Thursday, 24 May 2018

Targeting the NRA — to Get Your Guns

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From the print edition of The New American

DALLAS, Texas — In multiple North Florida cities, drivers on major highways have been seeing huge billboards reading “The NRA is a terrorist organization.” That particular campaign was launched by “Mad Dog PAC,” an outfit run by former Bill Clinton staffer Claude Taylor. The group plans to pay for similar billboards in GOP-controlled states across America, including Texas, in the weeks and months ahead. They sell t-shirts accusing the NRA of terrorism, too. 

While the text on the billboards may sound extreme to everyday Americans, and especially to law-abiding gun owners, the fanatical and hateful rhetoric targeting the National Rifle Association and its members has reached a fever pitch this year. Along a major highway in Kentucky, anti-NRA vandals wrote “Kill The NRA” across a billboard. And on television and in newspapers across America, the NRA has seemingly become public enemy number one. 

Speaking on CNN, two of the ubiquitous Parkland students plastered across America’s TV screens by the media described the NRA as “child murderers.” Not only did the host let the incredibly malicious smear slide unchallenged, CNN was more than happy to push the narrative, running the headline: “Shooting survivor calls NRA ‘child murderers’” after the segment aired. Countless anti-gun protesters given a megaphone by the establishment media were allowed to make similarly outlandish accusations, generally without being challenged.    

Indeed, after the Parkland shooting — as usual, carried out in a gun-free zone where law-abiding citizens are disarmed by law — it was open season on the NRA. Many large corporations severed ties with the organization, including First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent A Car, National Car Rental, Symantec, Hertz, MetLife, SimpliSafe, Avis, Budget, Allied, North American Van Lines, TrueCar, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Paramount Rx, Starkey, and more. A trickle turned into a flood, quickly, as well-funded AstroTurf groups pressured companies to cut ties with the NRA. 

The establishment’s strategy appears to be to relentlessly demonize the NRA as a stand-in for gun owners generally, and the unalienable rights enshrined in the Second Amendment specifically. And if all a person watched were the “fake news” outlets formerly known as “mainstream media,” it would be easy to believe that America was now fervently opposed to guns and the Second Amendment. It would also be easy to believe that the only thing standing in the way of “common-sense gun-safety measures” was the evil but dying “gun lobby” more commonly referred to as the NRA. 

Massive Convention, Political Celebs

But for gun rights, the reality is not nearly so bleak. Instead, as the recent NRA convention in Dallas showed clearly, the media is painting a wildly distorted picture of what is happening in America. Consider that in addition to recent record-breaking fundraising and membership numbers, the annual NRA gathering smashed previous attendance records. In all, close to 90,000 NRA members converged in Dallas for the three-day summit between May 4 and May 6, beating out the previous record set in 2013. In fact, it seems like the anti-gun jihad being bankrolled by establishment billionaires is actually backfiring in a major way. 

Aside from the record attendance by the grassroots members, the NRA convention was attended by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, both U.S. senators from Texas, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and countless other state and national political leaders. All of those individuals must deal with voters as they are — not as the media and the establishment wish them to be — in order to win elections. So the fact that virtually all of Texas’ state and national senior political leadership attended the convention is highly significant. It means politicians realize that the NRA (and by extension gun owners who support the Second Amendment) retains enough influence to make or break their campaigns. 

The rhetoric of the political leaders was significant, too. During his well-received speech, Trump showered praise on the NRA and its members for standing in defense of “those sacred rights, given to us by God, including the right to self-defense.” Treating them as crucial allies in his fight to “Make America Great Again,” Trump urged them to remain involved in politics. “The Constitution can’t be changed by judges, bureaucrats, or the United Nations,” Trump added, calling on judges to protect the Constitution and U.S. sovereignty. The president also spoke of how gun control in France and the United Kingdom had turned disarmed citizens into helpless victims in the face of jihad and terror. 

Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly has his own presidential ambitions, also spoke strongly in defense of gun rights, even touting efforts to arm school teachers in response to mass shootings in gun-free zones. “The quickest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Pence, echoing a longtime NRA slogan. Pence also blasted the media for covering up “the whole story about firearms in America” and how “firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens” make American communities safer.

