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Johnson writes: "In his remarks, LaPierre lumped in assault weapons with all semi-automatic firearms to claim that they 'have been around for over 100 years.'"

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA. (photo: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA. (photo: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

LaPierre vs. Reality

By Timothy Johnson, Media Matters for America

30 January 13


This article was published on Media Matters for America yesterday, January 29, 2013. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear proposals on gun-violence solutions. Johnson comments on NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre's testimony, aiming to give some context to the situation. -- BM/RSN


head of tomorrow's hearing on gun violence before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the National Rifle Association released the testimony of its representative, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. When reporting on LaPierre's remarks, the media have a responsibility to provide context for his frequently inaccurate statements.

In his remarks, LaPierre dismissed the idea of requiring a criminal background check on every gun sale while unwittingly demonstrating how these checks keep guns out of the hands of criminals, falsely suggested that assault weapons are no more dangerous than firearms available to civilians 100 years ago, and exaggerated the effectiveness of armed guards in schools.

Background Checks Have Prevented Hundreds of Thousands of Firearms Sales to Prohibited Purchasers

In his testimony, LaPierre attacked the proposal to require criminal background checks on nearly all gun sales "because criminals will never submit to them." According to LaPierre's rigid reasoning, because background checks will not stop every dangerous person from acquiring a gun, there is no point in strengthening the system.

But even under our current set of laws that allow a significant proportion of firearms transactions occur without a background check, evidence has shown that over 1.5 million individuals have been prevented from acquiring a firearm after failing a background check.

LaPierre even acknowledged earlier in his testimony that over 76,000 firearms purchases in 2011 were denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It should be noted that LaPierre is either referring to FBI denials only or understating the figure, as over 150,000 purchases a year are typically denied through the background check system, with about half of denials being processed by the FBI.

According to the FBI, less than five percent of denials are reversed upon appeal. The primary reasons for denial were a felony conviction or indictment (47.4 percent) or status as a fugitive (19.1 percent).

Crimes Committed With Assault Weapons Usually Result in More Victims

In his remarks, LaPierre lumped in assault weapons with all semi-automatic firearms to claim that they "have been around for over 100 years" and that "[t]hey are the most popular guns made for hunting, target shooting and self-defense." In doing so, LaPierre invoked a common argument that assault weapons are no more dangerous than other firearms.

In fact, an examination of mass shootings between January 2009 and January 2013 by Mayors Against Illegal Guns determined that shootings where the perpetrator used an assault weapon resulted in 54 percent more deaths than other incidents and 123 percent more combined wounded and killed. A previous study by the Urban Institute comparing shootings involving assault weapons to other firearms reached the same conclusion.

Furthermore, changes in design have increased the lethality of assault weapons, even in the last decade. A recent report on assault pistols issued by the Violence Policy Center documented the recent surge in popularity of these weapons. According to VPC, because assault pistols can accept ammunition designed for assault rifles that can more easily penetrate police body armor, these weapons, "have the penetrating power of an assault rifle in the concealable format of a pistol." As such, it is no surprise that a VPC analysis of drug cartel firearms trafficking cases uncovered numerous instances of assault pistol trafficking.

Schools Shootings Occur in Spite of Armed Security Presence

LaPierre asserts in his testimony that armed guards in schools "make our schools as safe as possible" even as academic research and the circumstances of previous school shootings proves his claim to be baseless.

It is unclear whether armed guards in schools actually stop shootings. Notably, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech demonstrate that armed guards cannot be the end-all solution to school violence.

An armed police officer present at Columbine attempted to fire on one of the shooters, but was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon. At the time of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, the school had an accredited police force with an emergency response team that was described in a report on the mass shooting as "like a SWAT team."

By falsely characterizing armed guards at schools as a proven solution to prevent gun violence, LaPierre sidesteps all other discussion of how to prevent these tragedies. LaPierre's questionable solution only takes into account the moment that a gunman arrives at a school prepared to kill and fails to incorporate any policy changes that could prevent dangerous individuals from easily obtaining high-powered firearms in the first place. your social media marketing partner


