Some lawmakers are misleading Americans with a “last ditch, anti-gun Hail Mary” congressional report alleging the nation’s laws are too lax to stop terrorists from obtaining “assault weapons,” gun-rights groups charge.
“Anyone who actually thinks Middle Eastern terrorists need to come to America to stockpile firearms is truly delusional,” said Angel Shamaya, founder of the gun-rights website KeepAndBearArms.com.
Analysts believe the Congressional Research Service report will be used by lawmakers and advocacy groups seeking to extend an “assault weapons” ban signed by President Clinton that expires next year. The report purports to identify a number of gun-law “loopholes” that some Congress members believe could be exploited by terrorists.
However, gun-rights groups – which insist the ban did little to curb gun crime – say determined terrorists seeking firepower won’t be stopped by new legislation, even if every problem identified by the CRS report were addressed.
“Why would they travel thousands of miles and spend several hundred dollars for semi-automatic rifles … when they can get full auto rifles in exchange for a chicken or a goat much closer to home?” Shamaya asked.
The Second Amendment groups also claim new rules will unnecessarily put law-abiding Americans seeking to defend themselves at greater risk, while doing nothing to stop terrorist attacks.
The congressional report comes amid controversy over how the news media have covered the 1994 law. CNN admitted it incorrectly reported last week that fully automatic weapons are banned under the legislation. Gun-owner groups say the media have consistently confused semiautomatics with fully automatic firearms and point out that the banned guns are only “cosmetically” different from many legal types of weapons.
Machine guns and other fully automatic weapons are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The 1994 law, set to expire in September 2004, banned some semiautomatic, military-style rifles. Semiautomatic guns fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
The new congressional report, requested by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and released Tuesday, found that:
- Semi-automatic, military-style rifles can be purchased without a federal background check at gun shows if the seller is a “private” individual rather than a licensed dealer;
- Members of overseas terrorist organizations, such as Iran-backed Hezbollah, have bought military look-alike weapons in the U.S.;
- There are no limits on the number of such rifles that can be bought at a single gun show;
- Existing background-check systems are not designed to pick up on phony names, stolen identities or use of third parties to evade law enforcement;
- Sales of firearms can legally proceed after three days even if a background check was held up over suspicions about the purchaser;
- Legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. 90 days or longer can acquire weapons with a minimal check, including terrorist “sleeper” agents;
- Laws controlling the sale of black powder contain exemptions that permit a potential bomber to buy 1,000 pounds through multiple purchases – enough to build powerful car bombs like those that destroyed a Western housing compound in Saudi Arabia this month.
Lautenberg said the report showed significant gaps remain in U.S. gun laws that would be exploited by terrorists to the detriment of homeland security.
“This report also details the kind of military-style weapons that are easily available to terrorists in the civilian market,” said Lautenberg upon releasing the report.
He said examples include .50-caliber rifles, which he stated were designed originally as an anti-aircraft weapon.
“This weapon has a range of over a mile. The report finds that it could ‘pierce up to six inches of steel armor plating,’” said Lautenberg, adding that the report also said the round could “shoot down a helicopter or blow up a hazardous material storage tank.”
“It is outrageous that such a weapon is so easily available,” he said.
Fifty-caliber weapons, which are bulky and expensive, were not specifically banned by the 1994 law.
‘Anti-gun Hail Mary’
Gun-rights organizations, authors and analysts contend Lautenberg’s assertions and the congressional report are misleading.
Military-style rifles are no more lethal than other semi-automatic weapons that lack the military cosmetics, they say, adding it is not possible to ban or regulate everything that can be used by a potential terrorist to kill American citizens.
“In a last-ditch, anti-gun Hail Mary, Sen. Frank Lautenberg … dispatched government researchers to ferret out every conceivable misuse of firearm freedoms that could be exploited by bad guys,” wrote National Rifle Association executive director and WND Books author Wayne LaPierre, in yesterday’s USA Today.
