Guns

Critiques of FactCheck's Critique of the NRA

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reason contributor Dave Kopel calmly and thoroughly dissects FactCheck.org's critique of the NRA's anti-Obama ads, which I mentioned in my column this week but did not have the space to address in detail. As Kopel notes, FactCheck's main conclusion, that the NRA's ad campaign "distorts Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition," is way too strong. (John Lott notes that a co-author of the FactCheck critique, Brooks Jackson, went even further in an interview with Fox News, calling the NRA ads "one of the worst examples of lying" he had "ever seen.") While the NRA can be faulted for taking certain liberties—e.g., a flyer presenting inferences based on positions Obama has taken over the years as his "10 Point Plan to 'Change' the Second Amendment"—the specific claims in its TV spots are all documented. And the general thrust of its argument, that Obama reads the Second Amendment to allow almost every form of gun control under the sun, is hard to deny.

Granted, FactCheck is in a difficult position when it tries to assess someone's claim about what a candidate really believes, as opposed to what he's saying to get elected. That sort of argument can't be rated true or false in the same way as an assertion about a politician's experience or voting record. And the NRA did not go out of its way to help. According to FactCheck, the NRA's public affairs director "declined to speak to us except to say that the claims are based on Obama's voting record and statements he has made in the media."

But FactCheck was excessively credulous in accepting the Obama campaign's rhetoric at face value and insufficiently curious about the basis for the NRA's claims, some of which hinge on dueling interpretations of legislation. As Kopel shows, FactCheck repeatedly suggests that Obama's general statements of support for the Second Amendment somehow cancel out his specific positions in favor of gun control, all but one of which he has never repudiated. And while Obama claims he never favored banning handguns, the evidence, which includes not just a disputed 1996 candidate questionnaire but recent statements in support of local handgun bans, strongly suggests otherwise. The Democratic platform itself includes Obama's comment about "what works in Chicago"—i.e., a handgun ban.

Speaking of dueling legislative interpretations, Kopel addresses the NRA's claim that Obama has supported a ban on ammunition used for hunting. He notes that in 2005 the senator voted for an amendment prohibiting rifle ammunition "designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability." While manufacturers do not market their ammunition as useful in killing cops, Kopel notes that "almost all rifle ammunition used for hunting deer or larger animals will penetrate a bullet-resistant vest" and therefore could be viewed as "designed" for that purpose, notwithstanding assurances to the contrary from the bill's sponsors. Lott adds that another part of the amendment would have banned "ammunition that 'may be used in a handgun' and can penetrate the 'minimum,' type 1, level of body armor," which would cover rifle ammunition that also can be used in handguns. Furthermore, in 2003 Obama said he supported "banning the sale of ammunition for assault weapons." Lott notes that "the rifles banned under the so-called assault weapons ban used such standard ammunition as .223 and .308 caliber bullets, the same ammunition used commonly in hunting rifles." In this case, as in his quip about deer in bullet-proof vests, Obama seems to have conflated the "assault weapon" and "armor-piercing bullet" issues.

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  1. Now Democrat prosecutors are threatening criminal charges against people running the ads.

    That was a nice First Amendment we used to have.

  2. The only thing I would take issue with in the ads is the “10 Point Plan” bit.

    You shouldn’t claim someone has a 10 point plan to do something unless they’ve, you know, announced a 10 point plan.

    I don’t think that’s “taking liberties” – that’s just making something up.

  3. Obama seems to have conflated the “assault weapon” and “armor-piercing bullet” issues

    Obama clearly knows Jack and shit about guns (and Jack left town), which, while unsurprising, just showcases his politician’s instinct to control everything under the sun whether he knows anything about it or not.

    I wonder if he thinks the internet is a series of tubes.

  4. FactCheck is an Annenberg outfit in the tank for their Golden Boy Obama. They even claimed that a 2007 computer printout was a 1961 “birth certificate.”

    Frauds and hacks, every last one.

  5. Once the Second Amendment is eliminated, the First can be removed with a minimum of bloodshed.

    We have always been at war with Eastasia!

  6. FREEDOM IS A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

    PEACE IS THE ABSENCE OF WEAPONS

    IGNORANCE OF ATTACKS ADS IS STRENGTH

  7. While manufacturers do not market their ammunition as useful in killing cops, Kopel notes that “almost all rifle ammunition used for hunting deer or larger animals will penetrate a bullet-resistant vest” and therefore could be viewed as “designed” for that purpose,

    Ah yes. The manufacturers of Kevlar vests make vests rated to stop most pistol rounds.

    So our legislators go off and decide to ban anything that will penetrate a vest rated only to stop pistol rounds.

    Fantastic amount of ignorance about basic ballistics, or a brilliant example of doublethink?

  8. Who factchecks FactCheck?

    Dave Kopel.

  9. Looks like somebody has already registered FactCheckCheck.org.

  10. Here’s the thing.

    There’s a case to be made that Obama is a gun controller and that his current position is only for public consumption, and that he’s likely to revert to type if he becomes president. The ads don’t make that case, they make a different case which distorts his current position.

    That’s exactly the sort of thing Factcheck and similar organizations are supposed to call out. Arguing that Factcheck.org should look into a candidate’s heart and decide what they really think is special pleading, nothing more.

  11. Also, as I understand it, Obama was on the board of directors for The Joyce Foundation. For those not in the know, the Joyce Foundation is the largest primary financial donor in the anti-gun movement. They have been shown to donate the largest sums of money to the Brady org, the Violence Policy Center, as well as other schemes such as the

  12. …such as the Second Amendment Research Center.

    I swear, one day I’ll learn to use the preview function.

