Farce or Fact: CNN’s Guns in America Town Hall, Part One

Crocodile tears, conspiracy theories, carefully selected and placed audience members, and the Constitution – as in, ignoring the Constitution. On January 7, 2016, Barack Hussein Obama took center stage for a town hall of sorts with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. It was everything you would expect from such an event…well, if you expected rampant lies and half-truths from a man who can cry on command.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the opening remarks that set the stage for CNN’s Guns in America Town Hall.

“We are here tonight to talk about one of the most divisive issues in America today: guns. Now, protection is enshrined in the Constitution and Second Amendment, and gun ownership is an integral part of American history and culture.

There are some 30,000 gun deaths in America each year. Two-thirds of them are suicides, one-third of them are homicides. So the question we want to confront tonight is how you find a balance between protecting the rights of American citizens who want to own guns, but preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” (Anderson Cooper, Town Hall, January 7, 2016)

The gun-deaths comment is frequently made in a somewhat misleading manner. There are actually approximately 32,000 gun-related deaths each year in the United States. Of those 32,000, around 60% can be classified as suicides and 3% are accidental. Both of these classifications would benefit from discussion, but there simply is not time or space. For now, let’s focus on the rest: about 34% of those deaths are homicides. 34%, which works out to around 11,000. Yes, it’s more dramatic to announce that there have been 30,000 gun deaths in America in the past year, and it isn’t exactly a lie. It isn’t exactly accurate in this particular context, either, because a large group of people hear it this way: “guns have murdered 30,000 people in America this past year.”

CooperOf the 11,000 gun-related homicides annually, a huge number are gang-related. For example, in Chicago it is estimated that 80% of the city’s homicides take place as the result of gang activity. According to Baltimore’s City Police Commissioner, Anthony Batts, 80% of that city’s murders are drug-related. Let that sink in for a moment – 80%. And, of course, homicides in general committed with firearms are typically carried out with illegally-obtained weapons. These firearms are either illegally purchased on the street or stolen from strangers, friends, or family members – and it’s quite true that a number of thefts also involve stealing an already illegally-gained firearm.

When it comes to the issue of suicide, the answer is really quite simple: someone looking for a deadly way out of their life will find a way. Not having access to a firearm will certainly not stop them. Need an example? In Japan, a country that is frequently referred to as an example of just how fantastic gun control is, access to firearms is severely restricted. And yet Japan’s suicide rate is literally double that of the United States’ suicide rate. Those looking to end their lives in Japan often turn to poison or jumping from heights – heights and speeding trains. Jumping from trains has become so common that families of those committing suicide in that way in Japan are now being charged clean-up fines. Where there is a suicidal will, there is a way.

“We brought together people here tonight who represent really all sides of the issue: gun owners, gun sellers, people who’ve survived shootings or lost loved ones. Some here believe that having guns makes us all safer, and believe the right to bear arms defines us, preserves us from tyranny, and cannot be compromised in any way.  Others here tonight believe just as passionately that more needs to be done to limit the sale of firearms, and we respect all of their views and we want to hear from as many as we can tonight, in the hour ahead.” (Anderson Cooper, Town Hall, January 7, 2016)

One of the people they brought in for this town hall was former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. In 2011 Giffords survived being shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner, a man who had previously been arrested on a drug charge and who was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Loughner’s diagnosis was made by not one but two doctors and he was found incompetent to stand trial. Giffords, who is a staunch Democrat, has always supported strict gun control measures and has championed them with even greater fervor since being shot. Another person brought in was the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, the girl who performed at Obama’s inauguration and was then shot in her hometown of Chicago. Pendleton’s death was the result of a gang-related shooting; the gang member who shot her later claimed it was a case of mistaken identity. Also on the roster was an anti-gun priest.

Barack Obama, Taya KyleIt’s true that there were a couple pro-gun attendees who were allowed to speak, but even they were chosen with care. Taya Kyle, widow of SEAL Chris Kyle, was the first while the second was Kimberly Corban. Corban is a mother and rape survivor who proved to be the more forceful of the two, blatantly challenging Obama. Obama flat-out refused to answer Corban’s question, saying it was not what he wished to focus on at that time. The two sides were not evenly selected which is, of course, entirely unsurprising.

A bit of a side note: Cooper referred to those who support the Second Amendment as believing it “defines us.” Our right to bear arms does not define us any more than the color of our eyes or our right to free speech defines us. It is simply our right, and one well worth fighting to protect.

