NRA’s com­plic­ity in ter­ror­ism

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

AMER­ICA is ab­so­lutely awash with eas­ily ob­tain­able firearms,” one spokesman for Al Qaeda said in a 2011 re­cruit­ment video. “So what are you wait­ing for?” Few places on earth make it eas­ier than the United States for a ter­ror­ist to buy as­sault weapons to mow down scores of peo­ple in a mat­ter of min­utes. The hor­rific mas­sacre in Or­lando last week­end is only the lat­est ex­am­ple. And all this is made vastly eas­ier by a gun lobby that has blocked sen­si­ble safety mea­sures at ev­ery turn, and by mem­bers of Congress who seem to pledge greater al­le­giance to the firearms in­dus­try than to their own con­stituen­cies. There is a word for their role in this form of ter­ror­ism: com­plic­ity. On Wed­nes­day, Se­nate Democrats be­gan a fil­i­buster to force a vote on gun-con­trol leg­is­la­tion. If Congress is se­ri­ous about the threat of ter­ror­ists us­ing guns, there are sev­eral steps it can take right away.

First, sup­port rea­son­able ef­forts to close the so-called ter­ror gap, which would make it harder for sus­pected ter­ror­ists to get their hands on a gun. In De­cem­ber, Congress con­sid­ered leg­is­la­tion by Se­na­tor Dianne Fe­in­stein, a Demo­crat, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter King, a Repub­li­can, that would have given the FBI the abil­ity to pre­vent gun sales to peo­ple it had rea­son to be­lieve might be con­nected to ter­ror­ism. The bill was based on a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posal, and ver­sions of it have been pushed for years, but Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill, be­holden to the NRA (Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion) and other gun-rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, voted it down. This would be in­ex­pli­ca­ble un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, but now that the ISIS has openly called on lone-wolf at­tack­ers to take their war to the streets of Amer­ica, it is a full-blown na­tional-se­cu­rity hazard. All those at­tack­ers need to do is to buy a gun and swear al­le­giance to ISIS’ death cult. At least some of them are or have been un­der FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing Omar Ma­teen, the Or­lando kil­ler. If a law like Se­na­tor Fe­in­stein’s were in place, au­thor­i­ties would have at least a chance of stop­ping as­pir­ing ter­ror­ists from buy­ing weapons.

Some crit­ics say the gov­ern­ment’s ter­ror watch lists sweep up far too many in­no­cent peo­ple. But the Fe­in­stein bill al­lowed law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to block a sale only af­ter show­ing that a prospec­tive gun buyer on the watch list was known or sus­pected to be in­volved in ter­ror­ism. If blocked, the per­son could chal­lenge that de­nial in fed­eral court. Other ef­fec­tive mea­sures in­clude uni­ver­sal back­ground checks to in­ter­cept peo­ple who are le­gally barred from gun own­er­ship, like those con­victed of do­mes­tic abuse and the men­tally ill; and lim­its on mag­a­zine ca­pac­ity, which some states have al­ready en­acted. Mr. Ma­teen was able to kill 49 peo­ple largely be­cause the as­sault ri­fle he was us­ing could fire 30-round clips as fast as he could pull the trig­ger. No civil­ian any­where should be al­lowed to have that abil­ity. What makes the leg­isla­tive in­ac­tion all the more mad­den­ing is that there is gen­eral pub­lic agree­ment in favour of at­tempts like these to re­duce the blood­shed. An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans — in­clud­ing gun own­ers and even NRA mem­bers — sup­port uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, while strong ma­jori­ties want to block sales to sus­pected ter­ror­ists and ban high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines. And yet the NRA re­jects these steps, even though it says that ter­ror­ists shouldn’t be able to get guns. In­stead, it clings to the ab­surd fan­tasy that a heav­ily-armed pop­u­lace is the best way to keep Amer­i­cans safe. That failed in Or­lando, where an armed se­cu­rity guard was on the scene but could not stop the slaugh­ter. Most of the rest of the world fig­ured this out long ago. But in the United States, the gun in­dus­try and its en­ablers con­tinue to in­sist that the only so­lu­tion is more guns, and more bul­lets fly­ing. The gun in­dus­try lob­by­ists may be be­yond rea­son, but the law­mak­ers have a duty to re­spond to their con­stituents. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter each new mas­sacre, far too many of­fer noth­ing more than con­do­lences and mo­ments of si­lence. That si­lence is killing us. — The New York Times

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