Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Two women who are victims of prior criminal assaults and a representative of a pro-gun women's organization claim they were set up by the John Walsh Show on Tuesday's episode, which was supposed to focus on women arming themselves for self-defense but instead became a debate on gun ownership. A representative of the program denied that claim.
"I was told that it was not going to be a debate, that it was going to be four women who owned guns, and I was told that one would be an 'ex-gangbanger' who doesn't exactly agree with us, but she owns a gun," Maria Heil, national spokesperson for the Second Amendment Sisters told CNSNews.com Tuesday after the show aired.
Heil said she was led to believe that the focus of the show would be on "Women Who Own Guns" and their reasons for deciding to arm themselves. The episode was instead entitled "Women and Guns: The Best Defense?" and featured numerous anti-gun speakers who continuously interrupted and berated the three pro-gun guests.
The executive producer of Walsh's show denied that her team does business that way.
"The producer of that episode is a veteran producer and, I am quite certain, did not mislead any of the guests on our show," Alexandra Jewett said.
"Every single person on the staff of the John Walsh Show is very aware and very respectful of John's reputation and his credibility," she continued. "It's very important for somebody who does the work he does that his credibility be at the top of our priorities, and it is.
"We would never do anything that would jeopardize his name," Jewett added.
Pro-Gun Guests Not Told of 'Million Mom March' Representative
Heil appeared with two other pro-Second Amendment guests - identified on the show only as Tiffany, the victim of a violent assault by multiple attackers, and Lisa, who armed herself for protection from an allegedly abusive ex-husband. The three women claim they did not know about Sylvia's rabidly anti-gun position or that there would be a surprise fifth guest in the audience.
"I was not told that someone from the Million Mom March would be there," Heil explained. "They brought her in, literally, at the last minute, and I didn't know of her presence until we were in the hallway before the show and we were all being introduced to John Walsh."
Jewett again denied that her staff uses such techniques to create controversies on the show.
"We never bring a guest into New York without telling them exactly who's going to share the stage with them," Jewett said. "We would not do that. We do not surprise people that way."
Walsh's executive producer initially indicated to CNSNews.com that one of the anti-gun speakers, "Diane," was merely a member of the audience who happened to also work with the so-called "Million Mom March."
"She was sitting in the audience. She wasn't an invited guest. She wasn't there on 'home base' with an open mic[rophone] on," Jewett explained. "John had to walk over to her to get a comment. She had an opinion. She was entitled to give her opinion in the show."
But two minutes into the broadcast, Diane was featured on camera, with her name and the caption "Works with teens to educate them about gun violence" displayed on the screen while she listened to Tiffany speak. Walsh later acknowledged Diane's affiliation with the "Million Mom March" verbally, only once.
Jewett did acknowledge that the anti-gun spokeswoman was placed in the audience by the show's staff.
"I think that was a last-minute booking because one of the women was affiliated with the Sisters of the Second Amendment [sic], who go head-to-head with Million Mom March all the time," she admitted. "We have done shows with Million Mom March, and if they want to come and sit in a particular show, they're welcome."
Walsh Believes in Second Amendment, 'If They Can...'
Walsh presented himself both at the beginning and end of the program as a supporter of the Second Amendment.
"I believe that everybody has the right to own a gun," Walsh said, but then added a number of caveats: "if they can pass the background check, if they get the education and they're responsible."
Heil pointed out, however, that, throughout the program, Walsh repeated false anti-gun statistics as if they were fact.
"Nine kids a day die in gun accidents in the home," Walsh claimed.
"That is not right," Heil told CNSNews.com. "Number one, it is not in the home, and number two, they are not accidents."
According to data in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, achieving the "nine kids a day" number would require including "children" as old as 24 years of age, depending on the year chosen for analysis. More than 50 percent of that nine per day are young adults who successfully attempt suicide.
Of the remaining shooting victims 17 to 24 years of age, 70 percent were actively involved in criminal activity at the time of their deaths. When those groups are removed, deaths of children due to firearms accidents drop to their lowest rate in recorded history, lower than automobile accidents, parental abuse and even bathtub drowning.
