News Retracts Lies About Gun Owner Rally
by Ari Armstrong, February 25, 2000
The Rocky Mountain News printed a complete fabrication on Wednesday, February 23, claiming members of the Tyranny Response Team's civil gun rights rally in Fort Collins had blocked the entrance of a church where the Million Mom March group held a meeting. Today the News retracted that lie.
A picture caption on page 5A from Wednesday erroneously claimed:
The Rev. Marc Salkin of Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins asks gun-rights advocates to leave his church Tuesday. The activists blocked the entrance of the church to prevent people from attending a meeting of Million Mom March. The activists want to prevent the Million Mom group from promoting gun-control legislation.
Today, the News printed on page 2A in the Corrections section:
A photo caption on Page 5A Wednesday gave incorrect information about gun-rights activists at the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins. Members of the group tried to enter the church, where members of the Million Mom March were meeting. Members of the Million Mom March held candles and blocked the entrance.
Unfortunately, that retraction, while a step in the right direction, doesn't go far enough in clearing up possible ambiguity. First, the retraction doesn't state unequivocally that members of the Tyranny Response Team never blocked the entrance of the church or in any way acted unlawfully. The reader can only surmise that to be the case. Second, the retraction introduces a new possible confusion. It's certainly not as if members of the Tyranny Response Team tried to enter the church by force. Rather, a small portion of the group tried to peacefully join what was supposedly a public meeting, and they were blocked from the church by members of the other group.
Some have expressed concern that the church violated its 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status by holding a meeting for the express purpose of promoting specific legislation, especially as that meeting was decidedly not open to the public.
In a public message, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners described what he saw at the rally and commented on subsequent developments:
Million Mom March organizer Kathleen Hopkins was a guest on Peter Boyles' KHOW radio program this morning [Thursday, February 24], accusing gun rights activists of blocking the entrances to her 2/22 Fort Collins meeting at the Unitarian Church in Fort Collins.
On Wednesday morning, Boyles had quoted the fabrications from the News on his radio program. On Thursday, he invited both Hopkins and Bob Glass, an organizer of the TRT, to exchange views on the air.
On another radio show, Glass said he's contacted a lawyer concerning the false information printed in the News.
Not only the caption by the photograph but the headline, the sub-headline, and the story itself (by Carla Crowder) was heavily biased in favor of the Million Moms. A reasonable interpretation of the article is that those who composed it for the News felt the TRT was rude for protesting the Million Mom meeting, even discounting the lie about TRT members blocking the entry.
However, members of the TRT see their actions as a defense of civil liberties. Perhaps the News could make a fuller effort to evaluate such protests with a consideration of both points of view. As an analogy, if a hypothetical group called Anti-Semitic Moms met in a church to plan legislation infringing Constitutional rights of a minority, I seriously doubt anyone would criticize a group of Jews who peaceably protested such a meeting. Similarly, if Moms Against Free Speech met in an effort to roll back the First Amendment, the News would probably be fairly sympathetic to any group which rallied in defense of that civil right. So why is the Tyranny Response Team demonized by some for peaceably defending the Second Amendment civil right to keep and bear arms?