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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is appealing the order against him to pay compensation for claiming the Sandy Hook massacre never happened, and elsewhere in the US the Second Amendment is being cited as the reason to relax gun control legislation - despite alarming school shooting statistics.

A few weeks ago, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in compensation to the Sandy Hook families and the FBI agent who responded to the 2012 mass school shooting – all had been harassed, threatened and bullied in the wake of Jones’ publicly aired lies.

Ten years back, on 14 December 2012, 20 first grade children and 6 teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in one of the worst mass shootings in the US. Hours after the event, Jones vehemently denied that the event had taken place via his popular Texas-based Infowars show, and accused the victim’s families of seeking to rob Americans of their freedom to own and use guns.

Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook families and lawyers pressured him to denounce the Second Amendment, which grants the right to bear arms, in exchange for dropping allegations made against him.

On 12 October this year, Jones’ trial ended with an order to pay $US965 million made to him and his company, Free Speech Systems. Lawyers Josh Koskoff and Christopher Mattei represented the 15 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Jones.

On Saturday (Australian time), Jones’ lawyers Norm Pattis and Kevin Smith filed a request to throw out the verdict and hold a new trial, on the basis that Judge Barbara Bellis’ pretrial rulings resulted in “a substantial miscarriage of justice … the amount of the compensatory damages award exceeds any rational relationship to the evidence offered at trial”.

Both in court and over the past few years, Jones has acknowledged that the shooting did occur, but has turned his vitriol instead to the lawsuits and trials, which he and his Infowars show (a popular Texas-based platform for his theories) claim are a violation of his freedom of speech.

A growing reliance on the Second Amendment

John J. Donohue III is a lawyer and economist, and Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

He is sceptical that Jones’ case will stem the growing reliance, in various states, on citing the Second Amendment as a reason to relax gun control legislation.

“The US seems to be moving down a path of being more and more willing for people on the right to believe anything that one of their presumably trusted sources tells them. Seventy per cent of Republicans still say they believe Trump stole the election. It will be interesting to see if Alex Jones pays a price in terms of his viewership and whether people stop attending to him or not.”


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"The US seems to be moving down a path of being more and more willing for people on the right to believe anything that one of their presumably trusted sources tells them." Professor John J. Donohue III

In 2018, YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Spotify and Twitter all removed Jones from their platforms, saying he violated their policies against abusive and harmful content.

Jones had already been ordered by a Texas jury to pay damages of nearly $US50 million to the family of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, a Sandy Hook victim, and another case, brought by two Sandy Hook parents, is pending in Texas.

An increase in gun violence – and in ‘lawful gun toting’

Since 1970, there have been over 2,030 school shootings (including Columbine High School in 1999), and since the Sandy Hook Elementary School event in 2012 there have been at least 948 more (including the horrific Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on 24 May this year).

In the US, guns are the leading cause of death in American children aged 19 and under. Each day, 12 children die from gun violence and 32 are shot and injured.

In four out of five school shootings, at least one person was aware of the pre-planned attack and did not report it. In well over half (68 per cent) of attacks, the perpetrator took the gun from their own family home, a relative’s or a friend’s.

Donohue wrote in 2020 in the Law and Contemporary Problems journal that “there has been a profound shift in the legal landscape concerning firearms over the last forty years. Before then, substantial state restrictions – even complete prohibitions– on gun carrying were quite common, and they enjoyed considerable support among Republican voters and politicians. Today, the large majority of states confer the ‘right-to-carry’ … with little or no restriction.”

Further, Donohue reveals that “lawful gun toting has increased substantially. Moreover, a growing body of evidence suggests that allowing expanded gun access outside the home has increased violent crime.”

Donohue refers to the case this year in which Justice Clarence Thomas claimed the New York law of 1911 restricting the carrying of guns was a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the 14th Amendment that makes federal second-amendment rights applicable to the states.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that allowing expanded gun access outside the home has increased violent crime.”

It is a few hours away from the 2022 mid-term elections when Donohue speaks with LSJ.

He reflects, “The Supreme Court in this decision [in June] where they expanded the strength of the Second Amendment were based on studies that have been thoroughly discredited. [The state attorney general is contesting this ruling and New York has enacted gun control measures]. One study claimed that about 2.5 million times a year someone uses a gun to thwart a crime. That study also said that these 2.5 million defensive gun users saved about 300,000 to 400,000 lives each year. That study is the most discredited study to ever gain prominence in a Supreme Court decision.”

‘An appalling indictment’

Donohue’s major concern is the dominance of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in politics, and the millions it spends in supporting candidates who are sympathetic to its agenda.

“It’s interesting and appalling that … almost 90 per cent of Americans want there to be a universal background check before you get a gun, but because the NRA doesn’t want to cut into its gun sales, they lobby the Republicans to not allow [universal background checks to be mandatory] under any circumstance. Because the NRA only does what the gun industry tells them and the Republicans only do what the NRA tell them, you can’t even get a vote on that.”

He concludes, ruefully: “It’s an appalling indictment of American democracy.”