“One voice you will not hear from tonight is the National Rifle Association. They’re the nation’s largest, most influential and powerful gun rights group. We invited them to be here. They – I think their office is just a couple miles away. They declined to take part.” (Anderson Cooper, Town Hall, January 7, 2016)

There was extensive discussion as to why the NRA did not take part in CNN’s town hall event. Everyone got in on it – including Judd Apatow, whose resume includes being the director of the movie “40 year old Virgin.” Apatow turned to Twitter to express his opinion, tweeting “The NRA didn’t attend the Town Hall because there is no logical argument against sane gun legislation.” Many on the liberal left ripped into the NRA for not appearing.

Both the NRA and the NSSF – National Shooting Sports Foundation – declined invitations to the town hall. The NRA and NSSF are two of the most powerful firearms groups in the industry with the NRA leading in political issues – among other things, such as providing gun safety training and relevant information in multiple publications – and the NSSF working closely with FFLs and the gun industry at large. It was Larry Keane, who is the NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel, who said it best during a discussion with editor and writer Frank Miniter: “We declined the invitation because it is a White House-orchestrated made-for-TV event and not an opportunity for a genuine dialogue or an effort to find common ground. We remain disappointed that the president has chosen to demagogue the issue for political purposes instead of providing real leadership like working to advance Rep. Tim Murphy’s bipartisan legislation to address the issue of mental health, which is the common denominator in mass shootings.” During the event, the NRA took to Twitter to express their disgust and following it they came out with numerous statements and pieces including one titled “Obama Misleads, Cites Bogus Data at CNN ‘Town Hall’.”

Both the NRA and the NSSF took the correct approach. Why take part in a production where the strings are being pulled by a master puppeteer? More specifically, why take part in a production where the goal is simply to give said puppeteer a stage on which to spout a steady stream of half-truths and outright lies designed to back his personal anti-gun agenda? At the least it would be a complete waste of time; at the worst, damaging to the gun rights platform when the NRA and NSSF would undoubtedly not be allowed to refute those half-truths and lies with cold, hard facts. Why is that damaging? Because too many viewers believe everything that comes out of Obama’s mouth regardless of how ludicrous it may be. The current administration seems not to care for the truth but only cares for doing whatever it takes to get their way in the end.

Gun Control Town HallWith participants in position and Obama in his central position, the stage was set. And from there it only got worse. What do you think? Was CNN’s Guns in America Town Hall an actual attempt by Barack Obama to communicate with gun rights advocates or was it nothing more than an elaborately staged and carefully controlled production?

Author’s Note: In this particular case, this could be correctly referred to as the author’s opinion. Personally speaking, I believe this town hall was disingenuous in its invitations and execution and also quite deliberately misleading in its goals. Although it would have been nice to see the NRA and the NSSF take on Obama’s many inaccuracies and falsehoods, their reasons for not doing so are understandable. Participating in an elaborate production only lends credence to its importance and legitimacy, and when it comes to gun rights there is absolutely no room for confusion, let alone misdirection. If the NRA and the NSSF had participated, they would most likely not have been allowed the time needed to refute Obama’s statements. The odds of their being allowed to fully state their own beliefs and goals are fairly slim as well. Their presence was probably meant as nothing but window dressing with the additional hope that perhaps it would be possible to somehow make them look foolish on national television.

So, you may ask, why sit through the town hall on guns if I believed and still believe it was a farce? Because this is a pivotal moment for Second Amendment rights and it would be a serious lapse in judgment to fail to keep an eye on events as they unfold. Refusing to acknowledge the existence of something does not lessen its power, and knowingly robbing yourself of an opportunity to know more about what is going on in the world around you is a grave error. It can be frustrating, infuriating, and almost painful to witness some of these events, but sometimes bearing witness to such events is necessary. All the old clichés apply in this case: knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed, and so on.

Pay attention. Observe. Witness. Remember. And prepare. Preparation is key.

This is not a test.

What do you think? Was CNN’s Guns in America Town Hall an actual attempt by Barack Obama to communicate with gun rights advocates or was it nothing more than an elaborately staged and carefully controlled production?

“Farce is tragedy played at a thousand revolutions per minute.” (English novelist John Mortimer)

Coming soon: Part two, in which we take a look at Obama’s statements about guns and gun control as well as the way he responded to Taya Kyle and Kimberly Corban.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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