Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) seized the opportunity presented by the Senate’s water development bill to revive a soundly debunked conspiracy theory that the government is plotting to seize guns and wage war on the populace. In two amendments to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Coburn wants to require all government agencies to report the number and types of firearms owned, purchased or lost each year, while repealing the gun ban on roughly 12 million acres managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Senate will vote at 2 pm on Wednesday to pass the measures.
Judging by these amendments, Coburn has not yet let go of his months-long crusade against the Department of Homeland Security, which he believed was stockpiling ammunition in a deliberate attempt to restrict access to the public. Conspiracy sites like Alex Jones’ InfoWars and WND warned that the purchases meant the DHS was “gearing up for huge wars” in an “arms race against the American people.” The agency responded to Coburn’s letter laying out exactly how unexceptional the purchase was, forcing the senator to admit that the amount of ammo was actually lower than in previous years. Even Breitbart.com dismissed the theory as “based more on panic than fact.”
Coburn’s amendment also seems to target the botched “Operation Fast and Furious” gun stings, which conservatives have tried to tie to Attorney General Eric Holder even though an independent investigation cleared him.
Since the background checks deal failed in the Senate, Coburn’s amendments, if passed, would represent the Senate’s second successful gun-related legislation after the Newtown elementary school shooting. Though the background checks proposal, with nearly 90 percent of public support, was considered politically impossible, Coburn’s plan to put more guns on federal lands and legislate based on conspiracy theories may well pass.
Coburn has dropped the amendment to require agencies to disclose firearms purchases as a “goodwill gesture.” He will, however, move forward with the other amendment to allow guns on protected federal land.