NPR Provides Platform for Bloomberg Reporter-Gun Controller to Strategize Around the NRA
NPR rarely misses the opportunity of a mass shooting to beat the drums for more gun control. The news magazine show Here and Now, which recently became a joint venture of NPR along with NPR’s Boston affiliate WBUR, didn’t disappoint dispirited gun control advocates. Its September 19 show featured a lengthy segment of strategy for pushing through gun control legislation.
The sole guest in the segment was gun control advocate Paul Barrett, a journalist with Bloomberg Businessweek (owned by gun control activist Michael Bloomberg). Just the day before, they interviewed their only other guest about gun control since the Navy Yard shooting, gun control advocate Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democratic U.S. Senator.
Barrett is no stranger to gun control-friendly NPR, with 11 additional interview segments on guns just since the beginning of 2012. Even more telling, Barrett has appeared on nine interview segments during the same time period on fringe-left public radio show ‘Democracy Now!’ (not an NPR program, but aired on a number of NPR affiliate stations).
Barrett’s message in his call to arms for gun control advocates was to shift rhetoric away from the Second Amendment and toward crime fighting. Here and Now host Jeremy Hobson didn’t let that stop him from asking Barrett a standard gun control talking point question:“What about that argument, though that has been made, that nobody needs an assault rifle for their personal use?”
A little later, in discussing gun restriction legislation in Florida for the mentally ill, Hobson said that “even Republicans” passed it. Near the end of the interview, Hobson mentioned money being involved in the successful campaign to unseat two Colorado Democrats. What Hobson cleverly left out, though, was that recall proponents were outspent more than five to one.
The next day, Here and Now discussed the previous night’s mass shooting in Chicago. NPR’s Chicago correspondent David Schaper relayed that the Chicago police superintendent called for stronger gun laws. Neither Schaper nor Hobson saw any problem with the superintendent’s ludicrous response.
Transcript excerpts from NPR’s/WBUR’s Here and Now on September 19 (emphasis mine):
PAUL BARRETT: The NRA is a very potent political organization devoted primarily to raising money and perpetuating political controversy. And if you get into a fight with the NRA, that only pleases the NRA, which turns around and says see, we told you so, our enemies are everywhere, please write us a check and send us more money. See, I told you so. Go out and try to defeat your local congressman who isn't sufficiently fierce on the Second Amendment.
I think a much more promising approach for gun control proponents is to link their cause not so much to the organization the NRA, not to articles of commerce, the guns, and not to gun culture but to talk about steps that would prevent or deter particular kinds of crime, to make the agenda into an anti-crime agenda and try to explain how particular policies would affect particular types of misuse of guns.
JEREMY HOBSON: Well, what do you mean by that? Explain.
PAUL BARRETT: Well, for example, you can frame advocacy of comprehensive background checks as a purely anti-crime step. All you are doing is taking existing law, under which we already, all across the country, do not allow criminals and insane people to acquire new guns, and by the way we don't allow, you know, ex-felons even to possess guns, and you're saying we want to rationalize that law and make it apply across the board so we keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
We have - this has nothing to do with law-abiding gun buyers or owners. It has nothing to do with the NRA. It's to make our streets safe. And I think if you frame it in that narrow way, you make this cause much more rational, and you take it away from the Second Amendment and put it into the realm of how to keep the streets safe.
JEREMY HOBSON: Well, you say it has nothing to do with the NRA. Wouldn't the NRA fight back against it regardless?
PAUL BARRETT: The NRA might fight back against it regardless, but if you made it clear that you were not trying to limit the number of guns or the type of guns that law-abiding people were able to acquire, I think you would have a greater likelihood of diffusing the NRA.
The problem is is that gun control proponents tend to lead very awkwardly. They lash out at the gun culture. They lash out at people who they call cowboys or wackos. They lash out at particular weapons, you know, such as the so-called assault weapon, which is always sort of the first move of the Dianne Feinstein breed of gun control proponent, and that plays right into the hands of Second Amendment advocates who, for example in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, can say, well, look, this guy was very, very lethal with a good old-fashioned shotgun. Surely you're not proposing that we're going to ban shotguns. I mean, in fact the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, after the last round of mass shootings, said everyone should go out and have a shotgun for security reasons.
JEREMY HOBSON: Yeah.
PAUL BARRETT: So, you see, rather than focusing on the type of weapon, rather than focusing on the fact that many people are attached to guns, focus on criminals and insane people and keeping guns out of the hands of kids. Access to guns, it seems to me, is the promising route.
JEREMY HOBSON: What about that argument, though, that has been made, that nobody needs an assault rifle for their personal use?
PAUL BARRETT: You know, I think that that is a provocative and ultimately futile argument to make. Assault weapon is another term for a semi-automatic, military-style rifle. That has become the standard long gun. That is what our troops use. That is what people increasingly use for target shooting, for hunting, and it has become symbolic to pro-gun people of an effort that they claim is underway to take their guns away.
I would just - not that anyone asks me for policy advice - but I'm telling you that the campaign to ban assault weapons is exactly what the NRA would like to see coming from the other side.
JEREMY HOBSON: I read in the New York Times that this is an issue that even a Republican-controlled legislature in Florida has gotten behind, passed a law that extended gun bans to people determined to be a danger to themselves or other or who voluntarily admit themselves to a mental health facility.
PAUL BARRETT: Rather than steering away from the Second Amendment, they seem to crash right into the Second Amendment, and that's why we have so little progress.
JEREMY HOBSON: And there is a lot of money in this. We just saw the situation in Colorado, these recalls of these two state senators who backed the state's tough new gun restrictions after Aurora.