The Times Corrects But Does Not Confess

Yesterday the New York Times published a typically vituperative editorial on the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in progress in Nashville. Titled No Firing Pins, Please, as the N.R.A. Gathers, the editorial accused the NRA of hypocrisy because it banned guns from its own convention:

Seventy-thousand people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association’s convention opening on Friday in Tennessee, and not one of them will be allowed to come armed with guns that can actually shoot. After all the N.R.A. propaganda about how “good guys with guns” are needed to be on guard across American life, from elementary schools to workplaces, the weekend’s gathering of disarmed conventioneers seems the ultimate in hypocrisy.

NRA bans guns! Is that a “gotcha” moment, or what? The editorial continued:

There will be plenty of weapons in evidence at the hundreds of display booths, but for convention security the firing pins must be removed. So far, there has been none of the familiar complaint about infringing supposedly sacrosanct Second Amendment rights — the gun lobby’s main argument in opposing tighter federal background checks on gun buyers after the 2012 gun massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut. Anyone interested in buying the guns on display, many of them adapted from large-magazine battlefield weapons, will have to apply later at a federally licensed gun dealer where, sensibly enough, background checks are required.

As so often happens, the Times was late to the party. Its editorial mimicked claims that were made by MSNBC and others on the left. By the time the Times editorial appeared, its claims had already been debunked: this Snopes entry, which finds the claim that the NRA banned guns from its convention “false,” is dated April 8.

Bob Owens explained:

The National Rifle Association holds an annual meeting every year in a different host city, and requires that attendees follow the federal, state, and local laws applicable in that city, like every major convention of every significant national group, ever.

This year in Tennessee, that means that attendees can indeed carry firearms in the Music City Center with the proper license in accordance with Tennessee law. Bridgestone Arena prohibits the possession of firearms, and always has. Attendees to the concerts held there are not allowed to carry weapons according to these pre-existing laws. Is it really news that the NRA asks members to follow laws?

The only guns to have their firing pins removed are the display guns put up by the vendors, not the self-defense weapons of attendees. It is a common safety practice at every sporting goods show or convention for firing pins to be absent from weapon displays being handled by thousands of people. …

As for gun sales at the convention, they are simply following—once again—federal and state laws on the purchase and possession of firearms. Vendors typically only bring representative display firearms to large outdoor shows like the NRA annual meetings, and attendees can order firearms that they like at the event. The vendors will take these orders, and then send the ordered firearms to the customer’s specified local gun dealer, at which point they will have a NICS background check and any additional local checks before the firearm is transferred to them.

So the NRA is law-abiding, not hypocritical. Many, many attendees are in fact carrying permitted firearms to the convention in accordance with local law.

Red-faced, the Times issued a half-hearted correction this morning, and quietly rewrote its editorial. This is the correction:

Correction: April 11, 2015

An editorial on Friday about the National Rifle Association’s convention incorrectly described the rules for carrying concealed firearms at the event. Carrying is prohibited at one of the main convention venues, not all of them.

The correction implies that the NRA is only somewhat, not entirely, hypocritical. In fact, the correction should have acknowledged that there was zero basis for the editorial, and it never should have been published.

This is the opening paragraph of the editorial, as rewritten:

Seventy-thousand people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association’s convention opening on Friday in Tennessee, but they won’t be allowed to carry firearms in one of the main convention venues. This may run counter to the N.R.A.’s ideas about carrying guns everywhere, from elementary schools to workplaces.

Then follows the pointless paragraph about the fact that people who order guns at the convention will have them shipped to licensed dealers near where they live, in accordance with federal law.

Quietly dropped from the editorial is the claim that “not one of them will be allowed to come armed with guns that can actually shoot.” Silently erased is the reference to “N.R.A. propaganda about how ‘good guys with guns’ are needed to be on guard.” And now missing is the central point of the editorial as originally written, the assertion that the NRA’s alleged gun ban is “the ultimate in hypocrisy.”

A more honest approach would have been to delete the editorial in its entirety and replace it with, “Oops. Never mind.” But honesty is not something anyone expects from the New York Times.

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