Frontline On The NRA: “Gunned Down”

080513_frontline_stack_card.380x212.jpg.fit.480x270For anyone who is interested in the gun control debate should watch this episode of “Frontline” entitled “Gunned Down.”

The documentary is about the NRA and it’s powerful lobbying history. It covers how the organization has always come out on top despite many senseless murders and massacres committed by assailants with firearms. Follow the link. (I apologize about using the link instead of embedding the video. WordPress does not allow Frontline’s documentaries to be embedded on its platform)

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365397152?chapter=1” target=”_blank”>Frontline: “Gunned Down”

 

 

 

 

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NRA and Gun Advocates’ Bizarre and Ignorant Opposition to New UN Arms Trade Treaty

On Tuesday, the United Nations passed a new treaty regarding international trade of arms that, as UNICEF’s chief of Child Protection puts it,

“asks States to explicitly consider the risk that an arms transfer could facilitate serious acts of violence against women and children before allowing it to proceed…This is critical given that weapons are now one of the leading causes of death of children and adolescents in many countries, including many that are not experiencing war.”

But the treaty must now be ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate in order for it to become law, a hurdle that may be too much to overcome for advocates of the resolution.  As reported by Reuters, the Senate already took symbolic action against the treaty nearly two weeks before it was even passed by the UN.  So, why the opposition?  What’s in the wording of the treaty that’s so bad?

The awfulness of this allegedly frightening legislation is tackled in the piece from Reuters by two opponents.  First, a member of the Senate:

“The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty … would require the United States to implement gun-control legislation as required by the treaty, which could supersede the laws our elected officials have already put into place,” said Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Next, a warning from executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Chris Cox:

“We have always been clear that any treaty which does not expressly exclude civilian firearms ownership from its scope will be met with the NRA’s greatest force of opposition.”

100% accurate. Reloads with clips full of funding from gun manufacturers.

Oh, no!  The UN is going to disarm all U.S. citizens by superseding our laws!  Grab your guns and run for cover!

Or (and I know this is a crazy idea before I suggest it) we could actually try reading the words contained within the treaty itself.  If we did that, we might find out something amazing: the ignorant statements by Inhofe and the NRA show they did not read it.  If they did, they might have noticed this statement…on the first page:

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.

In other words, if your country has..I don’t know…let me make something up…let’s say, a constitutional amendment allowing the right to bear arms, that right does not change at all.  Not one bit.  The treaty says it cannot “supersede” your countries domestic laws on arms.

But just in case they skipped reading the first page, there is this on the second:

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law.

Again, not infringing on anyone’s gun ownership rights or rewriting the civilian firearms laws in the United States.

In fact, as noted by Reuters, we already follow the provisions of the treaty:

The United States is already in compliance with the treaty’s terms because of its weapons export and import laws, they (diplomats and activists) said, but U.S. approval could put pressure on other nations to adopt similar limits.

And if we take a look at current U.S. law on arms importing and exporting (here) and compare it with the treaty, it does appear we do have these regulations in place.

With all this being said, we should ask Inhofe and the NRA why they oppose this treaty so vehemently?

And this time, they should probably try giving answers that make it look like they have read the treaty with some distinct details instead of just automatically opposing any legislation regarding guns.

NRA Using Switzerland as Example? Not so Fast

Many opponents of any gun control measures in the United States use the country of Switzerland as an example of how guns are supposedly not the problem when it comes to number of gun deaths.  So I suppose we should have gun laws that mimic those of the Swiss and I’m sure gun control opponents would agree.  Or would they?

An article from the BBC delves into the gun culture of Switzerland and notes a few points worth mentioning at length since gun advocates would probably not be so keen to hold the Swiss as an example for proper gun laws:

Gun laws (in Switzerland) concerning army weapons have tightened. Although it is still possible for a former soldier to buy his firearm after he finishes military service, he must provide a justification for keeping the weapon and apply for a permit.

Neither of these is even remotely necessary when buying a gun in the U.S., of course.  It continues:

Mathias, a PhD student and serving officer…”And we don’t get bullets any more,” he adds. “The Army doesn’t give ammunition now – it’s all kept in a central arsenal.” This measure was introduced by Switzerland’s Federal Council in 2007.

So gun but no bullets.  Wonder how the NRA feels about that?  It goes further:

“Shooting instructors at rifle clubs always control who is shooting,” he says. And all ammunition bought at the club has to be used there.

“When the shooting is finished and the person wants to leave the club, the instructor will look to see how many bullets have been shot and will demand the rest are given back.”

NRA advocating that type of control?  Nope.  Yet they use the Swiss as an example of a society with high gun ownership and a lower number of gun murders than the United States.  Maybe everyone should play along and ask for Swiss-type gun laws.  Then let’s see how closely the NRA continues to uphold the gun-toting Swiss as their ace-in-the-hole argument.

