You read Tom Oliphant’s rhetoric in “Lax gun laws help terrorists” (Boston Globe, 9/25/01). Now, here’s the reality.
Mr. Oliphant’s viewpoint on gun shows came from a fact sheet provided to him by Americans for Gun Safety (AGS). In an e-mail missive sent from the organization to congressional recipients, AGS staff could barely conceal their glee that Oliphant played into their shameless gambit of exploiting an irrelevant news story to advance a specific piece of their gun control agenda.
In a desperate effort to resurrect its gun show legislation, AGS has dug up a case the FBI began investigating over a year ago. AGS’s deliberate intention was to inject the word “terrorist” into the gun show debate. Such crass political opportunism would not ordinarily merit comment, but this calculated misrepresentation begs a full accounting.
The case involved a Detroit resident, Ali Boumelhem, a convicted felon, who was suspected to going to gun shows to purchase firearms for shipment overseas to the Hezbollah. The FBI investigated the case, and in due course, he was arrested, prosecuted and convicted in federal court. In other words, the system worked.
AGS had to selectively edit material it sent journalists and politicians to try to create a nexus to its agenda of placing new restrictions on gun owners. The AGS mailing states an FBI informant previously has seen Boumelhem in Beirut unloading shipments of weapons and explosives.
The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, which AGS cites as its source, is much more specific, saying the FBI informant “had seen Boumelhem in Beirut unloading shipments of automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers.”
Clearly, automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers was changed to weapons and explosives because AGS knows full well that none of those items can be bought or sold at any gun show anywhere in America.
In fact, as a convicted felon, Boumelhem was prohibited from buying guns -- PERIOD. He skirted the law through various artifices, including using his brother with the clean record as a straw man to buy firearms from gun shops -- another federal offense. Passing gun show restrictions will in no way deter such a committed criminal. That can only be done by aggressive law enforcement action, like we saw in this case.
The AGS campaign to paint gun shows as havens for terrorists is plausible only to those who have never attended one. Gun shows are community events, usually held over a weekend, on state fairgrounds, sports arenas or exhibit halls. Gun shows are better established in America’s heartland where a higher concentration of farmers, ranchers and hunters reside, and where, incidentally, the frequency of violent crime is lower than the national average.
So, what do millions of law-abiding citizens have against the AGS-proposed legislation? The bill would establish a waiting period of as much as five-days for gun show transactions. Rudimentary math will show that imposing a five-day waiting period on a two-day event will abrogate transactions and put gun shows permanently out-of-business.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) supports language that would establish an instant background check of no longer than 24 hours on every gun sold at a gun show. Nonetheless, in 1999, anti-gun partisans in the U.S. House of Representatives killed that proposal. Some pundits speculated at the time that the White House ordered the bill’s defeat to make gun control the centerpiece of the 2000 presidential election. Even more pundits today say that this tactic cost Al Gore the presidency.
Hence, the emergence of AGS. A recent creation of billionaire Andrew McKelvey -- former board member of Handgun Control, Inc. -- AGS was conceived as a public relations ploy to push the same old gun control agenda under a new umbrella of “third way” centrist rhetoric. Despite the resources of its billionaire backer and its carefully focus-grouped moniker, AGS has zero Americans for members and nothing to do with gun safety.
The National Rifle Association, in contrast, stands with more than 4 million members living in every congressional district in America, and a 130 year old legacy of investing in gun safety. We will continue to oppose the deceptive McKelvey agenda, while at the same time, we pursue the objective prominently stated in our Bylaws: “To promote public safety, law and order and the national defense.”
James Jay Baker, Executive Director
National Rifle Association - Institute for Legislative Action
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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.