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“Gun Lobby Propaganda”: The NRA And The Myth Of The 20-Minute Police Response Time At Sandy Hook

Appearing on Fox News Sunday this week, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre was pressed about the controversial ad the group created in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre that referenced the armed protection President Obama’s daughters receive.

Even as host Chris Wallace belittled as “ridiculous” the ad’s premise that all children deserve the same kind of protection that the president’s children have, LaPierre defended the ad and said, “Tell that to the people of Newtown.”

“So they should have Secret Service”? Wallace asked.

In response, LaPierre propagated a favorite falsehood of the pro-gun media lobby [emphasis added]:

LAPIERRE: No, but what they should have is police officers or certified armed security in those schools to keep people safe. If something happens, the police time — despite all their good intentions, is 15 to 20 minutes. It’s too long. It’s not going to help those kids.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, LaPierre bemoaned the fact kids aren’t safe at school, in part because it takes police 15 to 20 minutes to respond to a deadly shooting like the one in Connecticut.

But that’s not true and it’s time the news media start calling out anti-gun control extremists like LaPierre and Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, among others, who keep peddling the obvious falsehood in the press.

Fact: The Newtown police station is located approximately two miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School. There’s no way it would have taken law enforcement 20 minutes to respond to the first 911 calls reporting gunfire at the school. (Local cops could have run from the station and been at the school in less than 20 minutes.)

Fast-acting Newtown officers “made it in under three minutes, arriving in the parking lot while gunfire could still be heard,” according to New York Times interviews with the first responders that day.

But if you listen to LaPierre as well as other anti-gun control advocates who are making the media rounds, you’re led to believe gunman Adam Lanza roamed the hallways of Sandy Hook for nearly half an hour, killing people at will before law enforcement finally arrived; that terrified teachers and students were “waiting 20 minutes for the cops to show up,” as one pro-gun blogger claimed.

It’s not true. The claim is pure gun lobby propaganda.

The frightening specter of defenselessness is projected to boost the NRA’s claim that the only way to combat gun violence in school is not to control the sale and distribution of guns, but to put armed policemen in 98,000 schools in America. Other gun advocates use the phony 20-minute premise to bolster calls for allowing concealed weapons in schools.

Since the December 14 massacre, the 20-minute myth has been widely repeated among right-wing media outlets:

“It took the police 20 minutes to arrive at Sandy Hook. By the time they got there, it was over. [National Review Online]

“In the short run, stopping the next Sandy Hook means ending the deadly policy which gave the killer 20 minutes (until people with guns, the police, finally arrived) to fire 150 shots and repeatedly change magazines, murdering at leisure.” []

Unfortunately, the 20-minute myth got an early boost from, which posted an inaccurate timeline of the school massacre. CNN’s faulty claim that first responders arrived at Sandy Hook “about twenty minutes after the first” 911 calls was quickly embraced by right-wing bloggers who mocked the police’s slow response time.

But that single, erroneous report certainly can’t justify the continued misuse of the 20-minute myth, since the vast majority of Newtown reports got the facts right. Contrary to CNN timeline, it was widely reported last December that police and first responders arrived at the Newtown crime scene “instantaneously,” “within minutes” of the first 911 call, and “minutes after the assassin began his rampage.”

And two days after the shooting rampage, audio from Newtown police scanners was made public. It confirmed that officers were reporting back from the school just a few minutes after the first school calls came into the dispatcher that day.

Still, the 20-minute myth serves a political purpose, so people like factually challenged gun extremist Larry Pratt have used the concocted claim repeatedly in the media:

“The solution is for people to be able to defend themselves at the point of the crime and not wait for 20 minutes for the police come after everybody is dead.” [Dec. 18, CNN]

“And Newtown was the same, a school where nobody was able to have a gun, even if they had a concealed carry permit, which you can get in Connecticut. Nobody was able to shoot back. They had to wait some 20 minutes for the police to get there. That’s unacceptable.” [Dec. 28, Fox]

“Especially if you’re telling the potential victim you can’t be armed. You have to wait for the Cavalry to get here five, 10 or in the case of Newtown 20 minutes later. I find that unconscionable.” [Jan. 12, CNN]

