequent national media appearances, Pratt aggressively pursues smaller radio audiences to peddle conspiracy theories and recycled John Birch Society propaganda from the 1960s. In recent years he has argued that the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting was an inside job and that the Justice Department was pursuing charges against George Zimmerman to stir up racial animosity, trigger social chaos, and “build their own communist society.”
As the gun-rights movement grows into and with the new century, Pratt is seen as a dinosaur, yet one who still commands respect. “Larry’s a hardcore throwback and a bit of a weirdo — a black helicopter and Trilateral Commission kind of guy — but he has a certain brand and a namehe’s been around forever,” says a staffer in the office of a veteran GOP senator. Indeed, few figures have had a greater impact in the development of the pro-gun movement. Purist groups created on his “no compromise” model now lead the charges in the courts and the states to block new gun-control legislation and chip away at those that exist. Most make the NRA look moderate by comparison.
"The NRA is concerned about its right flank on purity from people like Larry," says Richard Feldman, a former gun industry lobbyist and president of the Independent Firearms Owners Association. "He has said things I thought were crazy at the time, but turned out to be right…Activists respect him for getting things done."Adds Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center: "When NRA members stamp their feet over some rumored compromise, Pratt’s who they go to. When he says make the calls, the calls are made, and it has influence on the Hill."Larry Pratt speaks at a pro-gun rally organised by the ‘Restore the Constitution’ movement in Virginia park near Washington D.C.Sipa via AP Images
This influence has only recently caught the attention of media that have generally focused on the NRA and ignored the growth of group’s like Pratt’s. When Gun Owners of America helped lead the gun-rights charge against an expansion of background checks, the New York Times discovered this “influential force” capable of both “freezing” and “empowering” senators. This influence may help to explain the reluctance of elected officials and their staffs to discuss Pratt’s lobbying operation. When contacted, several current and former members of Congress and congressional staffers from both parties declined to comment on the experience of being on the receiving end of GOA’s lobbying fire. The list of those who shied away from talking included nine senators and congressman, such as Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, as well as Democratic Senators Jon Tester and Mark Begich.
Pratt enters his fifth decade of gun activism with ambitious plans for this influence. At an age when many lobbyists considering retiring, Pratt is working through GOA’s PAC, his membership, his allies, and a small team of fellow lobbyists to do what he’s been trying to do since the 1970s: defeat any Republican who does not share his absolutist understanding of Second Amendment freedom. And it is nothing if not absolute: GOA agitates against background checks, waiting periods, and fines for straw purchases (guns purchased legally for resale on the black market).
In his crusade to rollback every gun law on the books, Pratt likes his allies unalloyed with records and habits of compromise. Many of Pratt’s current targets in the primaries enjoy high or perfect ratings from the NRA. Some of them, like Mitch McConnell, have long enjoyed “B” or higher grades from the GOA. But only perfect grades like Rand Paul’s “A+” are truly acceptable in Pratt’s purist world. Unlike the NRA’s system, GOA counts votes on any bill that tangentially touches on gun rights as a “gun vote.” Sometimes no vote is required at all to arouse Pratt’s displeasure, merely inaction. In explaining GOA’s support for Mitch McConnell’s challenger, Matt Bevin, the group cites the senator’s failure to vigorously oppose The Affordable Care Act.
"Obamacare is allowing the medical profession to use information that people give their doctor against them, to take their guns," says Tim Macy, vice chairman of GOA. "McConnell hasn’t stopped it so far, and he’s been in a position to help stop it."
For much of today’s gun movement, the NRA’s more myopic rating system has never had much credibility. To understand why, it’s necessary to go back in time to the era of GOA’s founding, and imagine that the NRA has announced plans to sell it’s D.C.-area offices, abandon politics, move to New Mexico, and re-open as a crunchy nonprofit devoted to conservation and hiking.
What sounds like a piece of alternate-history science fiction is the starting point for understanding the rise of Larry Pratt and the current configuration of forces in the gun debate.
Among the many social convulsions of the 1960s was a public opinion turn in favor of gun control. The legislative expression of this turn, the 1968 Gun Control Act, established today’s regulatory framework for firearms, including a federal licensing system for dealers. It was the first major gun law since Prohibition-era violence and the advent of the “getaway car” transformed crime and led to the 1934 National Firearms Act, which brought machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and silencers under strict government regulation. Another federal law soon followed: the National Firearms Act of 1938, which required the licensing of interstate gun dealers.