Other top political leaders made similar comments about gun rights. “The Second Amendment is about the God-given right each and every one of us has to defend our lives, to defend our homes, to defend our children, to defend our family, and when the Second Amendment says ‘shall not be infringed’ it means exactly that!” declared U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The other U.S. senator from Texas, John Cornyn, a fellow Republican, told the NRA that there are some three million incidents each year in which guns are used to protect life or families. He urged gun owners to teach others about the benefits of guns, and called for more judges who would respect the Constitution and the Second Amendment as written by the Founders.  

Popular Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a liberty-minded Republican, told attendees at the convention that the answer to gun violence was stronger protections for gun rights. As an example, he spent time talking about hero Stephen Willeford, the man who grabbed his AR-15 to confront the mass murderer who targeted Christians at a church in Sutherland Springs late last year. “Because he had a gun, he saved lives,” Abbott said, speaking of Willeford’s actions. Other speakers also touted Willeford’s armed heroism, and Willeford himself spoke at the convention, too. The establishment media mostly ignored him and those who spoke about his deeds.    

Inside the NRA convention, the massive crowds were enthusiastic, optimistic, and heavily armed. Almost a thousand exhibitors showed off everything from guns disguised as cellphones to high-powered rifles to firearm accessories and all sorts of ammunition. The venue was so packed that the NRA reportedly ran out of space for companies hoping to set up booths. People of all races, ages, colors, and creeds mingled and laughed together. And virtually every attendee who spoke with The New American had a solid understanding of gun rights and the real purpose behind the Second Amendment.

Photo: Alex Newman

This article appears in the June 4, 2018, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.

“The overarching aspect of the Second Amendment is to protect us from — to give us the ability to fight off — a tyrannical government,” Colion Noir, a child of Nigerian immigrants who now hosts the incredibly popular NRA Freestyle web series NOIR, told The New American in an interview. “But not only that, it symbolically represents the freedom that we cherish in this country. It’s something that is incredibly important in establishing the idea of self-preservation and also self-reliance, something that’s unique to our country compared with other places around the world.”

Indeed, throughout the conference, almost everybody who was asked about gun rights agreed that the rights to keep and bear arms and to self-defense are inalienable, God-given rights. That means even if the Second Amendment were repealed, as some anti-gun extremists such as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens advocated recently, Americans would still retain their rights. And virtually every attendee, including young people who spoke to The New American, understood why the Founding Fathers included gun rights among those specifically protected in the Bill of Rights. Hint: It was not for hunting.

Fringe Protests

Outside the NRA convention, a small group of fringe anti-gun demonstrators — a few hundred at most — blasted the NRA and demanded “common-sense gun-safety” legislation. But for every one protester outside the convention seeking more infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, there were almost 500 NRA members inside standing firm for the Second Amendment, based on the NRA’s official numbers and a Reuters estimate on the size of the anti-gun protests. And yet, somehow, the anti-gun protests dominated the establishment media’s coverage of events in Dallas, possibly because there were no shootings for the media to obsess about despite 90,000 gun owners in one place.

Even outside the convention, the anti-gun protests were dwarfed by counter-protests supporting gun rights. Many of the pro-gun activists were heavily armed, and more than a few told The New American that they did not think the NRA was vigorous enough in protecting gun rights. The pro-gun activists at the rally, many of whom were not affiliated with the NRA in any way and were not counted among the nearly 90,000 attendees, also set up a massive white banner with an image of an “assault rifle” on it with the words “Come and Take It” across the bottom. The anti-gun side was not amused.

A significant number of pro-gun activists rallying outside, touting the God-given right to keep and bear arms, said any permits or regulations were infringements and should be abolished. “Right now we’re pushing for constitutional carry, which means that if you’re legally able to own a firearm, you are legally able to carry it without having a license,” Truman Hubbard with Open Carry Texas, who was not attending the NRA convention, told The New American in an interview. “I should not need the government’s permission to carry a firearm.” Many attendees were fans of Gun Owners of America, which, unlike the NRA, refuses to compromise on Americans’ gun rights, even for seemingly small infringements. 

The press was hardly interested in speaking with the pro-gun activists, though. Instead, they relentlessly hyped the anti-gun protests, using dishonesty to brazenly mislead their readers to give the impression that the tiny protests were the stars of the show. The New American interviewed more than a dozen anti-gun protesters to see what they were thinking, and one common thread throughout most of the interviews was a lack of knowledge on their part, reliance on feelings and emotions, and a naïve trust in the establishment media. Ironically, many of those pushing gun control thought Trump was a dictator in waiting, though he has been reducing government controls, unlike his immediate predecessors.