“Well, the armed teacher is going to have a lot more chance stopping a mass murderer than the police who take 20 minutes to get there, as they did in Newtown, and that’s not an extraordinarily long response time.” [Jan. 17, Australia Broadcasting Corporation]

Pratt’s sinister assertion is pure fabrication. If gun advocates continue to peddle the lie, it’s up to journalists to call them on it. The falsehood purposefully hinders attempts to debate the pressing issue of gun violence, and serves an insult to the Newtown police officers on duty that dark day in December.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post Blog, Crossed Posted at County Fair, a Media Matters For America Blog, February 5, 2013

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Eeerily Similar Marketing Stragety Of The Tobacco Industry”: Gun Industry Aims To Sell Youth On Assault Weapons

Responding to Americans’ declining interest in shooting sports, gun manufacturers are developing programs to market their products to younger children. The National Shooting Sports Foundation trade association and the industry-funded National Rifle Association spend millions of dollars annually to recruit kids as gun enthusiasts. And those efforts increasingly focus on pushing semi-automatic assault weapons, including the very model used by the shooter in the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.

The New York Times reports:

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters.

Federal law prohibits the sale of rifles to those under age 18. But through programs at Boy Scout camps and 4-H clubs, the NRA trains children on how to safely shoot single-shot rifles. And, according to the report: “Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach ‘life skills’ like responsibility, ethics and citizenship.”

This effort seems eerily similar to the marketing strategy employed by the tobacco industry in the 1980s. Recognizing that the number of smokers in America was declining — and dying off — cigarette companies sought to addict underage children to ensure a continuing market for their product. A now infamous 1981 Philip Morris corporate memo noted that “[t]oday’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens. In addition, the 10 years following the teenage years is the period during which average daily consumption per smoker increases to the average adult level. The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris.”

One gun-industry study noted a similar need to “start them young,” observing that “stakeholders such as managers and manufacturers should target programs toward youth 12 years old and younger… This is the time that youth are being targeted with competing activities. It is important to consider more hunting and target-shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”


By: Josh Israel, Think Progress, January 27, 2013

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NRA Getting A Bang For Its Bucks”: Gun Sales Rise Sharply After Newtown Shooting

Firearm sales are surging across the country in response to President Barack Obama’s promise to pursue new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

According to a December 18 Fox News report, shortly after the massacre, consumers began buying huge numbers of AR-15 rifles — the same type used by shooter Adam Lanza — in preparation for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban:

–The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says it set a new record for single-day background check submittals this past weekend.

–In San Diego, Northwest Armory gun store owner Karl Durkheimer said Saturday “was the biggest day we’ve seen in 20 years. Sunday will probably eclipse that.”

–In southwest Ohio, from dawn to dusk a Cincinnati gun show had a line of 400 waiting to get in, said Joe Eaton of the Buckeye Firearms Association. ”Sales were through the roof on Saturday,” said Eaton. “People were buying everything they could out of fear the president would try to ban certain guns and high-capacity magazines.”

The initial sales surge has proven surprisingly durable in the days since the shooting. Several gun store owners told Outdoor Life’s John Haughey that the weekend before Christmas was one of their busiest ever.

According to local reporting, gun sales have also skyrocketed in Arizona and New Mexico.

One weapons company, Brownells Inc. — which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools — says that it sold an astonishing three and a half years worth of ammunition magazines in three days after the Newtown shooting.

This is the second major surge in gun sales over the past two months; they also rose sharply directly after President Obama’s re-election on November 6th.

The rapidly rising sales help to explain the motivation behind the NRA’s inflammatory response to the Newtown shooting. Although Wayne LaPierre’s defiant speech and appearance on Meet The Press were widely panned, they kept guns in the headlines, which have kept gun sales high. Over the past seven years, the gun industry has donated between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to the NRA’s corporate-giving campaign; even if Congress does reinstate the assault weapons ban in the coming months, it’s pretty clear that the NRA has gotten a good bang for its buck.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 26, 2012

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Sense Legislation”: To Get Better Gun Control, Don’t Use The Phrase

We can now be confident that last week’s massacre of 26 women and children at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, will not be swept under the carpet like so many mass shootings of the past.

