NRA Challenges Gun Show, Terrorism Link
By Jeff Johnson - CNSNews.com
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - An anti-gun group's ad campaign suggesting that gun shows provide terrorists access to weapons is being shot down by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The group Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) asks in its latest advertising campaign, "We're fighting terrorists around the world. Why do we let them buy guns in America?"
The advertisement goes on to describe the arrest of alleged terrorist gunrunner Ali Boumelhem.
"According to The Middle East Intelligence Report (sic), the FBI has already arrested one Hezbollah terrorist who purchased weapons at several Michigan gun shows."
James Jay Baker, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) says the answer to AGS' question is, "We don't." He is highly critical of the ad's content, calling it an "outrageous attempt" to link the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks to gun shows.
"AGS has shown it is no longer content to capitalize on the grief left in the wake of two homicidal teen-agers at Columbine High School. It is now seeking to exploit the fear of global terrorism left by the attacks of September 11," Baker wrote in a December 20 editorial. "Furthermore, the facts of the cited case do not support the AGS effort."
He points out that the ad fails to mention that Boumelhem was a convicted felon who could not legally buy firearms at a gun show or anywhere else.
"To suggest he slipped through a 'gun show loophole' is simply a lie," Baker said. "He was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted in federal court. In other words, the system worked."
Boumelhem was convicted of shipping firearms to a non-licensed person Sept. 10th in U.S. District Court. He was scheduled to be sentenced this week. AGS does mention the previous felony conviction elsewhere on its website.
Baker cites further omissions by AGS. In its commentary on the Boumelhem case, the group writes:
"According to the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB), the shipment intercepted in November was part of a pattern-Boumelhem 'traveled frequently to gun shows to buy arms and then hid them in cargo crates bound for Lebanon.' Moreover, an FBI informant previously had seen Boumelhem in Beirut unloading shipments of weapons and explosives," the group writes.
But the AGS' paraphrase of the informant describing Boumelhem's activities in Beirut to the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB) leaves out key details.
"In addition," MEIB writes, "an FBI informant told investigators that he had seen Boumelhem in Beirut unloading shipments of automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers."
Baker believes the omission was intentional.
"Clearly, 'automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers' was changed to 'weapons and explosives,'" he said. "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 AGS website also describes the items seized after the FBI searched an auto parts cargo container Boumelhem was shipping to Lebanon.
"They found shotguns, ammunition, flash suppressors, assault weapons parts, and a police scanner hidden in a car door," AGS wrote.
But Osama Siblani, editor of Dearborn, Michigan's, "Arab American News" points out that what authorities actually found, inside a single car door, was only two shotguns and 750 rounds of ammunition, along with a few spare parts and police scanner.
"Hezbollah is getting millions of dollars from Iran. They have plenty of weapons. They don't need a few shotguns from Dearborn," Siblani said in a May 6, 2001 interview with "The Detroit News."
Despite the criticisms of its omissions, AGS continues to cite the case as an example of terrorists buying weapons by exploiting the so-called "gun show loophole."
Federally licensed firearms dealers agree to conduct background inquiries on all purchasers through the National Instant Check System (NICS) as a part of their licensing agreement.
Private citizens seeking to sell or trade personal guns are not required to conduct such checks at gun shows or anywhere else. AGS, and other anti-gun groups, call the exercise of that right a "loophole."
As CNSNews.com previously reported critics of NICS say the entire idea of background checks is merely a back-door effort by anti-Second Amendment lawmakers to create a federal registry of gun owners.
They point to a 1989 Justice Department document, entitled "Report to the Attorney General on Systems for Identifying Felons Who Attempt to Purchase Firearms."
"Any system that requires a criminal history record(s) check prior to purchase of a firearm creates the potential for the automated tracking of individuals who seek to purchase firearms," the report said.
"It shouldn't exist. It's unconstitutional," said Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, referring to the background check system.
Matt Bennett, a spokesman for AGS argues that background checks at gun shows are a necessary crime prevention tool.
"In our view, gun shows are the place where dangers arise," Bennett said. "If you're a criminal looking to buy a gun, it's just too easy access for those types of people at big, organized events like that."
Baker says AGS and other "radical fringe anti-gun groups" are simply continuing their pattern of exploiting current events to promote restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
"Americans will be disgusted by this crass manipulation, because they understand that the threat of terrorism will not be found in their neighborhood gun show," he said. "But the threat of political opportunism taking hold is very real."