Despite their naïveté, the protesters were certainly creative. A truck driving around the area, for instance, featured a picture of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, along with Russian-style writing. Questions such as “How much money have you taken from Russia?” and “Why have you cozied up to Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin?” adorned the sides of the advertisements. The implication was clear: Anybody who stands against the establishment agenda of gun control, Big Government, globalism, and the far-left must be an agent of Big Government leader Putin.

Many of the protesters who spoke with The New American magazine, including Cassi Marietti, who identified herself as a leader with the group “Indivisible Rockwall,” echoed the claims made on the side of the trucks. “The NRA is a vehicle for Russia,” she told this reporter, sounding totally serious. When asked to elaborate, she claimed that “Russia” had “given money” to the NRA and President Trump. Some of her associates vigorously nodded in agreement and made similar claims. When asked for evidence, though, the best they could come up with was that they had read it “somewhere.” By contrast, they denied receiving funding or guidance from billionaire anti-gun extremists George Soros or Michael Bloomberg, who have bankrolled much of the anti-NRA machine including the AstroTurf “March for Our Lives” protests exposed by The New American in our April 23 issue.

Marietti argued against arming teachers. Among other concerns, she said it would lead to police shooting them. “The police will come in and shoot the coach,” she insisted. And she called for a gun-buyback program such as the one implemented in Australia. But when informed that that was mandatory gun confiscation, she quickly said that her envisioned program would be optional. “But I would love to take their AR-15s,” added Marietti, referring to America’s most popular rifle. She pointed to her poster, which featured a gory wound on somebody’s arm or leg that she said had been caused by an AR-15.

When asked what they wanted, and whether gun-rights activists were correct in asserting that the protesters wanted to take away guns, most of those interviewed by The New American insisted that they had no intention of totally disarming Americans. Instead, they called for “common-sense gun-safety” laws, which is a carefully crafted marketing slogan that has been pushed by gun-control groups and media outlets that realize Americans overwhelmingly support the right to keep and bear arms. “We do want to ban stock bumps [sic],” said one of the Indivisible Rockwall protesters. Another quickly chimed in: “Bump stocks, we want to ban bump stocks.” Another said all gun owners should be licensed and registered, “like car owners.” All of them agreed that they wanted “automatic weapons” banned, perhaps unaware that such weapons have been practically illegal for civilians for generations.

Fake News

Beyond the bogus conspiracy theories linking Trump and the NRA to the Kremlin, the gullibility of protesters and their reliance on fake news was clearly taking its toll on public discourse across many subjects. Other protesters, for instance, apparently reading too much propaganda from the establishment media, carried signs attacking the NRA for hypocrisy for allegedly banning guns at its own convention. That meme was thanks to misleading headlines and media reports such as one by the Huffington Post, which claimed “NRA Convention Bans Guns to Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop.” It began earlier with fake news from the Associated Press, which reported, “NRA bans guns at President Trump, VP Pence speeches during it’s [sic] annual meeting in Dallas.” The Washington Post followed up with another phony headline: “The NRA said guns will be banned during a Pence speech; Parkland students see hypocrisy.”

In reality, though, guns were everywhere throughout the massive convention hall and all around it — openly strapped to people’s waists, concealed under their belts, on display in cases on the convention floor, and more. The only exception to the ubiquitous presence of guns was when the U.S. Secret Service took control over one area of the convention so President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence could give speeches. Obviously, guns were not allowed there by Secret Service order — after all, more than a few anti-Trump activists have openly called for his assassination. The NRA had nothing to do with the decision, and guns were most definitely not banned at the convention. In short, it was total fake news. 

The coverage of the tiny protests also illustrated the fake-news problem well. Consider that the protesters represented the fringe of the fringe, making up about 0.2 percent of those at the convention. And yet, from reading the press, it would be easy to believe that embattled NRA members were cowering in the face of massive protests all around them demanding gun control. CNN was by far the most ridiculed media outlet in Dallas. But other outlets were even more dishonest. Tax-funded propaganda outlet National Public Radio (NPR), for instance, showered coverage on the anti-NRA protesters in a series of articles about them while practically ignoring the army of gun-rights activists. 