In both the thirties and 1968, the NRA either accepted or collaborated in the writing and passing of the law. For the group’s hardline members, this was one compromise too many. Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Gun Control Act deepened a longstanding fissure inside the organization that widened into a full breach five years later. In 1973, the NRA board put its finger in the air and determined that its future depended on pivoting away from guns and toward conservation and outdoor sports. Plans were put in motion to sell its D.C. headquarters, relocate to Colorado Springs, and build a “National Outdoor Center” in New Mexico, where backpacking, hiking and wilderness survival classes would be taught alongside shooting sports. To help figure out how to finance the overhaul, the NRA commissioned the liberal New York consultant Harold Oram, whose clients included Greenpeace, McGovern for President, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Oram’s report, issued in the summer of 1976, concluded that raising the $30 million needed for the NRA’s Outdoor Center would require de-emphasizing its past opposition to gun control and avoiding all mention of gun politics in NRA publications. If it renounced its past and promised to stay out of politics, Oram advised, foundations like Rockefeller, then and now a major source of non-profit grants, could be counted on for financing.During the years of the NRA’s slow careen left in search of Rockefeller money, Larry Pratt was making a name for himself in a movement where the Rockefeller name was synonymous with liberal Republicanism — and nearly synonymous with the Devil himself. In 1970, the 28-year-old Pratt became executive director of the American Conservative Union, founded six years prior by William F. Buckley to carry forward the flame of Barry Goldwater’s failed presidential campaign. It was in this capacity that Pratt attended the 1972 GOP Republican Convention in Miami Beach, where he joined fellow conservatives in battles over Nixon’s reelection platform. In Miami, Pratt forged a friendship with another young religious conservative on the make, Paul Weyrich. The two men were so similar, politically and physically, that they looked like a mirror image when they were talking to each other. At the time, Weyrich was raising funds for what would soon become the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. One of the men in Weyrich’s growing network was H.L. Richardson, a frustrated NRA board member, California State Senator, and member of the far-right John Birch Society. Weyrich introduced Pratt and Richardson, who became fast friends.
In 1975, Richardson founded Gun Owners of America on the model of his first group, Gun Owners of California, established earlier that year to (successfully) oppose a state handgun ban and (less successfully) the extension of ownership waiting periods from five to 15 days. That year also saw the establishment of one of the country’s first national gun control groups, the National Council to Control Handguns. Richardson wanted a full-time lobbyist near Washington and tapped Pratt to lead the group’s Northern Virginia office. In the fight against gun control, GOA would pick up the slack created by NRA drift.
"In 1975, we were the first folks on the street looking at races and the lobbying side," says Tim Macy, GOA’s vice chairman. "There was a lot of talk about gun legislation, in California and nationally. When we started, the NRA did not have a political arm."
Pratt had grown up in suburban Indiana and was relatively new to guns when he took GOA’s helm. He’d purchased his first firearm during the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. “There were some racial difficulties,” Pratt later recalled. “I heard on the radio that the police weren’t sure they could control the rioters coming north on 16th Street, so I went out and bought a shotgun.”
In his adult arrival to the world of guns, Pratt resembled another rising star emerging from the 1960s conservative firmament, one who would go on to rival Pratt’s influence in national gun politics. In 1971, Alan Gottlieb, a 24-year-old organizer for Young Americans for Freedom (another Buckley-founded group) founded the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Gottlieb nurtured the group on two key resources: mailing lists, and seed money from William Loeb, the conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. Like GOA’s founder Richardson, Loeb sat on the NRA board. Sidelined by the liberal majority, he’d spent recent years fuming over the group’s direction and was eager to help nurture a new player.
Loeb and Richardson weren’t the only conservatives on the board, but it took a dramatic member insurgency for them to wrest power from the liberals. At the group’s 1977 annual meeting in Cincinnati, hundreds of rank-and-file from around the country staged what has become known in gun culture lore as “The Cincinnati Revolt.” During a long night of speeches and politicking, the membership voted in a new board drawn from the NRA’s fledgling lobbying division, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), and changed the by-laws in favor of strong political engagement and tighter member control. By morning, the NRA was controlled by a group of rough-edged conservatives committed to fierce political engagement. The NRA returned to Washington to find it was no longer the only gun game in town. There were now two young upstarts on the scene, Alan Gottlieb and Larry Pratt. Since Gottlieb was based in Seattle, and focused his work on direct mail, education and the courts, this left Pratt and the Gun Owners of America as the leading alternative to the NRA.
In the many legislative battle to come — handgun bans, armor-piercing bullets, background checks — the NRA would have to contend with GOA and its leader, who was neither temperamentally nor politically inclined to yield to an establishment power that had collaborated with the 1934 and 1968 gun control bills. The NRA may have undergone a radical course correction, but it was still a large institution with a deep sense of entitlement and turf.