NRA’s La Pierre and Infowars’ Blatant Abuse of Data

One of the most important lessons to learn about observation of the political arena is the reality people can extract whatever info they want from given data to push their point and completely ignore other aspects that would make them look like fools.  This was painfully apparent in recent dispatches from the right wing of American politics.

The first I noticed in a statement made by current head of the NRA, Wayne La Pierre.  While backing his controversial stance on armed personnel in schools, he reinforced his position and made the following statement:

He added that in Friday’s news conference, “I said what I honestly thought and what millions, and hundreds of millions, of people all over this country believe will actually make a difference.”

“Hundreds of millions” of people back his position?  In other words, at least 200 millions Americans?  Quite the claim.  Just one problem: the lack of any actual scientific polling data even remotely backing this claim.

Why does this continue to happen?

The current population of the United States is slightly over 310 million people.  This would mean any polls addressing this question or ones like it should show more than 66% in favor of armed guards, police, principals, teachers, etc. in schools.  (This is, of course, completely ignoring the fact that %23.7 of the population is under the age of 18 and would be unlikely to take part in these polls.  Subtracting the roughly 70 million minors from the polled population would mean over %83 would have to favor La Pierre’s position to hit the 200 million mark.  But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and completely ignore these facts just to be nice and just as he obviously has.)

So, do the polls show enough support of the idea to support the NRA head’s claim?  Doesn’t appear that way.

According to this WSJ poll, a little over 42% support the position.  This poll has it at just below %42.  This one comes in at a little over %45.  This NPR poll came in higher at a little above %57 but the wording of the question should be noted and could be the reason for the increase.  The Pew Research Center did some of their more scientific polling but failed to asked a question specifically regarding armed personnel in schools.  However, one question was asked that is directly relevant to this issue.  Respondents were asked, “does gun ownership do more to protect people from crime or put people’s safety at risk?”  Pierre’s idea is to put guns in schools as a means of protection so this question is basically asking the same thing in a different way.  %48 agreed it protects people from crime which is still well below the %66 La Pierre would need to support his claim.  All of this is coupled with the reality some prominent Republicans, such as former RNC head Michael Steele and former presidential hopeful and NJ Governor Chris Christie, criticized his argument as misguided at best.

So, La Pierre’s claim has seemingly no real data to back it up and there was an apparent gap in information that needed to be filled.  Enter hard right-wing website Infowars.  An article was posted making a claim that would appear to give credence to the NRA head’s statement and used the following headline:

Gallup poll: 64 percent of Americans want school officials armed to protect children.

Now this is an impressive headline and is even allegedly coming from a legit polling source in Gallup.  Just one hangup the author probably should have noted before even writing the body of the article: the title is not factual.

The headline suggests Americans want this action taken and support the measure.  That’s not what they were asked, however.  The question (polling data from Gallup here) asked was not “do you support this” but “do you think this is effective.”  Respondents were essentially given three choices, two of which can be seen as supporting the issue.  In the case of armed personnel in schools, %34 thought it is “very effective” and %30 said “somewhat effective”, giving the Infowars author the %64 figure.  If we look at what people would consider “very effective” methods to combat this type of violence, a school official carrying a gun came in 5th out of 6 choices.  Not as impressive in terms of support when stated that way but don’t tell the author or anyone believing his work that.

It should also be pointed out that, just because we view something as “effective”, doesn’t mean we would support its implementation.  Take, for example, the castration of all sex offenders regardless of crime.  Effective in terms of stopping these offenders from committing more sex crimes but obviously not supported as a means to solve the problem.  Herein lies the importance of recognizing Gallup’s wording in this poll.

But that isn’t the only element that should be noted from this piece of propaganda.  If you read the article closely and read the results from Gallup, you might notice something is missing from the Infowars article.  The author cleverly left out the fact that, in terms of what people see as a “very effective” way to combat school shootings, banning the sale of assault and semi-automatic guns beat out armed school officials, %42 to %34.  The author mentions many of the other results but completely omits that one.  Gee, I wonder why?  (I’m not really wondering why, by the way.)  Even if we combine the results, they are nearly identical at %64 and %63.  Considering this is within the margin of error, banning assault and semi-automatic weapons probably deserves its own article on Infowars yet isn’t even mentioned in the one posted.

Taking all of this into consideration, there is no real evidence backing the outlandish claim of La Pierre that his position has the support of “hundreds of millions” of Americans.  And no matter how hard right-wing propaganda sites like Infowars try to sell their positions, we shouldn’t be tricked into believing them when the data does not add up.  The ultimate truth is these claims from the NRA and Infowars have one critical element in common: they are both lacking in an important little thing called facts.