One of its essentially “fake news” stories on the protesters, headlined “Students, Celebrities And The Faithful Protest Outside Of The NRA Convention,” was picked up by tax-funded affiliates nationwide. But the piece was more than a little misleading, to put it mildly. “Thousands of gun enthusiasts,” NPR “reporter” Sasha Ingber claimed, were there to “revel in displays of firearms and hunting accessories.” In reality, almost 90,000 gun enthusiasts were there — and their primary purpose was to defend the Second Amendment and stand by those who protect it, not “revel” in “displays of firearms.” NPR is normally far more specific on numbers, especially when trying to hype anti-gun protests. 

It got even worse from there, though. Suggesting equivalency, Ingber continued by claiming that “some crowds are staying outside to protest.” In reality, the alleged “crowds” of protesters represented less than one-fourth of one percent of the number of those who gathered for the NRA convention, if that. But reading the article without knowing more, a naïve reader outside Dallas could easily be duped into believing the “crowds” were equal and opposing forces, rather than realizing that the “crowds” were just a few hundred fringe activists.

The dishonest article goes on to quote a number of those fringe activists, never challenging the false assumptions and outright falsehoods they parroted. In what has become standard operating procedure for the establishment media, the tax-funded propaganda outlet presented a handful of people — three, maybe four — as if they were a “group” with broad support. For instance, the NPR report claimed a “group” called “Faith Forward Dallas” hosted a “vigil.” During the entire weekend, The New American never observed more than four people associated with the “vigil.” And even some of those were also representing other groups such as “Moms Demand Action,” which were similarly hyped by the media as if they represented an equal and opposite force to the NRA. The NPR report failed to mention the fact that even outside the NRA convention, pro-gun rallies dwarfed the minuscule anti-gun rallies.

Even Fox News ran an Associated Press article making a big deal out of the tiny protest under the headline “Protesters gather as NRA members meet in Dallas.” According to the report, a group called #NoRA, founded by actress Alyssa Milano, was behind the rally. Milano told AP that her group was “trying to shine the light on the NRA’s stronghold over policymaking in Washington.” With millions of politically active members and a positive reputation among most voters, it is hardly a surprise to anyone that the NRA is influential in policymaking, so it was not immediately clear why Milano and her group found it necessary to “shine the light” on that. Indeed, top policymakers at all levels of government were proudly giving speeches inside — if only the media had cared to look. 

Another media outlet owned by Fox parent News Corporation, the Wall Street Journal, used a similarly misleading headline: “Protests Outside NRA Convention Pull Focus to School Gun Violence.” A video under the headline included mostly interviews with anti-gun protesters, lots of emotion, and a handful of pro-gun protesters carrying scary-looking weapons. The only reason the tiny group of protesters pulled “focus” to “gun violence” was because the dishonest media hyped the protests relentlessly while ignoring the facts and the real world.     

Even the handful of articles that did not primarily focus on protesters worked to mislead people. In an article about the 2018 NRA convention’s record attendance, The Hill noted: “Protesters also gathered outside the convention, calling for stronger gun control.” Of course, that is true. But it does not give any sense to the reader about the reality on the ground — again, there were about 500 times more NRA members than anti-gun protesters. But reading The Hill or virtually any other establishment publication, one would never know it.    

Fighting Back

Inside the convention, dozens of attendees who spoke with The New American ridiculed the so-called mainstream media, blasting them as “pathetic,” “fake news,” “anti-American,” “liars,” and more than a few words that cannot be printed here. One man photographed by this reporter outside the convention wore a t-shirt reading “CNN Terrorist,” poking fun at the far-left activist network masquerading as a “news” operation for its constant stream of what he derided as “fake news.” Indeed, disdain for the media — and the “fake news” kings at CNN in particular — was ubiquitous among the massive crowds in attendance. The establishment press seemed to be even less popular than gun-grabbing far-left Democrat politicians.

President Trump was perhaps the most high-profile voice to speak out. Not surprisingly, he ridiculed what he called “fake news CNN,” an outfit he routinely derides as among the worst “fake news” offenders, for promoting what he described as a “witch hunt” against him and Americans. And indeed, nothing and nobody was less popular at the NRA convention than CNN, which was frequently lambasted by attendees as the “Communist News Network” or the “Clinton News Network.” Even worse than CNN, though, Trump said, was CBS. The audience repeatedly booed the media every time the media was mentioned. 