"They’ve always wanted to be the only kid on the block," says Alan Gottlieb. "The NRA didn’t appreciate the growth of a gun rights movement, because a movement is much harder to control. What started in the mid-1970s with my group and GOA has flowered. Now there is all this pressure from the local and state grassroots level that the NRA has to deal with."
When the NRA re-launched its lobbying machine in 1977, it attempted to accommodate Pratt’s presence in D.C. by developing a good-cop, bad-cop routine.
"Where the NRA played an ‘inside game’, the GOA was about confrontational politics, more stick, less carrot," says Jeff Knox, director of the Firearms Coalition and a prominent gun journalist whose father, Neal Knox, headed the NRA’s lobbying arm between 1978 and 1982. "When dad was at ILA, he saw the GOA as an extension of his tool box. They were useful to him when he could point to a GOA mailing and tell [politicians], ‘See, we’re being reasonable, and if you don’t want us to go there, then you need to deal with us, or you’re going to have to deal with them.’ The relationship between the NRA and GOA has been a weird one over the years, at different times flourishing and failing. Now [they’re] dramatically butting heads." (The NRA did not respond to requests for comment.)
The most recent clash between GOA and the NRA occurred last winter, over the latter’s initial, qualified support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would have shored up the country’s background check system, while also relaxing restrictions on interstate gun sales. The gun community was split on the measure sponsored by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with even some purist leaders like Gottlieb calling the bill “more gains than anything.” But Pratt has never seen victory in anything that required giving an inch — especially an inch involving handing information to the federal government. The GOA sent out mailers claiming, “If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry.”
This was a lie. The text of the bill not only reiterated existing laws against the compiling of a national gun database, it went so far as to threaten a jail sentence of “up to 15 years” for breaking them. But the lie worked. There is a consensus that a grassroots backlash against the bill, sparked and sustained by GOA and other purist groups, forced the NRA to drop its support for the bill, helping doom it at the last hour.
Jeff Knox says the GOA played an important role, but that it was part of a swarm of limited power. “Something like 34 groups came together prior to the April vote on Manchin-Toomey. We did have an impact on NRA’s decision. But the bottom line is that all of us could swarm Congress, but if [NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris] Cox walked in and gave a wink and a nod, they’d go against us. NRA is the big dog. They are the ones with the direct, immediate clout, they have the politicians’ ears. That’s why we have to be members [of NRA] and keep them on the straight and narrow.”
According to Knox, Pratt’s biggest strength is being “right on top of what’s going on. The GOA is just faster. The NRA is hidebound and not on top of the news cycle at all. It takes them a week to respond to new information. After Newtown they waited too long, then delivered a tepid response. GOA sees the threats that others often miss.”
GOA has used similarly aggressive and dishonest tactics at the state level to defeat bills it does not like. In New Hampshire this winter, a group called Pro-Gun New Hampshire is backing a state bill that would create pathways for restoring gun rights to people disqualified by federal laws related to mental health problems. From his perch in Springfield, Pratt saw the bill as too weak, and attacked. Soon thousands of New Hampshire voters received anti-bill mailers with the words, “See a shrink, lose your guns” printed in red ink on the envelope. The letter attacked local groups supporting the bill as “anti-gun” — a funeral-serious charge in gun circles usually reserved for likes of Chuck Schumer.
Pro-Gun New Hampshire did not appreciate the epitaph, or Pratt’s meddling, which it described as either ignorant or mendacious.
"Pratt sent out this B.S. propaganda that falsely claimed the bill will disqualify gun buyers if they see a shrink," says the group’s vice president, Sam Cohen. "GOA and groups like it want to promote themselves as the premiere guardian of your rights. They feel in a competitive position with each other to be the ‘no compromise’ group and get members. It’s particularly egregious in this case because if you carefully read the law, you know they’re wrong."
In the months leading up to the 1977 “Revolt in Cincinnati,” Pratt, then 34, announced an insurgent candidacy to represent the suburbs of southern Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates. Pratt was part of a slate of conservatives seeking to knock off the moderate Republicans that dominated the local party. Typical of this old guard was five-term Republican Warren E. Barry, who supported a proposed national ban on the cheap revolvers known as “Saturday Night Specials.” In announcing his candidacy, The Washington Post described Pratt as “a Washington representative for Gun Owners of America and an Amway distributor.”