President Barack Obama said Dec. 19 that he would act “without delay” after hearing from Vice President Joe Biden’s task force in January. We’ll probably spend much of the winter and spring debating Obama’s anti-violence proposal.

The question now is what the president — and the rest of us — can do to make sure that the National Rifle Association doesn’t once again intimidate enough members of Congress to gut the bill. The only answer is to build a smarter, more effective movement for common-sense gun laws than we have today, which means lots of meetings, marches, TV ads, door knocks and social- media campaigns.

Only the technology of movement-building has changed. Abolitionism, women’s suffrage, civil rights, conservation — every great stride forward in U.S. history has come from ordinary people defying the odds and bringing organized pressure to bear on politicians.

Any movement starts with its core legislative agenda. In this case, that means:

– Banning all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for everyone except the military.

– Requiring instant background checks on all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and online.

– Providing law enforcement full access to all state and local databases on felons and the mentally ill.

– Making illegal gun trafficking a felony.

Until now, the NRA has disgraced itself by blocking each of these no-brainer reforms, mostly by putting tens of millions of dollars behind its lies. The best thing Obama did in his news conference was his attempt to drive a wedge between NRA members, most of whom favor reasonable gun-safety laws, and their hardline officers and board of directors.

With the NRA’s news conference on Dec. 21, we’re about to see if its tardy response to the Newtown shootings plays with the public. I have my doubts. Once a bully is exposed in harsh daylight, it can be harder to instill fear again.

To break the NRA’s stranglehold, reformers need to shake off the hangdog fatalism of the past. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell often points out that he won three statewide elections against the gun lobby in a state that is second only to Texas in NRA membership.

Democrats are too worried about senators from Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana and West Virginia up for re-election in 2014. Even if many rural counties are out of reach, dozens of others in suburban areas are full of moderate and compassionate people who have not been approached imaginatively on the gun issue.

Doing so requires reframing the debate with new language, always an essential weapon in politics. That means retiring “gun control” (the “control” part is threatening to gun owners) and replacing it with “gun safety,” “anti-violence regulation,” “military weapons for the military only” and — on every occasion — “common sense.”

Mom-and-apple-pie appeals always work best. So far, with anti-gun groups starved for money, they haven’t been widely tried.

In the meantime, liberals need to downplay accurate but politically useless arguments. It’s true that violent videogames don’t cause shooting rampages, that state laws allowing concealed weapons are a menace, and that guns in the home are more likely to be used in an accidental shooting than to protect against burglars. But emphasizing these points just exacerbates cultural differences and does nothing to advance next year’s legislation.

What would? The most heartening remarks of the week came from people such as West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, who was elected in 2010 with an ad featuring him firing a gun. Now he believes it’s time to rethink some positions. A couple of country stars on his side (hello, Toby Keith) would help. So would anti-violence Super PACs (yet to be formed) airing attack ads in suburban media markets that thrust the NRA on the defensive, where it has never been.

The NRA spent more than $11 million on behalf of candidates in the 2012 cycle, a relatively small sum by today’s standards. Let’s see what happens when it has to respond to a heavy ad barrage next year that includes families talking about their dead children.

The president’s role — better late than never — is to mobilize his base. His 2012 grassroots political organization, the best ever built, raised more than $1 billion, amassed more than 15 million email addresses, contacted tens of millions of voters and recruited a million volunteers in battleground states.

Now the Obama team has the passionate issue it needs to target and organize crucial suburban congressional districts. If all House Democrats vote for the landmark bill next spring — a reasonable supposition — Obama would need the support of 17 House Republicans for it to pass.

The only thing they or other members care about is their own political survival. So the question for them is this: What’s the use of a 100 percent NRA rating in the Republican primary if it’s going to doom you in the general?

I know, I know. This sounds like a fantasy. The gun lobby likes to point to the elections of 1994 and 2000, when several Democrats who backed the assault-weapons ban lost their seats. No federal gun laws have been passed since. New ones at the state level have all been for the worse.

But U.S. politics is in a state of transition. Obama won a solid majority in November. His army — not the NRA’s — is the one that’s on the march. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was so unspeakable that it may yet help a whole new generation of political activists to find their voice.


