Category Archives: National Rifle Association

“Reopen” protests organized by gun rights groups, state Republican Party organizations, conservative think tanks, religious and advocacy groups

Who’s Behind the “Reopen” Domain Surge?

KrebsOnSecurity.com, April 20, 2020
A “reopen California” protest over the weekend in Huntington Beach, Calif. Image: Reddit.

The past few weeks have seen a large number of new domain registrations beginning with the word “reopen” and ending with U.S. city or state names. The largest number of them were created just hours after President Trump sent a series of all-caps tweets urging citizens to “liberate” themselves from new gun control measures and state leaders who’ve enacted strict social distancing restrictions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a closer look at who and what appear to be behind these domains.

A series of inciteful tweets sent by President Trump on April 17, the same day dozens of state-themed “reopen” domains were registered — mostly by conservative groups and gun rights advocates.

KrebsOnSecurity began this research after reading a fascinating Reddit thread over the weekend on several “reopen” sites that seemed to be engaged in astroturfing, which involves masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

The Reddit discussion focused on a handful of new domains — including reopenmn.comreopenpa.com, and reopenva.com — that appeared to be tied to various gun rights groups in those states. Their registrations have roughly coincided with contemporaneous demonstrations in Minnesota, California and Tennessee where people showed up to protest quarantine restrictions over the past few days.

A “reopen California” protest over the weekend in Huntington Beach, Calif. Image: Reddit.

Suspecting that these were but a subset of a larger corpus of similar domains registered for every state in the union, KrebsOnSecurity ran a domain search report at DomainTools [an advertiser on this site], requesting any and all domains registered in the past month that begin with “reopen” and end in “.com.”

That lookup returned approximately 150 domains; in addition to those named after the individual 50 states, some of the domains refer to large American cities or counties, and others to more general concepts, such as “reopeningchurch.com” or “reopenamericanbusiness.com.”

Many of the domains are still dormant, leading to parked pages and registration records obscured behind privacy protection services. But a review of other details about these domains suggests a majority of them are tied to various gun rights groups, state Republican Party organizations, and conservative think tanks, religious and advocacy groups.

For example, reopenmn.com forwards to minnesotagunrights.org, but the site’s WHOIS registration records (obscured since the Reddit thread went viral) point to an individual living in Florida. That same Florida resident registered reopenpa.com, a site that forwards to the Pennsylvania Firearms Association, and urges the state’s residents to contact their governor about easing the COVID-19 restrictions.

Reopenpa.com is tied to a Facebook page called Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, which sought to organize an “Operation Gridlock” protest at noon today in Pennsylvania among its 68,000 members.

Both the Minnesota and Pennsylvania gun advocacy sites include the same Google Analytics tracker in their source code: UA-60996284. A cursory Internet search on that code shows it also is present on reopentexasnow.comreopenwi.com and reopeniowa.com.

More importantly, the same code shows up on a number of other anti-gun control sites registered by the Dorr Brothers, real-life brothers who have created nonprofits (in name only) across dozens of states that are so extreme in their stance they make the National Rifle Association look like a liberal group by comparison.

This 2019 article at cleveland.com quotes several 2nd Amendment advocates saying the Dorr brothers simply seek “to stir the pot and make as much animosity as they can, and then raise money off that animosity.” The site dorrbrotherscams.com also is instructive here.

A number of other sites — such as reopennc.com — seem to exist merely to sell t-shirts, decals and yard signs with such slogans as “Know Your Rights,” “Live Free or Die,” and “Facts not Fear.” WHOIS records show the same Florida resident who registered this North Carolina site also registered one for New York — reopenny.com — just a few minutes later.

Merchandise available from reopennc.com.

Some of the concept reopen domains — including reopenoureconomy.com (registered Apr. 15) and reopensociety.com (Apr. 16) — trace back to FreedomWorks, a conservative group that the Associated Press says has been holding weekly virtual town halls with members of Congress, “igniting an activist base of thousands of supporters across the nation to back up the effort.”

Reopenoc.com — which advocates for lifting social restrictions in Orange County, Calif. — links to a Facebook page for Orange County Republicans, and has been chronicling the street protests there. The messaging on Reopensc.com — urging visitors to digitally sign a reopen petition to the state governor — is identical to the message on the Facebook page of the Horry County, SC Conservative Republicans.

Reopenmississippi.com was registered on April 16 to In Pursuit of LLC, an Arlington, Va.-based conservative group with a number of former employees who currently work at the White House or in cabinet agencies. A 2016 story from USA Today says In Pursuit Of LLC is a for-profit communications agency launched by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.

