No doubt furious at being bested by a bunch of high school students on Wednesday, Dana Loesch took to the stage at Thursday's Conservative Political Action Conference, full of fire, and proceeded to do what she does best: Spew nonsense. For 16 minutes, the NRA's pseudo-charismatic spokeswoman delivered a diatribe of self-pity, making it clear that gun-clinging right-wingers should be seen as the true victims of mass shootings. Her performance was so over the top that it deserves an old school blogging-style rebuttal, especially as Loesch graciously singled out Salon as a target of her fact-free abuse. (And we couldn't be happier!)
Not every dumb thing Loesch says will be subject to the gimlet eye — she talks s**t like it's her mother tongue, and there's not enough time in the world to unravel every false thing she says — but here are some of the highlights.
"Many in legacy media love mass shootings. ... You love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold."
Is Loesch is implying the "legacy media" somehow orchestrate mass shootings for the ratings? Or, at any rate, approve of them? That sounds nuts, but with the number of non-legacy media outlets that feed the conservative movement, such as Infowars, outright declaring that mass shootings are false-flag operations, it's worth pausing on this weird statement of Loesch's and see it as a wink and a nod to the conspiracy theorists.
More to the point, this statement is a bit of classic projection, a common feature of conspiracy theories. Typically, the people who really profit off mass shootings are the gun manufacturers on whose behalf the NRA lobbies so enthusiastically. Gun sales rise after mass shootings, in part because buyers may fear upcoming gun control and in part, I suspect, because mass shootings double as advertisements for the guns used, because they are so effective at showing off their firepower. Share prices for gun manufacturers also rise.
And unlike the mass media, the gun lobby is actually taking action to derail efforts to end mass shootings.
"There are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend ..."
Loesch has regularly demagogued against the Black Lives Matter movement, painting the activists as violent thugs bent on destroying civilization. Her feigned concern for black people, in front of an overwhelmingly white audience of conservatives, is belied by the racist stereotype she embeds in this rant. There are not "thousands" of mothers losing children to violence in Chicago every weekend. The city saw 650 murders in 2017. That's still too many, of course, but anyone who sincerely wants to reduce the murder rate in Chicago would embrace strict gun control laws nationwide, to stop the interstate traffic that brings so many guns into the city.
"Where are the stories about how only 38 states submit less than 80 percent of criminal convictions to the background check system? It’s only as good as what is submitted to it … I have to question whether they want this system to fail. Where are those headlines?"
This new gambit of the NRA's, which Loesch rolled out during the Wednesday town hall, is to pretend that the background check system fails because of some nefarious liberal neglect, both in government and media. This is a flat-out and frankly disturbing lie, and not just because the so-called liberal media — including Salon, Think Progress, Slate and Media Matters, which she all called out by name in the speech — have in fact reported on the background check issue frequently. No, the main reason is that the NRA deliberately manipulates both law and policy in order to make sure as many people as possible who should fail a background check are able to buy guns anyway.
As Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate reports, in the real world, "as you can read on the investigative site The Trace here and here, the NRA has long opposed and sought to limit the passage and administration of background check rules." They don't even bother to hide this fact, as Ana Marie Cox noted on Twitter:
"It is not our job to follow up on red flags. ... It is not our job, a failure of law enforcement is not a failure of the law. It is a failure of enforcement."
Nope, it is a failure of the law. A handful of states — Oregon, Washington and California, most notably — have laws allowing family members or law enforcement to report a person who is acting erratically and then get a temporary restraining order from the courts to keep that person from legally acquiring guns. But when people tip off the police about a potential mass shooter in most places, as occurred in the Florida case, the police can't really do anything. There's no legal recourse to take someone's guns until after they've committed a crime, no matter how unhinged they're acting.
A lot of states are trying to pass laws that allow the courts to issue these restraining orders. Guess who is fighting and often defeating those efforts? The NRA.
"Here's a stat for you, from 1950 to July of 2016, 98.4 percent of mass shootings have taken place in gun-free zones. That's a fact."
This one should immediately be smelled as a lie, since more than half of mass shootings are related to domestic violence, and most of those murders happen in people's homes. Homes are most definitely not "gun-free zones," which is too bad, since so much murder, suicide and other gun-related violence happens in the home.
It appears Loesch's number comes from the repeatedly discredited pro-gun statistics-massager John Lott, who argues that mass shooters "keep picking the few gun-free zones to do virtually all their attacks." There is absolutely no evidence of this — for instance, the Parkland shooter picked a school with armed security — but for a deeper examination of Lott's mendacity, please read this debunking at The Trace.
There's no evidence that arming people stops mass shootings, as the occasions where armed individuals have tried to intervene, including this recent Las Vegas shooting, have generally ended in failure. Zooming out beyond mass shootings, we also see that the NRA's plan to have people carrying guns everywhere all the time simply leads to more violence, for the obvious reason that it injects guns into ordinary disputes that might otherwise end, at worst, in black eyes and bloody noses.
Most important of all, when you look out at the broader world, it's clear that gun-free zones work. Most other industrialized nations have strict gun regulations, turning their entire societies into a kind of "gun-free zone." The result? Drastically lower murder rates than we experience in the United States. Guns make murder easy. Getting rid of guns makes murder more difficult, and therefore much less common. This isn't rocket science.
Ultimately, what Loesch's speech should remind audiences is that the NRA is not, as it claims, a rights organization. First and foremost, it's an arm of the gun industry, and its messaging always circles back to a sales pitch for its followers to buy more guns. Now the NRA has also become a propaganda outlet, stoking right-wing anger and irrational grievances, while not so subtly hinting that plopping down more money on more guns and ammo is a quick way to feel better.