Days after an al Qaeda spokesman in a YouTube video urged the terrorist group’s sympathizers in the U.S. to exploit the private sale gun show loophole in order to purchase weapons to use against Americans, ThinkProgress repeatedly asked the National Rifle Association for comment. However, the powerful gun lobby wouldn’t talk.
But on Friday, the NRA broke its silence. In a post on the website of the group’s legislative action arm, the NRA downplayed the video, saying that closing the loophole will have no effect on “committed terrorists.” To back up their point, the NRA says the Pakistani terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks were able to obtain firearms, despite India’s strict gun laws (although it’s unclear what Pakistan or India has to do with terrorists getting guns in America). Here’s the rest of the argument:
- Even if private gun sales in the U.S. were banned, terrorists — like common domestic criminals — could simply use straw purchasers who can pass background checks, or could rely on stolen guns and other black market sources.
- Legislation to arbitrarily deny sales to persons on the “terrorist watchlist” would be useless against Gadahn’s target audience of “lone wolf” attackers with no previous ties to terrorist organizations.
- Fully automatic “assault weapons” cannot be purchased over the counter.
First, no one is saying that private sales should be banned. Gun safety advocates simply promote having private sellers at gun shows follow the same regulations as licensed dealers: that buyers should be subjected to a federal criminal background check.
Second, individuals on the terrorist watch list can currently purchase firearms anywhere in America, from either private or licensed dealers, because they will not show up on the federal government’s gun control database. While it also makes sense to close this so-called “terror gap,” this isn’t the issue, as Media Matters’ Chris Brown pointed out: “Terrorists that are currently prohibited from purchasing guns can buy guns at gun shows from private sellers because the sellers don’t have to run background checks.”
And whether terrorists can buy fully automatic weapons or semi automatic weapons isn’t at issue either. The fact that terrorists or terrorist sympathizers can purchase any type of firearm without any legal scrutiny is what’s alarming.
Yes, terrorists, just like average domestic criminals, will most likely be able to obtain firearms illegally in this country. But doesn’t it make sense to prevent them from doing so legally?