By: Jonathan Alter, Bloomberg View, The National Memo, December 21, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Public Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Bullets Keep Raining Down”: Too Many People Who Should Not Have Guns, Do

On the day after the recent massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, police in Newport Beach, CA, took a man into custody for allegedly firing more than 50 rounds from a semi-automatic handgun in the parking lot of a shopping mall. He aimed into the air and no one was hit, though one person was hurt slightly while running away. Police say 42-year-old Marcos Gurrola was destitute and frustrated with his circumstances. Firing dozens of rounds at the sky was his way of venting.

If there is a more apt metaphor for where this nation now finds itself than some fool standing befuddled as bullets rain down about him, one finds it hard to imagine.

Come, then. Let us weep for the 20 children shot to pieces by the young man who invaded their elementary school wielding semi-automatic weapons. Let us mourn for the six adults who could not save the children, could not save themselves, who died as the children died, shot multiple times at close range. Let us whisper our sorrows and shed our tears. Let us stagger against one another in our mountainous grief. Let us light our candles and leave them at makeshift shrines to be cared for by the uncaring sun and rain.

But let us also understand these as acts of moral masturbation, in that they satisfy some need, yet have no chance of producing anything of lasting consequence. Let us not pretend our sorrow in this moment means a damn thing or changes a damn thing, because it doesn’t and won’t. Not until or unless the American nation is finally willing to confront its unholy gun love.

The parameters of this argument have not changed for generations. On the one side are people who enjoy hunting for sport or sustenance and people who, when bad guys come through the door, want to have more in their hands than just hands. They are, by and large, decent and responsible individuals who know and respect guns and resent any suggestion that they are not trustworthy to own them.

On the other side are equally decent and responsible people who think we ought to take reasonable steps to ensure that children, emotionally disturbed individuals and violent felons have no access to guns, people who believe no hunter requires 30 rounds to bag a deer and no homeowner not expecting to be attacked by a band of ninjas has need of an AK-47 to protect her property.

There is, you will notice, nothing about one side of that argument that precludes the other. Reasonable people who had their country’s best interests at heart could have bridged the distance between the two many dead bodies ago.

Such people are, unfortunately, in woefully short supply.

What are rather more plentiful are lawmakers in thrall to the gun lobby and to an ideology that finds more to fear in a paranoid fantasy (jackbooted government thugs coming to seize your guns) than in an objective reality (innocent people repeatedly, senselessly, unnecessarily dying).

Is this where that changes? Maybe.

Certainly the magnitude of what happened in Newtown seems to have imposed a rare lucidity upon the debate. One sees Sen. Joe Manchin, conservative Democrat from West Virginia and a staunch ally of the NRA, calling for gun control, and it is cause for hope.

Then one hears Sen. Joe Lieberman suggest that videogames may have played a role in the shooting. And Mike Huckabee says maybe it happened because the government no longer mandates prayer in schools. And Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s Republican governor, suggests the teachers should have been armed (as if the problem is that there were too few guns in that school). And hope chokes.

We have paid and continue to pay an obscene price for this lesson some of us obstinately refuse to learn. We paid it in Tucson, AZ, and we paid it on the campus of Virginia Tech. We paid it at Columbine High and at a midnight showing of a Batman movie in Aurora, CO. We’ve paid it in Compton, CA, and Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Norcross,GA, We’ve paid it in Gilbert, AZ, Bechtelsville, PA, Prince George’s County, MD, Bay City, TX, Copley, OH, and Lauderdale Lakes and North Miami, FL.

Now we pay it in Newtown, in the blood of teachers and young children. We have paid more than enough.

And our choice could not be more clear. We can continue with acts of moral masturbation. We can harrumph and pontificate about how the problem is videogames or the problem is a lack of prayer or the problem is too few guns.

Or we can finally agree that the problem is obvious: too many people who should not have guns, do.

Unless we achieve the simple courage to reach that consensus, nothing else we do will change anything. Let us weep, let us mourn. Let us whisper sorrow and shed tears. Meanwhile, frightened children return to school in Newtown.

And bullets keep raining down.


By: Leonard Pitts, The National Memo, December 24, 2012

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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