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+17 # angelfish 2013-01-31 00:45
La Pierre is OBVIOUSLY diagnosable, hence his inability to face truth and facts when confronted by sane, reasonable people. He's been in LaLa Land for so long, he can no longer discern the difference between fantasy and reality. HOW do these Cretins attain the status and Power they have and retain it for SO long? Hopefully, people watching these Hearings can see for themselves the untenable position he holds and and consign him to the Dustbin of History where he so rightly belongs!
+7 # Todd Williams 2013-01-31 09:06
How did attain his status and power and retain it for so long? Easy to answer. He's the consumate lobbyist. He delivers the goods for the gun industry. The more paranoia he lays down, the more guns and ammo sold. Real simple. He's effective. Of course, so was Herr Goebels.
-14 # Depressionborn 2013-01-31 02:42
An auto loader is not a machine gun. Hunters have had auto loaders since the twenties. LaPierre is right. (I had two in the '50s.) The WWII M1 Garand was auto load. It was the best infantry weapon. I carried one during Korea. The WWI auto fire BAR is not a good assault gun. At 22 lbs it is too heavy. But it shoots great. Timothy Johnson, Media Matters for America, was misleading.

I don't think he shoots much
+9 # Todd Williams 2013-01-31 07:59
Actually, so-called auto loaders have been around since nearly the Civil War. But that doesn't make them necessary to own now. Also, who said an auto loader was a machine gun? Your post has little if anything to do with the current argument against assault rifles and large capacity magazines. In fact, if you would check it out, the bullet that wounded Congresswoman Gifford was the THIRTEENTH round in the shooter's clip. The standard issue magazine for that weapon holds 10 rounds. Thus three more people were shot due to a high capacity clip. And since your obviously have had experience with firearms, you know damn well it takes more time to reload a revolver than a semiauto pistol. The pro-gun lobby loves to obviscate the facts in order to win its argument.
-3 # Depressionborn 2013-01-31 09:15
You are right. An assault gun rapid fires same as a machine guns. (The ant-gun advocates have taken to call auto load rifles assault was my point). Clip size has nothing to do with it. And I too think revolvers shoot better, at least for me. Do you know why the SS guys are buying select fire for "personal protection"? It seems like a web joke to me.

The second is not about hunting or sport. It is supposed to protect me from the SS. You should know that. You should also know that wanabe despots always first disarm the general population.
+3 # BobbyLip 2013-01-31 05:30
Facts? Who's interested in facts? Second Amendment is all you got to know, baby. Simple answers for simple people.
+5 # thekidde 2013-01-31 09:29
And the second amendment doesn't say anyone can own an auto/semi-auto weapon. At the time, a muzzle loader was the infantry weapon of choice. Hence, if all you gun wack jobs want to have muzzle loaders - no problem.
+1 # Yopeace 2013-01-31 09:50
NH Chiefs of Police have created a raffle to give away a gun a day for 31 days in May. The first day's prize is a semi automatic assault weapon. Please join the community in asking the Chiefs: "Give up the gun giveaway and accept the offer of a buyback of all of the raffle tickets."
-2 # skylinefirepest 2013-01-31 19:49
Ok, guys, take a deep breath and repeat after me...semi-auto firearms have been with us for well over a HUNDRED YEARS. So called "semi-auto assault rifles" have been with us for over FIFTY YEARS. Thekidde... The Second Amendment does not say deliberately says FIREARMS. Out founders, way smarter than the Washington crowd today, knew that we would continue to change. Depressionborn. ..check with the SF and they'll tell you right quick that a semi-auto based on the AR platform will fire 45-60 rounds a M4 fires 950 rounds per minute. Please do just a tad of research before making stupid comments about rate of fire.
-1 # Martintfre 2013-01-31 20:29
330 Sandy Hooks.
330 Sandy Hooks a day.
330 Sandy hooks a day every day for 4 years straight.

History shows that IS what happens when a socialist government who rose to power in part by demonizing a sector of the population, Disarming that population then eventually exterminating that population to the best of their ability.

I suggest getting familiar with Babi Yar
Late September 1941.

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he observed Id rather attend to the problems of too much freedom then too little.

A legitimate government is an extension of inherent rights such as self defense it does not replace them.
+2 # Depressionborn 2013-02-01 08:53
I think Jefferson would likely leave town.

Homeland Security counsels the use of scissors to protect the kids; IRS predicts Obama care will cost families $2,000 a year; Illinois' wants us to please scrap our guns, there are too many bullets flying around in gun free Chicago.

I say go figure.
0 # Depressionborn 2013-02-01 11:13
sorry, it's $20,000, not 2
-1 # skylinefirepest 2013-02-01 10:27
Depressionborn. ..exactly! This is what the general public doesn't consider when talking about gun violence...that the GOOD people need to be able to protect themselves from the BAD people and we cannot count on the police to be there or even ( as happened in Winston Salem, N.C. several years ago ) to protect us if they are there!!! You have a God given right to self protection and I figure that means by whatever means are available.

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