Pratt lost the local race, but could comfort himself with a growing national reputation. Early the following year, the Post featured Pratt in a piece on “The New Right Network” that gathered weekly at the Capitol Hill Club to debate strategy and hatch initiatives. Among more than a dozen names listed in the paper’s group profile, Pratt is one of the last still active in public life. Sometimes these initiatives impacted gun rights; other times, Pratt found a gun angle to justify using GOA resources. In 1979, he devised a plan, in cooperation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which he helped found, to throw up constitutional roadblocks to D.C. statehood. “The amendment would bring in two senators who would probably be minority, and would definitely be liberal on gun control,” Pratt said.
Pratt again contested a seat in the House of Delegates in 1979. Boosted by financing from his friend Jerry Falwell, the Lynchburg evangelist, and ties to what the Post called “Joseph Coors’ Heritage Foundation,” Pratt outspent other candidates nearly two to one. He won in a local GOP tide. But his colleagues in Richmond had never seen his breed of Republican before. “Larry was part of a small group of far-right ideologues who thought it was apostasy to vote for an MLK holiday,” remembers Wiley Mitchell, Republican floor leader in the Virginia Senate from 1976 to 1988. “He was strongly opposed to women’s rights. He was against everything.”
Pratt proved a divisive and an ineffectual politician. Seven of eight bills Pratt introduced his first year were defeated, including a ban on nude images on motor vehicles. (If passed, the law would have required modifying the Virginia state seal, anticipating by decades the order by Pratt’s friend John Ashcroft to cover the breast of a statue in the Department of Justice.) His one victory concerned a housekeeping procedural change. The national media noticed him just once, when he declared a war on bongs and fought to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia in Virginia.
The bong battle failed to win him many friends. On the eve of losing his reelection bid, a Norfolk Virginian-Pilot poll ranked Pratt “the least effective member of the House of Delegates.”
Elsewhere in the country, more conservative districts than Fairfax were electing social and religious conservatives like Pratt. What’s more, GOA, which Pratt claimed at the time was approaching 100,000 members, was in a position to help them. The year Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, Pratt told reporters his PAC was spending almost $1 million annually in support of pro-gun candidates. Closer to home, Pratt’s friends were taking over the reigns of government. The August 1981 issue of Life magazine included Pratt among the ten most influential “Young Turks of the Radical Right.” The spread featured a photo of Pratt cradling his first gun, the 12 gauge purchased during the 1968 riots, like a baby.
The defining gun battle of Reagan’s first term didn’t involve gunshot, but a new breed of armor-piercing bullet. It was a fight that would pit the GOA against the NRA, and in the process illuminate the radical anti-statism at the heart of Pratt’s worldview.
“A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges…
The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun. Today, millions believe they did. Here’s how it happened.
“A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.
Twenty-five years later, Burger’s seems as quaint as a powdered wig. Not only is an individual right to a firearm widely accepted, but increasingly states are also passing laws to legalize carrying weapons on streets, in parks, in bars—even in churches.
Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround? Don’t look for answers in dusty law books or the arcane reaches of theory.
So how does legal change happen in America? We’ve seen some remarkably successful drives in recent years—think of the push for marriage equality, or to undo campaign finance laws. Law students might be taught that the court is moved by powerhouse legal arguments or subtle shifts in doctrine. The National Rifle Association’s long crusade to bring its interpretation of the Constitution into the mainstream teaches a different lesson: Constitutional change is the product of public argument and political maneuvering. The pro-gun movement may have started with scholarship, but then it targeted public opinion and shifted the organs of government. By the time the issue reached the Supreme Court, the desired new doctrine fell like a ripe apple from a tree.
The Second Amendment consists of just one sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today, scholars debate its bizarre comma placement, trying to make sense of the various clauses, and politicians routinely declare themselves to be its “strong supporters.” But in the grand sweep of American history, this sentence has never been among the most prominent constitutional provisions. In fact, for two centuries it was largely ignored.
The amendment grew out of the political tumult surrounding the drafting of the Constitution, which was done in secret by a group of mostly young men, many of whom had served together in the Continental Army. Having seen the chaos and mob violence that followed the Revolution, these “Federalists” feared the consequences of a weak central authority. They produced a charter that shifted power—at the time in the hands of the states—to a new national government.
“Anti-Federalists” opposed this new Constitution. The foes worried, among other things, that the new government would establish a “standing army” of professional soldiers and would disarm the 13 state militias, made up of part-time citizen-soldiers and revered as bulwarks against tyranny. These militias were the product of a world of civic duty and governmental compulsion utterly alien to us today. Every white man age 16 to 60 was enrolled. He was actually required to own—and bring—a musket or other military weapon.