“This foolishness brings to mind two images laughable to thinking Americans,” LaPierre wrote. “One, of terrorists shopping for rifles at a sporting goods store or a weekend gun show. And two, of the same terrorists deciding not to buy a gun because Lautenberg got this or that law passed.”
Other gun-rights advocates were concerned more gun laws would unnecessarily restrict firearms and firearms purchases.
“The United States is not a paranoid police state – yet,” says Brian Puckett, gun-rights columnist and founder of the now-defunct gun-rights group Citizens of America.
“So we have no limits on the number of cars, computers, cell phones, matches, gallons of gasoline, or feet of rope that an American can buy. Yet all of these things are used to commit crimes every day,” Puckett told WorldNetDaily. “Should we set buying limits on anything that can be used to commit a crime?”
Puckett noted laws controlling the sale of gasoline permit anyone to buy 1,000 gallons any time they want.
“That is enough gasoline … to burn down scores of housing compounds or any other buildings,” he said.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, charged “Lautenberg’s logic is based on the premise that if a bad guy can get a gun, all the good guys should be prohibited from having one.”
“The senator’s solution is to impose laws on U.S. citizens similar to those that the Weimar Republic imposed on Germans in 1928,” Pratt said. “In 1935, Adolph Hitler used the licensing and registration laws on the books to confiscate guns and exterminate the Jews and millions of other Germans as well.”
Shamaya said laws and restrictions placed on gun rights are far more Draconian than those applied to all other rights listed in the Constitution.
“The background check system wouldn’t pass a constitutionality test if it was required before exercising your right to free speech,” he told WorldNetDaily. “Nor should it pass an honest test for exercising the Second Amendment. A three-day wait to exercise your Bill of Rights? Absurd. Pure infringement.”
Bush favors ban
President Bush has said he is in favor of continuing a ban on the importation and domestic manufacture of certain types of so-called “assault weapons,” much to the dismay of gun-rights groups, as WorldNetDaily has reported.
But the House’s second-highest-ranking Republican, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, doesn’t believe there are enough votes in Congress to support a reauthorization of the ban.
Lautenberg said he has introduced a bill tied to the nation’s terrorist warning system that will close the so-called gun-law loopholes. The Homeland Security Gun Safety Act, said the New Jersey senator, “will address many of these problems.”
“When our nation goes to a ‘yellow’ or ‘elevated’ risk of terror alert, we would no longer tie the hands of law enforcement by only giving them three days to complete a background check,” he said. “And when we go to yellow alert, my bill will not allow weapons records to be destroyed by Attorney General [John] Ashcroft.”
By law, firearms background check records must be destroyed after three days.
The nation is currently at “orange,” or “high,” but usually has been at yellow since the system was adopted, meaning Lautenberg’s new measures would be in effect most of the time.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have introduced legislation to reauthorize the ban and “close the clip-importation loophole, which prohibits the sale of domestically produced high-capacity ammunition magazines, but allows foreign companies to continue to bring them into the country by the millions,” according to a statement issued by Feinstein.
“Lautenberg is clueless,” said Pratt. “He has learned nothing from the genocides committed by the governments of the last century. Nor has he learned anything from England, where a gun registration system facilitated the confiscation of all but a handful of shotguns and rifles which by law may not be used in self defense.
“His proposals are a prescription for killing people, not saving lives,” Pratt continued. “The [Congressional Research Service] findings are meaningless because they are predicated on the notion that gun controls work.”
In England, he said, “handgun crimes are booming, yet handguns are completely banned.”
“Lautenberg comes from New Jersey, where some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation exist, yet crime is very high,” Shamaya continued. “People like [him] would strip all firearms from private hands if they could figure out a way to do it.”
“Criminals and terrorists already are, by definition, lawbreakers,” LaPierre said. “Passing new gun laws will only make what honest citizens do illegal.”
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Wayne LaPierre is the author of “Guns, Freedom, and Terrorism,” published by WND Books and available at ShopNetDaily.