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Astroturf: The Anti-Gunners’ Playing Field

Friday, April 24, 2015

Astroturf: The Anti-Gunners’ Playing Field

Gun owners have become all too familiar with two unfortunate facts of life in 21st-century America. First, we know the mainstream media is not interested in reporting the facts when it comes to the Second Amendment. Second, Everytown for Gun Safety’s Michael Bloomberg, and like-minded anti-gunners, will stop at nothing to destroy our freedoms. This alliance of ignorance and deceit employs distortion and even outright lies to pursue the ultimate goal of destroying private gun ownership.

The good news is that a few reporters are unwilling to act as the unquestioning mouthpieces of anti-freedom groups, instead striving to actually report the news instead of pushing an agenda. One good example is Sharyl Attkisson, a former reporter for CBS who resigned after being pressured to back off from stories that could cast the Obama administration in a bad light. The goal when astroturfing is to convince decision-makers that some borderline agenda has a groundswell of support.

In her blog, Attkisson has described how “astroturfing” has become a favored tactic among political operatives to advance their objectives. The goal when astroturfing is to convince decision-makers that some borderline agenda has a groundswell of support. It presents a distorted reality in which consensus about some (unestablished) “fact” or “facts” has been reached and a (marginal) belief is widely shared by the public.

Attkisson names various Bloomberg-created anti-gun offshoots such as Everytown, Moms Demand Action, etc., as the foremost perpetrators of this deceitful tactic. In the world they portray, “reasonable” people—moms, mayors, doctors, lawyers, police chiefs—all agree that guns are bad. Only the NRA, and its inexplicable, sinister influence over lawmakers, stands in the way of what everyone else wants. 

“Astroturf’s biggest accomplishment is when it crosses over into semi-trusted news organizations that unquestioningly cite or copy it,” Attkisson notes. Two recent articles that appeared in prominent publications illustrate her point.

On Jan. 14, 2015, Politico published an essay dismissing defensive gun uses as a “myth.” You’d think with such an outlandish claim, the authors would have some evidence to support their argument. But you’d be wrong. In fact, they offer no evidence at all. 

Instead, the article rehashes the tired rhetorical buffoonery that was put to bed 20 years ago by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, esteemed criminologists and authors of a groundbreaking study on defensive gun uses in 1995. Kleck responded to this latest attack by asking for the one thing the authors of the Politico piece could not produce: evidence that defensive gun uses aren’t actually occurring in the United States, a nation of some 100 million gun owners. 

The authors didn’t provide such evidence because they know guns in this country are used far more often each year to save innocent lives than to take them. 

In February, The New York Times upped the ante by publishing a melodramatic editorial, “Concealed Carry’s Body Count,” based on a “report” by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). 

You would think the editorial board of the Times would include some former reporters or people who at least have some instinctive wariness of empirical claims made by pure advocacy groups. VPC is, after all, an organization whose website features a self-proclaimed “landmark” publication calling for bans on handguns and the AR-15, America’s most popular rifle. Once again, though, you’d be wrong.We don’t need astroturf. We have the solid ground of numbers and reality on which to stand.

The flaws in the VPC report are obvious, and its intent to mislead transparent. Of the 722 deaths that VPC attributes to concealed carry, 213 were suicides, five resulted from vehicle accidents, and 18 involved a long gun. And even if you accept their outrageously biased methodology, the 289 incidents detailed by VPC involve approximately two-thousandths of 1 percent of the roughly 12 million current holders of concealed-carry permits nationwide. In other words, even taking VPC’s “report” at face value would prove nothing so much as that concealed-carry-permit holders are among the most law-abiding demographic in the nation. 

Fortunately, you and I see through the charade. NRA members are freedom-loving Americans who number in the millions and treasure liberty as a precious, perishable gift. We understand that our enemies will use deceptive tactics to push their agenda. Yet we also know that together we can protect the Second Amendment for generations to come simply by adhering to our values and telling the truth. We don’t need astroturf. We have the solid ground of numbers and reality on which to stand.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Chris W. Cox
Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

NRA-ILA Executive Director

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As NRA's chief lobbyist and principal political strategist, Chris W. Cox oversees nine NRA Institute for Legislative Action divisions – Federal Affairs, State & Local Affairs, Public Affairs, Research & Information, Grassroots, Hunting/Conservation/Wildlife, Office of Legislative Counsel, External Affairs (International) and Fiscal. He also serves as president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which conducts non-partisan voter registration and citizen education, and chairman of NRA Country, which brings country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.