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June 20, 2011

The Inconsistent Insurrectionist

Though Stephen Colbert and his political satire show The Colbert Report are found on Comedy Central, they occasionally provide serious and noteworthy news missed by the major media networks. Such was the case on June 7 when Colbert aired a segment focusing on comments made by U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on Sean Hannity’s radio show on May 27.
In that conversation with Hannity, Paul stated:

I would say the reason we failed in Ft. Hood is people who were mentioning that this man was either unstable or was radicalized to a radical form of Islam. People knew that and that’s what we need to target our resources towards—people who would attack us—and not spend time searching and patting down 6 year olds ... I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders but it wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after. They should be deported or put in prison.

Sen. Paul then doubled down on his comments at a press conference in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on June 3:

I think we’ve taken too much of the approach that everyone is a possible terrorist … We are not spending enough specific time on those who are coming from certain countries … I want targeted action towards terrorism … We’re…searching millions of innocent Americans and wasting time on that, and not doing a thorough job on those who are coming from these Middle Eastern countries who I think need to be thoroughly vetted before they enter our country.

But if Paul truly believes that anyone who attends speeches “promoting the violent overthrow of our government…should be deported or put in prison,” then he, too, should begin packing his bags. Colbert pointed to Paul’s attendance at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Westpoint, Kentucky in April of this year, where the lead singer of the band Pokerface gave the following speech:

[Obama] is basically the exclamation point on the globalist takeover of the United States ... Too many of us are waking up and too many are heavily armed. They are going to push and we are going to shove back. The second American Revolution will commence.

Violence against government was certainly the fad at Knob Creek, with vendors selling a wide range of “Militia literature,” including the U.S. Militiaman's Handbook, “a step-by-step guide for ‘R-2,’ the second American Revolution.” Here’s one excerpt from the handbook: "When municipal, township, county, or local area law enforcement agents attack or seek to confine or control the U.S. Militia or its individual members, those agencies should be totally eliminated in the initial attack ... Do not allow any law enforcement agents to escape. Kill them all."

Then there was March 27, 2010, when Sen. Paul attended and spoke at a Second Amendment Rally in Frankfort, Kentucky where a Congressional candidate named Matt Locket made a speech openly embracing insurrectionist ideology. Citing Federalist Alexander Hamilton (who would have found his ideas treasonous at best), Locket said:

We cannot stand by and let our rights to firearms be taken away ... Alexander Hamilton...states clearly that there exists the right of self-defense against a tyrannical government and it includes people with their arms ... Are we there or are we close to a tyrannical government? ... We need to tell the government...to fear us because it’s we the people that are in charge—not them!

And Rand Paul has made his own share of not-so-subtle threats toward our government. In June 2010, he attended a gun show in Louisville and said, “We must be ever vigilant of our Second Amendment rights. We must continually remind Washington that a majority cannot vote to take away our Second Amendment rights.” At the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in August 2009, Paul made bizarre, paranoid comments about “Big Brother” and the enforcement of U.S. gun laws:

They can come into your house. They can plant listening devices in your house ... And let’s say they happen to be in your house snooping about something they thought you said something bad about the government and they find you’ve disabled your trigger locks or you’ve maybe done something to your guns that they say is illegal ... This is not to say we’re all criminals and afraid of the government, but we want our privacy.

Later in the same speech, he hypothesized that Americans could elect the next Adolf Hitler if they fail to remain “vigilant”:

If we get economic calamity even worse than we have now, you will lose your rights if you’re not vigilant and watch. What happened in Germany when the Weimar Republic printed up so much money you could carry it around in wheelbarrows? There was a collapse and they actually voted in a Hitler. You could get something like that in our country if we’re not careful and vigilant.

