It is by no means a closely held secret that Rolling Stone magazine has aggressively promoted an anti-gun agenda for many decades. It started in 1980, with the death of John Lennon at the hands of Mark David Chapman, when the magazine’s founder, Jann Wenner, decided he wanted to “make something good come out of (the murder).” Wenner started the Foundation on Violence in America, which was apparently designed to promote a public-relations campaign aimed at convincing Americans to accept restrictions on handguns.
This effort to cast handguns in a negative light came just before Californians were set to go to the polls in November 1982 to vote on Proposition 15, a referendum that sought to implement a handgun registration scheme in the Golden State. The New York Times wrote that police chiefs were supporting the measure, a poll conducted in April of that year showed support for Prop 15 at 60%, and the editorial crowed, “The gun lobby is running scared.”
For those unfamiliar, rather than cowering in fear, NRA mounted an aggressive education campaign in opposition to Proposition 15, designed to dispel the myth that ratcheting up restrictions on law-abiding gun owners would have any discernible impact on criminals. Voters listened, and Prop 15 was soundly defeated, with 63% voting against it. Clearly, Californians were not interested in the kind of gun control promoted at Rolling Stone, nor were Americans in general. Wenner must have got that message, at least, and his Foundation on Violence in America faded into obscurity.
Given this history, another anti-gun/anti-NRA article from Wenner’s magazine should come as no surprise. But a recent one titled “A Brief History of Pro-Gun Rallies at Sites of Mass Shooting” is wrong on so many levels that it warrants mention.
First, the title suggests there were “rallies” held at the actual sites where a large number of people were killed by a violent, deranged person or persons using a firearm. Of the five examples cited, however, none were planned to take place at the actual site. One event, planned in Toronto, Canada (and 28 years after the actual crime took place), was eventually moved from a location Rolling Stone even describes as merely “nearby the site of the tragedy.”
The article takes even greater liberties with the definition of a “site of mass shooting” when it seems to scold students who support the Second Amendment in Colorado and Utah for organizing events in those states to show support for our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. These students chose to get involved in the political dialogue on guns as a response to the anti-gun messaging and rallies that had been promoted in response to the horrific events that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year. As virtually everyone in America knows, that school is in Florida, not Colorado or Utah. Apparently, roughly 2,000 miles away equates to being on the “site of a mass shooting” to Rolling Stone.
But Rolling Stone saves its worst assault on journalistic integrity for its description of the NRA Annual Meeting that was held in Denver, Colorado in 1999.
First, it should be pointed out that the NRA Annual Meeting is not really a “rally.” As a non-profit corporation, NRA is subject to both its own bylaws and the laws governing non-profit corporations. One of the many things NRA is required to do each year is hold its Annual Meeting of Members, where it conducts critical functions, such as holding the election for members of its Board of Directors, as well as determining who will hold key positions as NRA officers.
These Annual Meetings, as NRA members are aware, are enormous events, regularly drawing tens-of-thousands of members from across America. This year’s meeting in Dallas reached nearly 90,000 attendees. Events of this size take years to schedule and organize.
In 1999, NRA was scheduled to hold its Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, in May. The site and date had been determined years before. Less than two weeks before NRA’s Annual Meeting was to begin, however, ten miles away in the town of Littleton, Colorado, two deranged students of Columbine High School murdered 12 of their fellow students, one teacher, and wounded 21 others.
NRA grieved with the rest of the nation over this tragedy, and out of respect for those who suffered, virtually every aspect of the NRA Annual Meeting was canceled. What wasn’t canceled, however, were the functions required under both our bylaws and the laws governing non-profit corporations.
In its latest screed against NRA, however, Rolling Stone states, “The NRA had a major gun rally planned in Denver just two weeks after the attack.” The article is clearly intended to imply that our Denver Annual Meeting was simply a pro-gun rally, coordinated after the horrific events in Littleton, rather than a required function of a non-profit corporation that had been scheduled years in advance. The article also ignores the fact that the Denver Annual Meeting was scaled back dramatically out of respect for the community.
But the coup de grace comes with the absolute lie that, at the Denver Annual Meeting, “Charlton Heston himself took the stage, hoisted a rifle in the air and shouted to a packed crowd that it could only be torn ‘From my cold, dead hands!’” That simply did not happen. Heston famously made that pronouncement the following year, at NRA’s Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Of course, Rolling Stone is hardly a bastion for journalistic integrity. In 2014, the magazine famously published a sensationalized article about an alleged rape on the University of Virginia campus. When many questions began to arise regarding the story, Rolling Stone published an apology, apparently blaming the source of the story. An updated apology followed a day later, with the magazine now taking the blame for mistakes. A deputy managing editor soon resigned. A number of lawsuits against the magazine popped up. One found for the plaintiff and awarded $3 million in damages. One was settled for $1.65 million.
While it is unlikely we will see an apology from Rolling Stone for its grossly misleading article, perhaps we will at least see a correction regarding Mr. Heston. The magazine clearly has no love for the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and a deep hatred of NRA. But does it also support rewriting history? Well, probably, but being exposed for publishing a blatant lie should at least inspire someone at the magazine who has even a modicum of journalistic integrity left to encourage doing what is right, and have a correction about Mr. Heston’s speech posted.