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Senate Hearing Promotes Anti-American Watchlist Bills

Friday, May 7, 2010

Since September 11, 2001, it's been clear that terrorists who hate America will exploit our weaknesses in order to destroy us. This week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg exploited Americans' fear of terrorism to push their latest anti-gun proposal, and in doing so showed that they're willing to destroy other parts of the Constitution, to choke its Second Amendment.

On Tuesday, as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Lieberman held a hearing to give Lautenberg and King the opportunity to promote their bills S.1317 and H.R.2159, to prohibit the possession of firearms by people on the FBI's "terrorist watchlist," and Lautenberg's S. 2820, to maintain records of approved instant background check transactions for a minimum of 180 days. The watchlist bills further propose that a person seeking relief in court  from these new restrictions would be prevented from examining and challenging "evidence" against him, and that the judge deciding whether the person had been watchlisted for good reason be limited to summaries and redacted versions of such "evidence."

Joining Lautenberg, King and Bloomberg to speak in favor of these patently anti-American and unconstitutional bills was Bloomberg's police commissioner, Ray Kelly.

Claims made by the bills' supporters during the hearing bordered on the frivolous. Lautenberg cited the failed attempt last Saturday to set off a homemade gasoline-propane bomb in an SUV near NYC's Times Square -- even though his watchlist bill would only regulate firearms and commercially made explosives. Lautenberg then brought up an even more irrelevant incident, the 2008 attack by a terrorist group in Mumbai, India, saying "That's why we need to change the law" in the United States. A "fanatic" in his own right when it comes to gun control, Lautenberg continued, "Nothing in our laws keeps fanatics on the terror watchlist from purchasing guns and explosives."

Lautenberg was lying, of course, and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) called him on it. Knowing that the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center* has reported that about 95 percent of people on the watchlist are neither American citizens nor legal residents of the United States, Sen. Graham pointed out "there are 400,000 people on the watchlist." He then asked, "what percentage of them are American citizens?"

Lautenberg and his allies sat silently, dumbfounded, for what seemed an eternity, until Kelly, dutifully taking the punch so his boss wouldn't have to, sputtered that he was unable to come up with a figure. Since it was obvious that the anti-gunners didn't get the point, Sen. Graham clarified it for them: "The law prohibits the purchase of a gun unless you're an American citizen or a legal resident alien."

Lautenberg tried to justify his bill by saying "From 2004 to February of this year, terrorists tried to buy guns and explosives 1,228 times. In 91 percent of those cases, they were given the OK to buy the guns." The claim was misleading, in that the 1,228 checks were accounted for by about 650 individuals, according to the Government Accountability Office. But Sen. Graham seized upon a more important flaw in the statistic when he asked how many of these "terrorists" were dangerous enough to have been brought up on terrorism charges. On this point too, the Lautenberg team had no response. That led Sen. Graham to question whether the watchlisted gun buyers were as dangerous as the Lautenberg team want people to believe.

King falsely claimed that his bill was justified by last year's Ft. Hood murders, "where individuals [sic] suspected of terrorist activity legally obtained weapons that were used to kill innocent Americans." The truth is, the one person (not multiple individuals) accused of the Ft. Hood crime was not "suspected of terrorist activity." Months before the accused killer bought his gun, the FBI had completed an investigation of him, concluding that despite some suspicious e-mails between the accused and an anti-American Islamist overseas, he was not a terrorist threat. At the bottom line, even if everything that Lautenberg, King and Bloomberg are proposing had already been federal law, it would not have affected the Ft. Hood crime one whit.

Speaking against the proposed legislation during the hearing was Aaron Titus of the Liberty Coalition.  "Senate Bill 1317 goes too far," he said. "The bill should be titled, 'The Gun Owners Are Probably All Terrorists Act,' because it strips citizens of their constitutional right to [keep and] bear arms without any meaningful due process. And Senate Bill 2820 should be called, 'The National Firearm Registry Act' because it creates a national firearms registry. . . . a massive database of names and detailed personal information of each law-abiding citizen who purchases a gun."

Titus' point laid Lautenberg's, King's and Bloomberg's intention bare. While S. 2820 would allow the FBI to retain NICS records on all NICS transactions, 99.999 percent of the people documented in those records would not be persons on the watchlist. "The bill disingenuously purports to target terrorists," Titus said, "but in fact only one ten-thousandth of one percent of these records will belong to people on watch lists. Every year, only 200 new watch-list records will be created. But the system will generate more than 14 million new records on law-abiding citizens. Once collected, there's no limit on what the information may be used for, and no legal requirement to ever delete it."

Later, Sen. Graham summed up the reason that should motivate every American -- regardless of personal feelings about individual gun ownership -- to oppose the Lautenberg and King bills. "I think you're going too far here," he said. "There's a huge difference between losing your gun rights based upon a felony charge that was proven by a court of law and appealed, and is a conviction on the books, and being on some list that is, at best, suspect."  NRA members in South Carolina and around the nation owe Sen. Graham their thanks for getting to the heart of the issue.

* As originally posted, the Alert incorrectly attributed the statistic to the Government Accountability Office.

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