  13. JOHN LOTT IS AN EXCELLENT CITATION TO USE FOR ANY ISSUE YOU MAY WANT TO COVER. PLEASE CONTINUE.

  14. The ads don’t make that case, they make a different case which distorts his current position.

    I suppose whose info you believe depends greatly on which you give more weight: the man’s voting record, or the things he’s now saying in order to win an election.

  15. FactCheck is an Annenberg outfit in the tank for their Golden Boy Obama. They even claimed that a 2007 computer printout was a 1961 “birth certificate.”

    [Everyone points and giggles at libertarian dude, as he trips while boarding the short bus, hitting his helmet against the open door.]

  16. Oh wow, speak of the devil.

    We’ve got a troll from the Freedom States Alliance. Yet another organization that derives funding from The Joyce Foundation.

  17. JOHN LOTT IS AN EXCELLENT CITATION TO USE FOR ANY ISSUE YOU MAY WANT TO COVER. PLEASE CONTINUE.

    HAHAHAHAHA

  18. I cast a “Summon Tim Lambert” spell.

    *Rolls 20-sided dice*

  19. mediageek,

    LMAO!

  20. Naga, commence Project Badass!

  21. If it is Libertarian to not expect government to solve our problems, is it Libertarian to expect government to protect our freedoms?

    The only thing we can expect is taxes.

  22. Epi, I just got up not even an hour ago. Kinda sluggish, but I’ll give it a try.

    “Cannabalism? Racism? dude thats not for us…those decisions are better left to the suits in washington. We’re just here to eat a guy.”

  23. Hey, Mary Rosh, care to tell me what it’s like to actually get a paycheck from an organization to make comments to blog posts?

  24. But this will go down in the Official List of McCain Lies, you just watch.

    You Dems just need to relax. No need to lie about McCain lying. He says plenty of wack shit for real.

  25. while i tend to agree with his conclusions, somewhat, john lott is not exactly the best face of facts you could put out there.

    but the brady center/vpc people are really vile, so it’s kind of a wash.

  26. While gun rights are usually important to my voting patterns, the Heller decision has basically invalidated complete gun bans. And I hate McCain. So I don’t care if Obama wins.

    Besides, the GOP is a strong opposition party, and they’ll most likely limit the damage Obama might have dreamed of causing.

    There are too many semi-sportsmen in Congress to pass any kind of federal ammo bans. They’ll leave it to the States. Besides, I’ve been an NRA member since the early ’80s, and they’ve been warning about phantom ammo bans since then.

  27. While gun rights are usually important to my voting patterns, the Heller decision has basically invalidated complete gun bans.

    I wouldn’t get too complacent. God knows you can stuff two fucking elephants through the loopholes SCOTUS rather gratuitously wrote into Heller.

    We’re probably at least two more SCOTUS decisions away from having any kind of real safety for second amendment rights, and that’s based on the rather large assumption that a SCOTUS with two or three Obama appointees won’t gut the little we got from Heller.

  28. I’ll also note with glee that the recent Congressional smackdown of D.C. was led by rural Democrats. The Dems are doing their damndest to stay unified, and Obama knows that.

    Obama has done a lot of things over the years to get and stay elected, and I imagine his only true principle is pandering. He needs his rural Dems once he’s in office, so he’s not going to piss them off.

  29. Dhex-

    FWIW, I don’t use Lott as a reference for anything, and generally neither does anyone else who’s seriously interested in gun rights and policy.

    The fact that the anti-gun crowd still bitterly cling to the “JOHN LOTT IS MARY ROSH LOLOOLOLOLOL!!!!1!!!” meme only goes to show how generally braindead they are.

  30. R.C.,

    Your concern is valid, but I don’t view Heller as an establishment of 2nd Amendment protection as much as a limit on the farthest exteme. D.C. was a lost cause anyway, and the fact Heller won means that more Dems will choose to leave it to the States to decide what, if any, gun control there should be.

    As far as justices, I don’t think Obama could get another Ginsberg through Congress. And the most likely retirees would all be those that voted against Heller anyway.

  31. FactCheck is an Annenberg outfit in the tank for their Golden Boy Obama.

    Yay!!!

    They even claimed that a 2007 computer printout was a 1961 “birth certificate.”

    Jesus fucking Christ.

    /facepalm

  32. My feel on fact check is that they are a great, and mostly useful organization. They claim to be neutral, but I am pretty sure there is a slight leftish bias.

    They are still very useful, overall. They beat the majority of the rest of the media.

  33. Factcheck.org is hardly unbiased on either Obama or the gun control issue. The following can be found on Wikipedia, or if you’re up to digging for it, at Annenberg’s website:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factcheck.org

    It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.[2]

    ***********************************************

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annenberg_Foundation

    Other organizations and programs of the foundation
    The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (1958)
    The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California (1971)
    The Annenberg Center for Health Sciences [1] at Eisenhower Medical Center (1981)
    The Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California (1993)
    Annenberg Challenge (1993)
    Annenberg Institute for School Reform [2] (1994) Brown University)
    The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania (1994) and FactCheck.org
    The Chicago Annenberg Challenge (1990-2001)
    Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands (2001)
    Farmlab
    Explore

    ***********************************************

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Annenberg_Challenge

    Board of Directors initially recruited by the Collaborative, which was chaired from 1995 to 2000 by Barack Obama[4], at the time a practicing attorney.

    ***********************************************

    Original tipoff site:

    http://clintondems.com/2008/08/obamas-connections-to-factcheckorg-exposed-by-texas-darlin/

    One of those things that makes you go hmmm.
    Explains a few things doesn’t it?

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