Remember when Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia bucked the 2010 teapublican tide by shooting climate legislation with a rifle? Remember his A rating from the National Rifle Association? Nowadays, Manchin leads the bipartisan Senate compromise on expanded background checks, a reform slightly more popular than kittens. But Breitbart.com writer Awr Hawkins is undeterred by the Senator’s gun-toting image or the ultramajoritarian popularity of the background checks issue. Under a still photo of a cinematic Trojan horse, Hawkins posits that language in the Senator’s legislation would violate the Constitution by requiring guns remain locked away or unloaded during interstate travel:
The bill contains allowances for state ordinances on transport to preempt these laws to some degree, but the fact that these things are being passed as a “compromise” in legislation ostensibly aimed at preventing the kind of gun violence we saw at Newtown is ludicrous.
Hawkins makes no attempt to argue for the necessity of armed Interstate drivers. Instead, his entire approach to reporting on the bill boils down to the alleged lack of necessity for such laws:
Appearing on CBS News’ Face the Nation on April 14, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Newtown families have told him they know the bill he and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) have crafted would not have prevented the heinous crime at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In other words, Manchin’s expanded background check “compromise” bill, being pushed in response to Newtown, does not do anything that would have stopped the Newtown tragedy from happening.
That is a crazy-making rewrite of both history and the Senator’s actual words:
Let me just say– and I think even Marco just said it and I know Pat met with the families. I met with the families of Newtown. These families — I’ve never met people with the strength and convictions they have. First of all, they’ll come in and say we don’t want anybody’s guns to be taken away. We don’t want any infringements or the Second Amendment to be infringed upon. When they come to you and they’re saying, honestly, we know the bill you’re working on right now would not have prevented what happened to our babies. But if you can prevent one family from not going what we went through, by keeping the guns out of a mentally deranged person, out of a criminal that could do something, and I keep thinking if we just had half the courage these families had, if we as congress had half of their courage, and the common sense to do the right thing oh, my goodness what, a difference we could make.
It is true that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza wouldn’t have to pass a background check because he got the guns from his mom. The Sandy Hook families are instead pressing for legislation that would benefit other families, but in the opposites-day world of Breitbots, their selfless act somehow becomes a sinister gun confiscation because we are not truly free unless we can have loaded guns on the highway.
Breitbart.com writers are infamous for turning victims into perpetrators (witness Lee Stranahan’s coverage of the Steubenville rape trial) and for turning perpetrators into victims (witness Mandy Nagy’s bizarre casting of psychotic hypertroll Seth Allen as the victim of Brett Kimberlin, and her consequent participation in the Breitbots’ Kimberlin-victim narrative). But the Sandy Hook parents represent an especially difficult target for right wing bloggers to deal with: who could be more sympathetic than grieving moms and dads? How can the legislation be attacked without attacking the families?
With the early rash of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories proving far more damaging to the NRA than the momentum of Manchin’s legislation, the new strategy is to circumvent the problem by attacking the legislation as ineffective in preventing future schoolhouse massacres. This way, gun regulation opponents cast themselves as the true champions of the innocent, misused Sandy Hook families who just don’t understand that loaded guns on the highway keeps us safe, while making the next Adam Lanza pause to reload more often with smaller magazines does not.
Exploitation is the constant theme of this propaganda approach. Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro denounces the president for “exploiting” the mother of a Sandy Hook victim by letting her use his Saturday address platform to call for support of the legislation. Editor-in-Chief Joel Pollak accuses him of “exploiting” the Sandy Hook tragedy to push gun control legislation. A staffer posts that Lanza exploited Sandy Hook’s status as a gun-free zone.
Overreach is another constant: Hawkins worries that legislation will be too overbearing on the armed motorist. Columnist Dr. Susan Berry fears that mental health professionals might be required to ask patients about their access to guns, causing mentally ill armed people to not seek help for fear of being reported. Benjamin Chance frets that gun legislation will result in dodgeball getting banned from PE classes. John Sexton made a great deal of Sandy Hook parent Neil Heslin’s call for stricter enforcement of existing gun laws in lieu of new legislation and then called for armed guards in schools, which all Breitbart.com writers seem to agree is the only Constitutionally-viable solution — and which just happens to be the NRA’s preferred solution for school shootings.
In miscasting Senator Manchin’s remarks about the Sandy Hook survivors, Hawkins indirectly misrepresents the survivors themselves. It is merely an example of the indirect approach at Breitbart.com, which would rather just use the Shirley Sherrod method if they felt they could get away with it.