As expected it wasn’t long before those who champion the case for gun control laid the blame for the Boston bombings at the NRA (Pilkington, 2013). According to Pilkington, evidence has now come to light that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on a national terrorism watch list; in spite of this, Tamerlan (as well as his brother), was able to legally purchase weapons and explosives from gun shops.
So it is perhaps not surprising that gun control supporters would be casting accusations towards the NRA who in support of the millions of lawful gun owners in America, successfully campaigned against the Bill which was once again put forward by Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic US senator for New Jersey and have successfully halted the push for further gun control at the Senate (Chang, 2013).
On the surface stopping dangerous terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives (H.R 1506, 2011) (S.34, 2013) could only be described as a good thing, yet the objections to the proposed Bills are not unfounded, and nor are associated criticisms limited to the NRA, or even just gun owners. Both the H.R 1506 and the S.34 Bill are designed to give the Attorney General discretionary powers to deny the sale or transfer of a firearm as part of an expanded background check system or to deny or revoke a firearms licence or permit. It could be argued that the Attorney General cannot be trusted to exercise fair discretion in such cases, given that he is the appointee of a government administration that has already demonstrated a willingness to support further restrictions on firearms ownership (NRA – ILA, 2011). You don’t have to look far to find cases of people side stepping common sense to further their ideological campaign against lawful firearms ownership as is evidenced by the 7 year old who was suspended from his school for pretending a pencil was a gun whilst playing with his friend (McNamara, 2013).
The use of the ever expanding and secretive watch list system has also raised consistent objections from the American Civil Liberties Union which published a statement in 2010 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that included the following statement:
“The ACLU believes that the current terror watch list process is deeply flawed. Evidence from numerous government reports document ill-designed and inaccurate lists with serious inadequacies in the process for placing and removing individuals from the list. Even worse, the lists are shrouded in secrecy: who is on the list, the standard for placement on the list, and the requirements for removal from the list are all secret.” (ACLU, 2010)
Lautenberg is quoted as saying “but it’s time to put the safety of our families first”, yet despite often being portrayed as a corporate lobbying arm for gun manufactures, the NRA, founded in 1871, seeks to do exactly that. The NRA’s Eddie the Eagle Gun Safe program, for example, was a ground-breaking accident prevention program for young people, and has no doubt saved countless of lives with its simple but effective message of gun safety “If you see a gun, STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult” (NRA, 2012).
The NRA, now reported to have over five million members (Klukowski, 2013), through its defence of the 2nd Amendment are also serving the safety needs of adults, by campaigning to ensure that their right to keep and bear arms, in defence of their families is not put at risk by the political and ideologically motivated attacks of gun control organizations and their supporters.
Increased restrictions and an extended background check system would not stop criminals or even terrorists from purchasing firearms. Criminals will simply buy them on the black market, or they will steal them. Criminals that can’t pass a background check will seek other means to acquire their arms, and with the conviction rate for the criminals that do fail a background check being so low, it is far better to begin enforcing existing legislation before trying to rush through new legislation, which will always impact the law-abiding citizen disproportionately (Susman, 2013).
All gun sales from licenced gun dealers whether online, face-to-face in a store, or at a gun show, already go through background checks. What legislation such as that put forward by Lautenberg will do is impede private law-abiding citizens from selling guns between themselves. To own a fully automatic gun you have to pay a special tax stamp, be checked by the FBI and have your finger prints recorded; you cannot simply just go and pick one up with no paperwork at a gun show (BRP Corp, 2013), as Pilkington’s article suggests. Despite the rhetoric, the quote from Michael James Barton tucked in at the very end of Pilkington’s piece accurately describes the meaning of the “terrorist watch list”: it’s a mere flag, something to grab the attention of the authorities, nothing more, without the evidence worthy of a conviction those on the list are US citizens and are therefore protected under the Constitution.
Firearms UK is an online campaign aiming to protect gun ownership for law abiding citizens in the UK and to encourage unity and positive action within the shooting community.
To improve legibility the bibliography for this article is available separately as a .pdf download