It seems clear from Sen. Paul’s statements that he’s particularly concerned about potential violence against our government by Muslims. And he has no problem with our government going after them aggressively—civil rights be damned. When it comes to the Senator’s white, gun-toting, government-hating friends who are ready to launch a bloody revolution, however, all bets are off. Any U.S. government that would address that threat is akin to a mass murdering dictator who butchered six million people.

Unfortunately for Paul, you can’t embrace a double standard and say that the threat of political violence is justified depending on one’s citizenship status or religion. You either believe that political violence is legitimate in our democracy or you don’t. Our Founding Fathers certainly stood in the latter camp.

June 9, 2011

Al Qaeda: "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms."

The assassination of Al Qaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, demonstrated that the U.S. government can act with great resilience when it comes to combating terrorism. But a new Al Qaeda video released on jihadi websites last Friday provides a terrifyingly simple blueprint for mass murder that should have all Americans deeply concerned. In the video message, Adam Gadahn, an American-born Al Qaeda spokesman, calls on Muslims to purchase firearms at American gun shows and engage in one-man “lone wolf” operations to target “enemies of Islam,” “major institutions” and “influential public figures” in the United States.

Gadahn, who has been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Terrorists List for over ten years, instructed would-be terrorists as follows:

America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?

Gadahn was describing what is known as the “Gun Show Loophole,” which allows anyone—including terrorists—to walk into an American gun show and buy firearms from an unlicensed seller without undergoing a criminal background check. Under current federal law, anyone “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL), conduct background checks on purchasers, and keep a record of all gun sales. Private individuals not “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms (e.g., those who sell guns as a “hobby” or from their private collections), however, are not subject to any of these requirements. Because there is no paper trail associated with private sales, law enforcement has no way of monitoring them.

Unfortunately, the Gun Show Loophole remains fully or partially open in 33 states today. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has always insisted that the loophole is a “fable,” in spite of acknowledging that there are individuals “who occasionally [sell] firearms under limited circumstances” that are “not required to obtain the federal license…or to complete a background check.” The NRA’s relentless fight against closing the loophole began in the immediate wake of the Columbine massacre in 1999, despite the fact that teenage killer made it clear that, “The biggest gaping hole is that the background checks are only required for licensed dealers...not private dealers.”

The NRA’s opposition to closing the Gun Show Loophole is not shared by its membership, however. In a survey of 832 gun owners, including 401 NRA members, Republican pollster Frank Luntz and Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69% of NRA members favored "requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns." Overall, 86% of Americans favor closing the Gun Show Loophole.

The Gun Show Loophole is not the only weak link in America’s gun laws abetting terrorists. Fears concerning the “Terror Gap” have also resurfaced with the new Al Qaeda video. While those on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List are currently prevented from boarding airplanes, they are free to purchase all the firearms they want at American gun stores and gun shows. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that between 2004 and 2010, suspected terrorists purchased guns on 1,119 occasions.

There have been numerous attempts in Congress to address the Terror Gap, but none have been successful. Most recently, on May 12, 21 Republicans* on the House Judiciary Committee killed an amendment that would have prevented firearms sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List.

These Republican votes reflect the sentiments of the NRA, which opposes efforts to close the “Terror Gap,” claiming they would “deny a constitutionally protected, fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms without due process of law.” Luntz’s survey again indicates that the NRA is not representing the views of its membership, as 82% of NRA members support closing the “Terror Gap.”

According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, the Obama administration “supports closing the gun show loophole.” But Americans shouldn’t have to wait for a terrorist to open fire in a shopping mall or a corporate headquarters for terrorist violence to be thwarted. Will Adam Gadahn’s eye-opening message to terrorists be enough for legislators to “connect the dots” and take action? We should all hope so.

* The 21 Republicans who voted “No” on the amendment were: Smith, Sensenbrenner, Coble, Gallegly, Goodlatte, Lungren, Chabot, Issa, Pence, Forbes, Franks, Gohmert, Jordan, Poe, Chaffetz, Griffin, Marino, Gowdy, Ross, Adams, Quayle.