On June 8, 1789, James Madison—an ardent Federalist who had won election to Congress only after agreeing to push for changes to the newly ratified Constitution—proposed 17 amendments on topics ranging from the size of congressional districts to legislative pay to the right to religious freedom. One addressed the “well regulated militia” and the right “to keep and bear arms.” We don’t really know what he meant by it. At the time, Americans expected to be able to own , a legacy of English common law and rights. But the overwhelming use of the phrase “bear arms” in those days referred to military activities.
There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights. In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision. “A well regulated militia,” it explained, “composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”
Though state militias eventually dissolved, for two centuries we had guns (plenty!) and we had gun laws in towns and states, governing everything from where gunpowder could be stored to who could carry a weapon—and courts overwhelmingly upheld these restrictions. Gun rights and gun control were seen as going hand in hand. Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule that the Second Amendment protected individual gun ownership outside the context of a militia. As the Tennessee Supreme Court put it in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”
Cue the National Rifle Association. We all know of the organization’s considerable power over the ballot box and legislation. Bill Clinton groused in 1994 after the Democrats lost their congressional majority, “The NRA is the reason the Republicans control the House.” Just last year, it managed to foster a successful filibuster of even a modest background-check proposal in the U.S. Senate, despite 90 percent public approval of the measure.
What is less known—and perhaps more significant—is its rising sway over constitutional law.
The NRA was founded by a group of Union officers after the Civil War who, perturbed by their troops’ poor marksmanship, wanted a way to sponsor shooting training and competitions. The group testified in support of the first federal gun law in 1934, which cracked down on the machine guns beloved by Bonnie and Clyde and other bank robbers. When a lawmaker asked whether the proposal violated the Constitution, the NRA witness responded, “I have not given it any study from that point of view.” The group lobbied quietly against the most stringent regulations, but its principal focus was hunting and sportsmanship: bagging deer, not blocking laws. In the late 1950s, it opened a new headquarters to house its hundreds of employees. Metal letters on the facade spelled out its purpose: firearms safety education, marksmanship training, shooting for recreation.
Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. This article has been adapted from his book The Second Amendment: A Biography, published this week by Simon & Schuster. © 2014.
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Noir — a weekly program aired by the National Rifle Association as part of its efforts to reach a younger audience — has run two segments that fetishize an assault weapon as an attractive woman.
Over the past year the NRA has launched a number of initiatives to engage with women, minorities, andyounger Americans. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by popular gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir, is packaged for a Millennial audience, although the show has been widely mockedby critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging.
A segment during the June 15 edition of Noir opened with a black-and-white scene of a stylishly-dressed woman standing in an alley. Doing voice-over work, Noir appeared to describe the woman, ranging from her clothing (“Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it”), to her intellect (“Chess, yeah it’s a men’s game, but when she plays, men pay”), to her actions (“Flirts more than you can handle too. She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink”).
In the final shot, the woman is seen holding a Heckler & Koch MR556 assault weapon and Noir reveals he was talking about the firearm the whole time:
NOIR: Why is she alone on this dark street? On this cold night? You care, but she doesn’t. Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it. Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There’s got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something. She’s taller than you can handle. Flirts more than you can handle too. She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink. And Chess, yeah it’s a men’s game, but when she plays, men pay. Say you don’t like her, until she looks your way. She’s not easy and she’s not flawless. But she’s never wasted her time thinking about it. She is the HK MR556.
As Noir explained in the following segment, “It’s like the words really do mean what I’m saying in the video. The HK MR556 is that gun that if — it’s like that girl who’s unbelievably attractive, she has this presence about her that seems untouchable and she’s not apologetic about her beauty. But because of that it’s easy to — and she’s largely out of a lot of people’s leagues.” One of his guests took the comparison further, responding to Noir’s description of the “heavy” and “expensive as hell” gun by saying, “sounds like some of my recent experiences in Vegas like this past weekend … you still want to have fun with them and they’re a little dangerous.” Noir’s co-host Amy Robbins laughed, saying “Oh my god.”
Earlier this season Noir used a similar format of objectifying women by reducing them to descriptions of assault weapons in an advertisement for manufacturer Daniel Defense. Gun manufacturer Mossberg and Daniel Defense are the two primary sponsors of NRA Freestyle, which airs Noir and other NRA web series and is the home of the NRA’s lifestyle blog NRA Sharp.