“People realize that a lot of what you read and see on television is fake,” Trump said, touting his increasing poll numbers amid constant hostile reporting and even fake news designed to attack him. “People are smart.” Trump also ridiculed the “phony polls” showing Clinton would win, suggesting his current approval ratings are much higher than the press admits. Of course, Trump’s electoral victory proved the establishment media’s credibility and influence were all but gone among mainstream Americans.  

NRA heavyweights at the convention were not amused by the media’s antics either. Dana Loesch, an NRA spokeswoman who has become something of a celebrity among pro-gun citizens, ridiculed the press in comments to The New American. “The fake media, the so-called mainstream media, I haven’t even seen any of them here, so I don’t know how they think they can write about these folks with any accuracy,” said Loesch, who previously had been mobbed during a phony CNN “debate” in which pro-gun questions from students were reportedly banned and the crowd was packed with anti-gun activists. “These folks here are the real America. These are the nicest people you’ll find anywhere. The media doesn’t want to show that.” 

In an interview with The New American before going on NRA TV, Noir, the NRA star, explained why the media spends so much time dishonestly demonizing the group. “They understand how important the NRA is in preserving the Second Amendment,” he said, adding that the NRA is a “freedom” organization. “If they weren’t worried about the NRA preserving the Second Amendment when they would like to destroy it, they wouldn’t be attacking them so vehemently.” In response, he called on Americans to use social media to promote the Second Amendment and bypass the “misinformation” being disseminated by CNN, MSNBC, and other anti-gun outlets. 

Propaganda Backfiring

With the brazen dishonesty of the media on full display throughout the NRA convention and beyond, it is no wonder that less than one-third of Americans surveyed by Gallup say they have even a “fair” amount of trust in the press. Among Republicans, less than 15 percent expressed any trust in the press. If the media keeps this up, even those last stragglers may eventually wake up. For perspective, in 1976, the highest point on record since Gallup began asking in 1972, almost three-fourths of Americans expressed a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the press. Today, it is at the lowest level ever recorded, 32 percent, and still plummeting fast.   

Ironically, despite the media’s frothing over civilian gun ownership, public support for gun control continues to plummet to historic lows. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released two days before the March for Our Lives, for example, revealed that almost 60 percent of American adults now recognize the fact that widespread gun ownership enhances public safety. For perspective, those numbers were basically flipped 20 years ago, meaning Americans are getting more and more pro-gun as time passes. In other words, the media narrative is not just falling flat — it is backfiring in spectacular fashion.  

Even among teenagers, who the media claims are preparing an uprising against guns and the NRA, a USA Today/Ipsos poll taken after the Parkland shooting found less than half of students 13 to 17 believe stricter gun control or background checks would help prevent mass shootings. As they get older and wiser, even more will see through the media’s lies.  

Perhaps more interesting and revealing, even the anti-gun protesters at the anti-gun rally in Dallas mostly shied away from calling for outright gun bans or confiscation. Instead, they parroted the “common-sense gun-safety” mantra, part of the establishment’s strategy to slowly chip away at gun rights rather than reveal their hand. But if anything, their hesitation to admit their true goals is a testament to just how badly the establishment is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of Americans.

While the future certainly looks bright for firearms ownership in America, it is much too early to declare victory — and the establishment does not give up easily. The fight is not over, and it may never truly be over. Those who seek to disarm Americans have been working patiently for dec-ades, and they will continue to exploit every tragedy to advance their objective.

And it is not just about guns. As more than a few NRA convention attendees told The New American, disarming law-abiding citizens is only a prelude to infringing on other fundamental freedoms — free speech, religious liberty, and more. “Being an Orthodox Jew in America, I know that once our firearm freedoms go, our religious freedom and our other rights will all be under threat too,” said Jonathan Burstyn, a concealed-carry instructor from Illinois. “That is why I consider the NRA to be at the forefront of protecting freedoms in this country.” He was also a fan of the organization Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, which understands better than most the deadly implications of gun control, with many Jews having relatives killed in the Holocaust.

The Second Amendment has always been the one that protects all the rest, as America’s Founders intended and as most of the NRA convention attendees understood well. Even communists have understood this. Mao Tse-tung famously put it this way: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” He was right. For now, Americans have 300 million guns, and as such, they retain political power. But if that should ever change, freedom would no longer be secure. Considering the full-blown assault on the Second Amendment being waged by the establishment and its propaganda machine, Americans must urgently get involved in defending gun rights. Freedom is literally on the line.

Kurt Hyde and John Jennings contributed to the reporting for this article.

Photo: Alex Newman

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