Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guns and terrorism

America's lax gun laws allow foreign and domestic terrorists as well as extremists easy access to all types of weaponry. Just one example is the increasingly popular 50 caliber sniper rifle. Originally designed for military use, and currently used by U.S. troops in Iraq, these anti-armor rifles can penetrate the armor plating of armored vehicles, turn commercial jetliners into bombs on the ground, knock helicopters out of the air, and ignite railcars and stationary tank farms containing extremely hazardous, volatile, and explosive chemicals. Violence Policy Center research revealed that Al Qaeda acquired 25 of these rifles soon after they became available on the U.S. civilian market.
In addition to the 50 caliber sniper rifle, all stripes of extremists have access to a plethora of assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, loosely regulated black and smokeless powder explosive materials, body armor, explosive devices lacking the powder charge, and other materiel. In short, virtually everything needed to arm and equip a small army is available legally in the United States because of our lax laws.
There is no question that terrorists are taking advantage of America's weak gun laws. According to the Government Accountability Office, between February 3, 2004, and June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm-related background checks resulted in valid matches with terrorist watch list records. Nevertheless, 35 transactions were allowed to proceed because the background checks found no prohibiting information, such as felony convictions, illegal immigrant status, or other disqualifying factors. Current law is so weak that being a known member of a foreign terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from legally buying and possessing guns. The VPC is working to change that.
Another key focus of the VPC's work in this area is local, state, and federal efforts to restrict the availability of 50 caliber sniper rifles. As a direct result of the VPC's research and advocacy, in 2005 California became the first state in the nation to ban these weapons and similar bills are pending in other states and in Congress.
In addition, the VPC is working to pass effective state assault weapon bans (the federal assault weapons ban expired in September 2004). VPC research revealed that one out of five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon.
Today's gun laws make weapons so available that virtually anyone can build their own "credit card army." The danger presented by the current situation lies not only with the threat posed by potential foreign terrorist attacks, but also because there is a palpable, growing unrest among domestic fringe groups and individuals who claim they are preparing for the SAR (Second American Revolution) in reaction to developments such as enactment of the Patriot Act, recent court decisions expanding the government's eminent domain powers, and a general growing distrust of government. It was just this sort of discontent that led to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The VPC works every day to implement policies that will protect public safety and help prevent terrorists from getting guns.

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