The Daniel Defense advertisement, which aired during Noir earlier this season, also features a voice-over of Noir as he seems to describe a woman. At the end of the ad, however, it is revealed that Noir was instead describing the M4-A1 assault weapon:
Hey, hip cool millennial hipsters! Noir, the NRA’s hip cool new web series for the Youngs, is going all Lifestyles of the Sleek and Carefully Waxed in this exciting ad touting the merits of a Perfect Companion:
She knows that she’s made it… comfortable alone, steady among others… she leaves you sad for all of the moments you missed, but grateful for the thrills ahead … because hidden underneath, is an adventure. She is: the Daniel Defense M4-A1
Hahaha, you think he is talking about a LADY, but he is actually talking about a GUN! Seems pretty classy, just a few days after a guy used a gun to get revenge on women who he treated as objects.
Dana Busted: Paid NRA mouthpiece Dana Loesch tastelessly poses with an AR-15 on the cover for her book Hands Off My Gun
Yet again, NRA mouthpiece and TheBlaze Dana Loesch is pandering to the fringe gun nuts by posing on the cover for her new book (Hands Off My Gun: Defeating The Plot To Disarm America, originally titled Defenseless) due to be out in October in a very offensive manner by insulting the survivors of the Sandy Hook Shooting.
John Amato at Crooks and Liars:
Dana Loesch, firebreather for Glenn Beck and other low brow conservatives has a new book out and decided to pose on the cover with an AR-15, a weapon that helped massacre so many innocent children in Sandy Hook. Glenn Beck is very excited that the cover will absolutely piss off liberals, but her crassness only proves the point I’ve been making for a long time.
Dana Loesch is no stranger to controversy. She’s the extreme right conservative that applauded the desecration of enemy bodies overseas (urination on the bodies by American soldiers, in case everyone’s forgotten). She’s the Tea Party conservative that defendedArizona’s SB1062, a piece of legislation that would bring back a new era of Jim Crow public accommodation discrimination (which didn’t come as a surprise since Loesch supports Jim Crow in general). Loesch is the extremist that sided with Cliven Bundy even after he made (and doubled down on) egregiously racist statements in the course of his ‘sovereign citizen’ spiel. In her latest shock-jock stunt to generate publicity (and money), Loesch posed for the cover of her new book “Hands Off My Gun" (due out in October) with the same weapon used in both the Sandy Hook massacre and the Oregon high school shooting this week.
Furthermore, Loesch’s intentional use of that particular firearm - a firearm now nationally associated with one of the worst school shooting tragedies in modern history - doesn’t just work to incense the gun regulation crowd; rather, it serves as a snub (perhaps even a rude gesture) to those families who lost family members in both Sandy Hook and the Oregon shooting. And Loesch knows this. To say anything otherwise would be disingenuous.
This is typical crass moronic behavior we’ve come to expect from Loesch.
More on Loesch’s idiocy and falsehoods on Guns and the 2nd Amendment:
In an unsigned statement published online on Friday, the NRA’s lobbying arm sharply criticized the activists, denouncing their tactics as as “weird” and “scary.” The activists responded by demanding that the NRA retract the statement, and threatening to withdraw its support of the NRA. That’s essentially what happened on Tuesday, when Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, gave an interview in which he blamed Friday’s statement on a lone staff member and apologized for “any confusion” the statement caused.
So much for the NRA looking reasonable; the group is no different than the extremist nutjobs that comprise Open Carry. They all share the same radical agenda.
The nation’s staunchest defender of the Second Amendment has told gun activists in Texas who insist on carrying assault-style rifles in public places to knock it off. In a statement issued late last week, the National Rifle Association (NRA) called…
Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered this weekend in Isla Vista, California. It’s impossible to fathom the grief that Martinez must be experiencing right now, and the simple fact that he is upright and mobile is an act of tremendous courage. Which is precisely what makes everything else that he has done in the days since he lost his son all the more astounding.
From his first public statement — a blistering and emotional indictment of “craven” politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the gnarled and anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting.
And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.
It isn’t just the force of Martinez’s emotions or political conviction that make him powerful. He is currently shouldering the unimaginable grief of being yet another parent who has lost yet another child in yet another mass shooting. He has seen this happen before, he knows the political script that’s already playing out. He has listened as gun apologists — time and again — urge the nation not to “politicize” a national tragedy out of respect for the families, and then watched them turn on these same families in order to protect our deadly — and immensely profitable — culture of guns. And he’s using it. All of it.
Days after 26 people were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, Wayne LaPierre denounced gun reform advocates for “exploit[ing] the tragedy for political gain.” Months later, Sarah Palin echoed the sentiment. ”Leaders are in it for themselves, not for the American people,” she told a crowd that summer, before effectively declaring how proud she was that her son Trig would grow up in a country where men like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza can buy guns and hoard ammunition without authorities batting an eyelash.
