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Jewish World Review Feb. 1, 2002 / 19 Shevat, 5762

Michael Long

Mike Long
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Consumer Reports

Ready, Aim, Cloud The Issue

An irresponsible report on "terrorism" from the Brady Center. -- SINCE September 11, the rubric of anti-terrorism and "homeland security" has provided cover for all sorts of political poaching, from billions in pure pork from Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), to the gift of a new class of unionized federal workers for Big Labor.

Fortunately, such forays into opportunism have been rare, compared to the sight of partisans who have avoided using the fear of terrorism to leverage other, unrelated issues. But that is changing.

The anti-Second Amendment movement is now pursuing what it thinks will be a winning strategy: to promote gun rights as a contributor to terror. If the claim were true, it could be a winning hand-and important to explore. But it's only spin, and dangerous spin at that: Using fear of terrorism as a Trojan Horse irresponsibly muddies the debate over national security.

Handgun Control, Inc.-now known as the benign-sounding "Brady Campaign"-joined the effort with the December release of a report claiming to illustrate how terrorists use our "weak" gun laws to "amass" caches of firearms. But if their case is as compelling as other recent anti-terror ideas that have easily overcome ideology, then the event announcing the report portends monumental failure. Featuring a stellar line-up of political personages whose philosophies range from far left to farther left, only Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) showed up. Not exactly a kettle of hawks.

The report claims, "nothing in federal law prohibits terrorists from quickly amassing arsenals of weapons." Nonsense. There are numerous laws at the federal and state levels that make it a crime for violent criminals to purchase any guns at all. To enforce that law in a timely way, we use background checks that provide immediate identification. This Brady notion is like claiming that there is no law to prohibit me from driving down the highway at a hundred miles an hour. If I can get away with it then there may be a problem, but the passage of new laws won't do anything. The Brady Center's equivalent response would be for government to further regulate the sales of cars.

The report claims a "loophole in federal law allows terrorists to buy 'gun kits' through the mail that can be assembled into untraceable assault weapons." But the assertion is simply not true. The report cites the Cobray pistol, which is available in a mail-order parts kit except for the frame (or "receiver") of the weapon. That key element must be constructed from sheet metal. Would the Brady Center have us inspect metal shops? Perhaps place an armed-uh, unarmed-guard at the door of every eighth grade shop class? And what does any of this have to do with terrorism?

There is more: a scary picture on the cover of a man in a turban, pointing a rifle (where's the political correctness police to stop the Left from stereotyping?); a few anecdotes in which gun shows magically become "bazaars" for "grenades and rocket launchers"; and some poorly chosen accounts of how laws already on the books helped stop the illegal acquisition of weapons-accounts that actually undercut their case that the current system is a threat to national security.

The report has failed to find traction because the Brady Center isn't the non-partisan outfit it claims to be. Instead of choosing academics capable of an unbiased examination to draft the report, the Brady Center paired a writer from Ralph Nader's Public Citizen group, Loren Berger, with the man who directs the Brady Center's own lawsuits, Dennis Henigan.

Mr. Henigan is an especially poor choice for such work. A leading and longtime attorney for the gun-control lobby, he helped build whole new vistas of tort abuse (and potential wealth for lawyers) with his pioneering idea to bankrupt gun dealers through dubious lawsuits. "The gun-violence problem is more than the problem of guns in the hands of bad people," he told the New Yorker in 1999. "It's also a problem of guns in the hands of good people."

Gun control ought to be debated honestly. For instance, there is a clear-headed case to be made for closing the so-called "gun-show loophole," but it has just about nothing to do with terrorism. Neither does this report. Judging from the nuclear and chemical weapons plans Al Qaeda left behind in Afghanistan, a dubiously launched debate over whether gun laws breed terror will distract us from what is, shall we say, a more clear and present danger.

JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


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12/07/01: A war bigger than we know: Changing the future, slowly and surely
11/28/01: A Mid-Winter Night's Dream: A play in one fun act
11/20/01: A Lot of War Left To Fight
11/13/01: Guess who Clinton's apologizing for now: I'll bet you guessed right
11/02/01: Rules for Wartime: Rule Number One: Remember what's true
10/26/01: The Moral Case For Torture: Dirty hands don't always mean dirty souls
10/19/01: Questions for the Anti-War Crowd, Part II: What if someone took them seriously?
10/16/01: Questions for the anti-war crowd: If they question you, ask these back
10/12/01: The Jason Problem: Sometimes they only look dead
10/08/01: A little hindsight: A letter for readers in the future
09/28/01: Calling Bono: A plea to the pop culture elite to speak out
09/20/01: Encouragement from the Heartland, by mail
09/13/01: Bleeding time
09/07/01: The trailer-park taste of the public radio catalog
09/04/01: BRAVE NEW FREUD: Internet-based psychiatry may mean relief for those who have shunned treatment
08/17/01: First Amendment: Chickens home to roost
07/27/01: Dispatch From The Front: The Gun Control War
07/20/01: Summer song
07/03/01: It's a Wonderful Recount

© 2001, Michael Long