The national public policy debate was plunged to a new low October 25, 2001 by the single-issue lobbying group, Americans for Gun Safety (AGS). AGS is funded solely by Internet billionaire Andy McKelvey—a former board member of the gun-ban lobby known as Handgun Control, Inc.
The new group made an outrageous attempt to link the terrorist strikes against this country to a national tradition as old as America itself—gun shows. In an ad appearing in Roll Call, AGS showed it is no longer content to capitalize on the grief left in the wake of two homicidal teenagers at Columbine High School. It is now seeking to exploit the fear of global terrorism left by the attacks of September 11, but its attack on gun shows is simply the same tired gun control agenda in new packaging. Furthermore, the facts of the cited case do not support the AGS effort.
"This is political opportunism at its calculated worst, and it cannot be allowed to spread unchallenged," said James Jay Baker, NRA`s chief lobbyist.
"It`s time for full disclosure," Baker continued. "Americans for Gun Safety has zero Americans for members, and nothing to do with gun safety programs. It`s a billionaire`s pet project, staffed by the architects of the anti-gun agenda of Bill Clinton and Senator Charles Schumer, who are desperately seeking new justifications for pushing their tired gun control agenda." Baker said.
The president of AGS is Jonathan Cowan, who served as aide to the self-appointed anti-gun czar of the Clinton cabinet—HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, whose agenda for fighting crime revolved around threatening nonsensical lawsuits against gun makers. Cowan is assisted by former White House political aide Matt Bennett, and by Jim Kessler, the former gun advisor to Senator Schumer. Internal documents from an AGS meeting reveal their "top national priority . . . passage of licensing and/or registration in the next Congress."
In its campaign to resurrect its gun show legislation, AGS desperately dug up a case the FBI began investigating over a year ago. The case involved a man suspected of attending gun shows in the Detroit area to purchase firearms for shipment overseas to the Hezbollah. The FBI placed the man under surveillance, and in due course, he was arrested, prosecuted and convicted in federal court. In other words, the system worked.
AGS` ad deceitfully fails to note that the suspect was a convicted felon and as such was prohibited from buying guns anywhere—including gun shows. To suggest he slipped through a "gun show loophole" is simply a lie. The aggressive enforcement of federal laws already on the books ended the career of this committed criminal.
AGS` previous misrepresentations of the facts in this case are telling. In an E-mail to Members of Congress, AGS` Jim Kessler 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." Why? Because AGS knows full well that since the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934 none of those items can be bought or sold at any gun show.
The day the Roll Call ad ran, the Washington Post obligingly spread the AGS fraud, providing space to Eric Holder, whose past experience in the Department of Justice included countless trips to Capitol Hill to defend the Clinton Administration`s failure to enforce federal firearms law. Holder wrote: "previously convicted felon and terrorist, Ali Boumelhem, went to a Michigan gun show, where he was legally exempt from a background check, and purchased assault weapons, shotguns, ammunition and flash suppressors that he intended to ship to the terrorist group Hezbollah. A convicted felon "legally exempt?"
Holder also mischaracterized the case of four people convicted last year of illegally buying guns at a Florida gun show. He downplayed the fact that enforcing the law worked, because he was more interested in advancing the charge that the guns were purchased "for use by the Provisional Irish Republican Army." He failed to mention that the jury rejected the IRA connection charge. Admitting that fact would totally collapse the bridge his friends at AGS are deceitfully attempting to build between gun shows and terrorists.
AGS` attempt to link the terrorist actions of September 11—which, of course, in no way involved firearms—to gun shows is not only an assault on the truth; it is an attack on logic. As the editor of the Arab American News in Dearborn pointed out in commenting on the Boumelhem case last May: "Hezbollah is getting millions of dollars from Iran. They have plenty of weapons. They don`t need a few shotguns from Dearborn."
Baker continued, "This outrageous attack on Americans` Second Amendment rights proves that AGS is the same as every other radical fringe anti-gun group—they have the same solution to every problem, and are willing to sink to any depth to exploit the headlines in pursuing their pet agenda. America faces many difficult challenges in the months ahead. Those challenges should not include efforts that make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to purchase and use firearms," Baker said. "True American public opinion is telling its own story. Since the attacks of September 11, media outlets have been filled with reports of Americans purchasing their first firearms and learning to use them safely and responsibly for self-protection."
"AGS is no doubt simply doing the bidding of its corporate master in going to such desperate lengths to justify anew its agenda," Baker continued. "Americans will be disgusted by this crass manipulation, because they understand that the tools of terrorism will not be found in their neighborhood gun show. But the threat of political opportunism taking hold is very real, and I urge every law-abiding American gun owner to contact their federal representatives to ensure that our rights do not become a casualty in the war against terrorism."