Martinez may be the single most powerful force we have against this kind of slithering political cowardice. He’s already familiar with the political dirty tricks and knows where the conversation will eventually turn — that the pro-gun crowd is going to come out hard against him, just as they have turned on other parents and survivors. “Right now, there hasn’t been much blowback from the other side,” Martinez noted during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. “But I anticipate that once my grieving period is over, the gloves will come off. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. They are going to try to do to me the same thing that they’ve done to all of these people. But I have a message for them: My son is dead. There is nothing you could do to me that is worse than that.”
I can’t imagine a more direct rebuttal to the LaPierres and the Palins in this country. To the ridiculous rifle-holding Mitch McConnells and every other ludicrous coward currently walking the halls of Congress and state legislatures across the country. These are the people who — as Martinez has made explicit — are responsible for these terribly predictable and preventable tragedies. Because they have the power to implement sensible reform, but instead stand by and do nothing while more people die every single day.
Martinez also knows that while it’s the public’s job to hold our leadership’s feet to the fire, he’s not the one responsible for having all the answers. “Where’s the leadership on this? We elect these people and we give them power, and it’s just outrageous,” he said during the same interview. “My son just died a few days ago, and you expect me to have the answers to these questions? There are people out there who have the answers. Why isn’t our leadership rounding these people up?”
But Martinez’s grasp of the issue puts most of our elected officials to shame. “When you asked me about solutions, here’s what I’ve learned,” he explained. “This is a complicated issue, but there’s a certain commonality between these events. Typically, all of these incidents involved […] mental health issues, gun violence and violence against women. These three problems are almost always combined.”
Like other parents whose lives have been upturned by gun violence — women like Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin — Martinez recognizes and is naming the pattern of violence in the most public way imaginable. But while Congress has so far been wildly successful at shutting down gun reform efforts, parents like Martinez, McBath and Fulton — who are electrifying the national conversation and building solidarity among other families forever changed by rampant access to deadly weapons — may be impossible for them to ignore. They are the most powerful messengers we could ask for.
Martinez is brave, destroyed, weeping, loud, furious and unpredictable in his grief. He is channeling all of that with a singular focus: Change. Or as he said that first day, introducing himself to the world as the grieving but determined father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez: “Not one more.”
“For me to live with this and honor his memory, I will continue to go anywhere and talk to anybody for as long as they want and are willing to listen to me about this problem. I’m not going to shut up,” he said Tuesday. He really seems to mean it.
As a shooting spree leaves seven dead in California, the gun lobby is trying to thwart attempts to study gun deaths and officials who see gun violence as a public health crisis.
Yet another massacre occurred last night at an institution of learning, this time the University of California, Santa Barbara. The price we paid for the National Rifle Association’s “freedom” was seven people murdered and seven injured at nine different crime scenes.
A young man who Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called “severely mentally disturbed” drove by various student hangouts to commit an act of “premeditated mass murder” apparently—according to videos posted to YouTube and threats made to women on campus—due to his anger at being “rejected” by women on campus.The NRA wants less information and more Santa Barbaras.
Of course, this is all too familiar: a young aggrieved male, mentally disturbed, threatening others—especially women—but still able to get his hands on a high-capacity magazine of the variety used in so many other mass murders. This doesn’t happen in any other high income country with the regularity it does here; in fact, it almost never happens in any of them.
But here, in the good ole US of A, we’ve allowed a group of rich, entitled thugs who run an operation fronting for arms dealers—guys who represent a minority position on pretty much every issue having to do with reasonable regulation of firearms even among gun owners—to dictate our policies to cowardly, careerist politicians.
I already hear the outrage from the right: how can you blame the NRA? We need good guys to have guns, we have to stop the “haters” and “knockout gamers” and … I can’t even bear to repeat the infantile and inane talking points coming from cynical and callous people like the NRA’s Executive Vice President and foaming mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre.
We know how to stop these incidents, or at least greatly reduce them. We’ve seen other countries do it, such as Australia, which was averaging one of these massacres a year until their infamous Port Arthur Massacre in 1996. After which they completely overhauled their gun laws. Since then, a country with the same frontier history as the United States has not experienced one mass shooting. Not one. Their homicides and suicides have also precipitously dropped.