Many of the reopen sites that have redacted names and other information about their registrants nevertheless hold other clues, mainly based on precisely when they were registered. Each domain registration record includes a date and timestamp down to the second that the domain was registered. By grouping the timestamps for domains that have obfuscated registration details and comparing them to domains that do include ownership data, we can infer more information.

For example, more than 50 reopen domains were registered within an hour of each other on April 17 — between 3:25 p.m. ET and 4:43 ET. Most of these lack registration details, but a handful of them did (until the Reddit post went viral) include the registrant name Michael Murphy, the same name tied to the aforementioned Minnesota and Pennsylvania gun rights domains (reopenmn.com and reopenpa.com) that were registered within seconds of each other on April 8.

A large number of “reopen” domains were registered within the same one-hour period on April 17, and tie back to the same name used in the various reopen domains connected to gun rights groups. A link to the spreadsheet where this screen shot is drawn from is included below.

A Google spreadsheet documenting much of the domain information sourced in this story is available here.

No one responded to the email addresses and phone numbers tied to Mr. Murphy, who may or may not have been involved in this domain registration scheme. Those contact details suggest he runs a store in Florida that makes art out of reclaimed or discarded items, and that he operates a Web site design company in Florida.

Update, April 21, 6:40 a.m. ET: Mother Jones has published a compelling interview with Mr. Murphy, who says he registered thousands of dollars worth of “reopen” and “liberate” domains to keep them out of the hands of people trying to organize protests. KrebsOnSecurity has not be able to validate this report, but it’s a fascinating twist to this tale: How an ‘Old Hippie’ Got Accused of Astroturfing the Right-Wing Campaign to Reopen the Economy

Update, April 22, 1:52 p.m. ET: Mr. Murphy told Jacksonville.com he did not register reopenmn.com or reopenpa.com, contrary to data in the spreadsheet linked above. I looked up each of the records in that spreadsheet manually, but did have some help from another source in compiling and sorting the information. It is possible the registration data for those domains got transposed with reopenmd.com and reopenva.com, which included Mr. Murphy’s information prior to being redacted by the domain registrar.

Original story:

As much as President Trump likes to refer to stories critical of him and his administration as “fake news,” this type of astroturfing is not only dangerous to public health, but it’s reminiscent of the playbook used by Russia to sow discord, create phony protest events, and spread disinformation across America in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

This entire astroturfing campaign also brings to mind a “local news” network called Local Government Information Services (LGIS), an organization founded in 2018 which operates a huge network of hundreds of sites that purport to be local news sites in various states. However, most of the content is generated by automated computer algorithms that consume data from reports released by U.S. executive branch federal agencies.

The relatively scarce actual bylined content on these LGIS sites is authored by freelancers who are in most cases nowhere near the localities they cover. Other content not drawn from government reports often repurpose press releases from conservative Web sites, including gunrightswatch.com, taxfoundation.org, and The Heritage Foundation. For more on LGIS, check out the 2018 coverage from The Chicago Tribune and the Columbia Journalism Review.

To the NRA after New Zealand shooting: ‘What good are your thoughts and prayers?’

Repost from The Hill

Ocasio-Cortez hits NRA after New Zealand shooting: ‘What good are your thoughts and prayers?’

BY MORGAN GSTALTER – 03/15/19 07:29 AM EDT

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Friday tore into the National Rifle Association (NRA) after at least one gunman opened fire at two New Zealand mosques, leaving at least 49 people dead.

The New York lawmaker condemned the fatal attack on Twitter, focusing her message on the American gun group.

“At 1st I thought of saying, ‘Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.’ But I couldn’t say ‘imagine,’” the lawmaker wrote, citing the deadly shootings at a Charleston, S.C., church, a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.

“What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” She added.

Ocasio-Cortez noted that “thoughts and prayers” is a reference to the NRA phrase she says is “used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”

The progressive congresswoman called on communities to “come together, fight for each other & stand up for neighbors.”

“Isolation, dehumanizing stereotypes, hysterical conspiracy theories & hatred ultimately lead to the anarchy of violence,” she wrote on Twitter. “We cannot stand for it.”

Ocasio-Cortez added that she greatly admires New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

Ardern called the shootings “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” according to The Associated Press, adding that it was “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.

The prime minister raised the national security threat to the second-highest level following the shootings.

