No, the NRA did not suggest curtailing the First Amendment

By Michael d’Oliveira

People on social media and at least several media outlets have misrepresented what NRA spokesman Colion Noir said about the First Amendment.

On May 24, NRA TV posted a video of Noir that appeared to have him calling for Congress to place restrictions on media outlets that repeatedly highlight the identity of mass shooters.

“It’s time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings because it’s killing our kids. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on #MSM’s ability to report on these school shootings,” said Noir.

But that was only the first part of what Noir said. The second half was Noir explaining that he was only trying to make a point and he didn’t actually believe in any restrictions to the First Amendment.

“You know that feeling of anxiety that shot through your body when I said the government should pass laws to limit the media’s ability to exercise their First Amendment rights? That’s the same feeling gun owners get when they hear people say the same thing about the Second Amendment. Hearing me advocate for the government’s ability to limit anyone’s First Amendment rights, including the media, should anger all of you watching this video. The same way it should anger you when anyone tries to use the same limitations on the Second Amendment.”

Noir went on to say the media should police itself more to prevent the glorification of violence that “inspires” shooters. “However, I vehemently disagree with the government infringing on the media’s First Amendment’s rights, the same way I don’t believe the government should infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”

The New York Daily News, Vice News, and Alternet all had misleading headlines which labeled Noir and the NRA as genuinely wanting to put restrictions on the First Amendment

On the plus side, The Washington Post published a story about the video with an accurate headline.

There is certainly a lot about the NRA that is left to be desired. The organization has its own problems telling the truth and one of their spokeswomen, Dana Loesch, puts out incendiary and paranoid rhetoric that only serves to ratchet-up the toxic discourse.

But the way to debate and defy the NRA is not to lie or mischaracterize what they say or do. The people who mischaracterized what Noir said have handed the NRA an easy propaganda victory. Now, the NRA can point to this incident and reinforce the idea that everyone in the media is out to get them, even though only a few media outlets did this. It won’t matter. The NRA had its broad “the media is evil” brush out and it’s ready to use it.

A better line of criticism of the NRA would have been to go after the fact that they are wrongly equating the First and Second Amendments. As the Washington Post pointed out, “But equating the First and Second Amendments, which have different legal histories and significance, has been a talking point for some gun proponents.”

It’s even possible that this was intentionally-designed by the NRA to get the media and liberals on social media to react the way they did. The NRA understands how social media works today. Most people don’t watch the entire video. They see a headline or hear just one soundbite and they automatically react.

In its Twitter post, the NRA took Noir out of context – “It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on #MSM’s ability to report on these school shootings.” That post seems tailor-made to get liberals and anti-NRA people riled-up. And it worked.

This is why context matters and you should always get the full story before you react, even when it’s about the NRA.