We, of course, could learn even more about how to stop these mass killings, as well as the everyday homicides, suicides and accidental killings that rob this nation of our youth, and everything they could have ever been. But this past week we’ve had numerous examples of how the NRA does their best to block this from happening, because they will gladly accept mass murder in Santa Barbara and Newtown, as well as an accidental bystander shooting in a neighborhood near you, if it keeps the dollars floating into their pockets from the ultimate blood-drenched 1%ers who own various staples of the gun industry
After attending the NRA’s Convention in Indianapolis, I wrote recently in these pages about all the NRA does to encourage paranoia and hatred while selling the weaponry not of self protection or hunting, but war, to anyone with a stack of bills and a glint in their eye.
But this past week we’ve seen the other side of the coin. How the NRA works to suppress information that would lead to treating a public health catastrophe that claims over 30,000 lives per year and injures over 100,000 as that very thing, while fighting to ensure we have as little access to information as possible that might help save lives.
The simple fact is, much like with their friends on the right from the tobacco industry to the oil industry to the megachurch, science and information are the enemies of the NRA. They have proven they will do whatever it takes to make sure we have less of it, and more Santa Barbaras.
The clearest example, of course, is the NRA’s labeling a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to once again use its considerable expertise to research gun violence prevention, “unethical.” Yes, they actually said that.
Because anyone who does statistically significant research on a public health problem from the angle of helping people and not profiting from misery, and again and again finds obvious truths such as owning guns makes you more likely to get shot, is not someone the NRA and its allies will countenance without smearing. I debated one of these types from the Second Amendment Foundation on NPR recently regarding the CDC. It is amazing how tongue-tied they get when you present them with irrefutable information.
As for the “unethical” attack, mind you, this comes from an organization that promotes the “work” of well-traveled right-wing welfare recipient John Lott, a clown and a fraud who has created studies lacking any statistical validity, has “lost” his research when asked to produce it, and actually got busted for creating a fake online persona—Mary Rosh—to show up in comments sections where he wrote articles to say how swell and dreamy he was as a professor. Unethical (and embarrassing), indeed.
As Rep. Maloney rightly put it, “In America, gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public health research to understand this crisis.”
The NRA’s fight to suppress information couldn’t be more apparent than it is in a rather pathetically titled column in Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller this past Friday. (Side note: As the NRA usually shuts up for at least 72 hours after a shooting, lest they remind people of their position as an accessory, having their views aired mere hours before this latest tragedy is enlightening).
The piece, written by chief NRA lobbyist and super-shill Chris Cox, was actually named, “We Love Our Moms and Trust Our Doctors, But We Still Don’t Want Gun Control.” Yes, we’re at the point where one of the top officials in the NRA feels the need to point out he has warm feelings for those who give life and those who save lives.
The reason for this, as he points out in his piece, is that he and his fellow street-war profiteers are fighting to block President Obama’s U.S. Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, from being appointed. What was his crime? He has been honest about guns being a public health problem, and has made the common sense recommendation that civilians not be allowed to own military weaponry.
The NRA is worried that, like with smoking in the past, if we have a Surgeon General who tells the truth, they will see their profits plummet. In fact, they’re not even trying to hide this fact (or doing a really, really bad job), as reported by Politico:
[Murthy’s] strongly backed by several health constituencies, such as public health advocates, research organizations and physician groups. Yet the NRA, as well as some Republicans, say past Murthy statements in support of gun control indicate that he could use the surgeon general job to promote anti-gun policies. Murthy has stated that he would not focus on gun violence in the position.
Cox attacks Moms Demand Action in this piece too, because Shannon Watts and her group have also used available information in the age of social media—in this case photos of lunatics open-carrying long guns in family establishments and intimidating customers—to get Chipotle to tell the gun fondlers they don’t want them bringing their weapons in their stores. And now Chili’s and other eateries are considering taking similar action.
Also this past week, the House’s answer to untreated rabies, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), attempted to force more guns on military institutions that don’t want them. Once again, we were forced to look at the NRA’s enemy: actual information—some of it bravely provided by top military brass both active and retired,standing up to the lies of the NRA and its allies.
Retired Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., even took the step of authoring a strongly worded letter to Congress, which laid out his thinking as follows:
As someone who has had to make the tough decisions about how best to manage service members under my command, I urge you to oppose Mr. Gohmert’s Amendment. This amendment will only cause more stress, confusion, and danger on military bases.
Later that night, Gohmert went to the House floor, defeated, and pulled his amendment.
Sadly for the NRA, we are in the Information Age, and the truth is starting to regularly get past their efforts to thwart it. But sadly for the rest of us—and at this moment, most tragically, the victims at Santa Barbara—the NRA have been so successful at bullying, threatening and obfuscating for so long, that we likely have too many more UC Santa Barbaras to come.
Source: Cliff Schecter for The Daily Beast