Heil believes Walsh is intentionally trying to mislead his audience to believe that a large number of small children are accidentally shot to death in the U.S. each year.
"We have a violence problem in this society," she charged. "John doesn't want to hear that it's more complicated than just taking care of the guns."
Walsh also identified the United States as "the most violent nation in the world," a claim that is also inaccurate. According to a 2000 report by the Dutch Ministry of Justice entitled Criminal Victimization in 17 Industrialized Countries, 12 of the 16 other countries have higher per-capita violent crime rates than the United States.
The two countries with the strictest gun control laws - Australia and England - have the highest per-capita violent crime occurrence of any of the countries on the list.
Ex-Gangbanger Contradicts Magazine Interview
Sylvia, who was identified as an 'ex-gangbanger from Compton, Calif., who now lives in Las Vegas," was presented to the pro-gun guests as a gun owner who "doesn't exactly agree with" them.
Heil asked Sylvia directly whether or not she owned or carried a gun for personal protection.
"No, I don't," Sylvia responded. "I take a stun gun."
But that statement directly contradicts claims Sylvia made in an interview published in the May 2003 issue of Marie Claire magazine.
"When I go back to Compton, Calif., I stay strapped 24/7," Sylvia told writer Louise Jarvis - using "strapped," the street slang for carrying a concealed firearm - "because there might still be some people out there who remember me."
Sylvia's brother is in prison for murdering his wife, a crime Sylvia blames completely on the presence of a firearm.
"He's doing like 26 to life," she explained. "If we hadn't been raised with guns, and we hadn't ever been taught how to use guns, and we never had access to guns...he wouldn't have had the gun to go do it with."
She rejects the suggestion that her brother actually committed the murder or that, if he did, the crime was the result of an evil intention in his heart, not the presence of a particular weapon.
'Possibly a Picture of a Felony in Progress'
In the magazine interview, Sylvia admits that she has "done things with guns I regret.
"I spent three years in prison for attempted murder, you name it," she confessed.
Heil said that admission set off alarm bells when she saw the photograph of Sylvia that accompanied the interview.
"If her statement in the magazine is true, then - quite possibly - the picture in the magazine is a picture of a felony in progress," Heil declared. "When you have a felony conviction, you have lost your right to own a gun.
"Therefore, Sylvia, having done three years in prison," Heil continued, "she's not supposed to even hold a gun."
Stacy Morrison with Marie Claire told CNSNews.com that no one on her staff made the connection between the gun possession and Sylvia's claimed felony conviction. All of the subjects of the article were asked to pose with a firearm they owned, and all did so voluntarily.
Heil also noted that, in the photograph, Sylvia has the snub-nosed revolver pointed at her dog and has her finger on the trigger, both signs of what Heil called "a very irresponsible gun owner."
'My First Reaction Is to Shoot You'
That alleged irresponsibility carried over into the exchanges between the women on the Walsh program, according to Heil. At one point during the interview, Sylvia tried to make the point that the mere presence of a gun during an altercation would lead to violence.
"If I got a gun, and me and you get into it, and I got a gun, my first reaction is to shoot you," Sylvia said.
Heil, Tiffany and Lisa sat stunned at Sylvia's assertion.
"What kind of a person is this, and who brought her up?" Heil asked. "Why would a person's first reaction when getting mad at someone be to shoot them?
"That's a foreign concept to me," Heil continued. "It's incredible."
Sylvia also attacked the other guests' motives for carrying a gun.
"If it takes a gun to make you feel like a woman, you ain't got no self-esteem," Sylvia alleged.
"We were all just in shock," Heil said. "A gun has nothing to do with how you feel about your womanhood. It just blew me away that she would equate the two.
"She said she was 'secure enough in her womanhood to not carry a gun,'" Heil quoted. "I'm secure enough in my self-esteem that I know I cannot handle a 150-pound guy coming at me, but I can handle a firearm to keep that man away from me."
Heil noted that guns are used for self-defense against criminals more than 2.5 million times per year, saving more than 400,000 lives, according to researchers at Harvard University and the University of Florida. In nine out of 10 of those cases, the intended victim merely shows the gun to the criminal, ending the assault with no one being harmed.
E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.
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