May 16, 2009
Rumor was enough to get you burned as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. It was enough to get you shot in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. It’s enough to get your head chopped off in parts of Iraq infested with madmen claiming to carry out Allah’s will.
And if U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has his way, it may be enough to prohibit you from acquiring a firearm or federal firearm license, especially if the Attorney General is as opposed to gun ownership as Janet Reno was during the Clinton Administration, and as Eric Holder is today.
Fresh on the heels of a disturbing paper from the Department of Homeland Security, characterizing gun owners as rightwing extremists, on April 29 King introduced H.R. 2159, which he calls the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009.”
King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, describes himself as “a strong supporter of the war against international terrorism, both at home and abroad,” so without reading the bill one might assume that H.R. 2159 is a legitimate effort to clamp down on genuine terrorists. However, King and his bill’s co-sponsors-Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), Mike Castle (R-Del.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (D-Ill.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.)1-are extreme gun control supporters, and his bill is intended only to give the Executive Branch arbitrary, unaccountable power to stop loyal Americans from acquiring firearms. Here’s how:
H.R. 2159 would give “the Attorney General the authority to deny the sale, delivery, or transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearms or explosives license or permit to dangerous terrorists. . . . if the Attorney General determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support thereof, and the Attorney General has a reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.”
H.R. 2159 does not, however, impose any requirements or limits on the information the Attorney General could use to make a determination, and it proposes that “any information which the Attorney General relied on for this determination may be withheld from the applicant if the Attorney General determines that disclosure of the information would likely compromise national security.”
In stark contrast to the scheme proposed in H.R. 2159, federal law establishes guidelines for the nine categories of persons currently prohibited from possessing firearms, and it protects the right of a person to be told why he is prohibited. The latter is important because a person who is not prohibited can be mistaken for someone who is, due to incomplete or incorrect records in the FBI’s database of prohibited persons, or due to being mistaken for a prohibited person on the basis of a similar name or other personal information.
The trash bin of history is full of politically-motivated, authoritarian abuses of peoples’ rights. As King and his bill’s co-sponsors have shown, however, the concept behind the evil yet remains.
Copyright 2009, National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action.
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