Authorities have charged one person and detained three others in the attack. They also defused explosive devices after the gunman published live footage of the shooting and published a “manifesto” calling immigrants “invaders.”

Doctors clash with NRA over gun deaths – #thisisourlane

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor: For fuller coverage and graphic images, see the Chicago Tribune.  – RS]

Doctors clash with NRA over gun deaths

By Lisa Marie Pane, The Associated Press, November 22, 2018
Dr. Deborah Greenhouse of Palmetto Pediatric in Columbia, S.C., works on her laptop. Greenhouse is one of several doctors joining a social media storm over guns and doctors, sparking a fight between the physicians and the National Rifle Association.  BRISTOW MARCHANT — THE STATE VIA AP

The photos from doctors came quickly and in succession: blood-stained operating rooms, blood-covered scrubs and shoes, bullets piercing body parts and organs.

The pictures on Twitter were an emotional response to a smack down by the powerful gun industry lobby, which took issue with the American College of Physicians’ call late last month for tighter gun control laws. The recommendations included bans on “assault weapons,” large capacity magazines and 3D printed firearms.

“Someone should tell self important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves,” the National Rifle Association tweeted.

Physicians across the United States seized on the phrasing, taking to Twitter with 22,000 comments and the hashtags #thisismylane and #thisisourlane, posting photos of their encounters with gun violence and offering their own personal stories of treating such
wounds.

The debate gained new urgency this week with the shooting death of an emergency room doctor outside the hospital where she worked, as physicians argue shootings are a public health crisis that they must play a key role in trying to stem. Dr. Tamara O’Neal was killed Monday outside a hospital in Chicago in what police say was a dispute with her ex-fiance. The shooter and two other people — a responding police officer and a resident in the hospital’s pharmacy — also died.

“It just shows that not only is this is in our lane, but this happens to us,” said Dr. Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore who as a 17-year-old was shot in the throat by a stray bullet fired during a dispute at a high school football game.

Sakran created a Twitter account @ThisIsOurLane which in just two weeks has attracted nearly 15,000 followers. They include Dr. Peter Masiakos, a pediatric trauma surgeon in Boston, who wrote “The Quiet Room” just hours after the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, about breaking the news that a loved one has died.
“We need to start talking about this as a public health issue. Politics aside, we have a problem that no other country has, and we shouldn’t,” Masiakos said.

About 35,000 people each year are killed by guns in the United States, and about two-thirds are suicides. That’s about 670 people per week and among the largest number of civilian gun deaths in the world.

The world’s highest rate of gun deaths is in El Salvador with a rate of 72.5 per 100,00; the rate in the U.S. is 3.1 per 100,000. Among all European countries, the rate never breaks 1 gun death per 100,000, according to Small Arms Survey, a Switzerland-based research organization that examines firearms and violence.

NRA Convention Bans Guns To Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop

Repost from U.S. News

NRA Convention Bans Guns To Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop

Parkland teens are calling out the gun group for hypocrisy.

By Mary Papenfuss, 04/28/2018 09:23 pm ET

Guns will be barred during Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an upcoming National Rifle Association convention to protect his safety — prompting survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida to wonder why the gun group won’t agree to gun restrictions elsewhere to protect children.

Those attending the NRA Leadership Conference in Dallas are on notice that no firearms or “weapons of any kind,” or ammunition, will be allowed in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center “prior to and during” Pence’s appearance on May 4. The NRA posted the restrictions ― a requirement of the Secret Service ― on a website announcing the conference.

“There will be no storage for firearms,” the NRA says in the announcement. Knife Rights, a knife advocacy group, will provide “complimentary storage” for knives, the NRA adds.

Online NRA announcement for upcoming convention in Dallas.
NRA SCREENSHOT – Online NRA announcement for upcoming convention in Dallas.

Teens who survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, are wondering why the NRA fiercely resists extending the same safety considerations to other areas to safeguard children. The NRA wants “guns everywhere” when it comes to kids, tweeted Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student who helped organize the March for Our Lives rally for stricter gun laws in Washington.

The NRA urges more guns in schools and suggests teachers be armed. President Donald Trump, who agrees with the gun group, boasted that an armed teacher could have “shot the hell out of” the Parkland gunman. An armed deputy assigned to the school failed to respond to the shooter and stayed outside the building.

Cameron Kasky, another Parkland student who has become a gun control activist, lashed the NRA as a ridiculous “parody of itself.”

Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg, also mocked the NRA convention gun ban: “I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety,” he wrote on Twitter.