Arming Criminals and Terrorists in the US

Our law enforcement, and especially the FBI, do a phenomenal job keeping us safe and preventing domestic terrorist acts. The recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon and the slaughter at Sandy Hook, however, have exposed some extreme limitations that have handicapped those same members of our law enforcement as they fight to minimize and eliminate terror risk in America.

Laws that our Congress have passed over the years at the behest of the gun industry and NRA are aiding and abetting criminals and terrorists, putting our law enforcement at a severe disadvantage, and placing "We the People" at avoidable risk. I am referring to the inability of our law enforcement to determine and trace how and where criminals and terrorists obtain their arsenals of weapons (guns and bombs), as a result of laws passed and still supported by politicians in Washington.

Pointing the Finger and Refusing Responsibility

In just the past week, several members of Congress have accused the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), the Joint Terrorist Task Force and the CIA of not sharing critical data about one of the bombers who was on at least two "suspected terrorist watch lists." And to add insult to injury, a vote by the U.S. Senate, the very week of the Boston Marathon bombings, rejected requiring universal background checks for all gun sales. This cowardly vote, under pressure from the NRA, preserved the dangerous loophole in the law allowing criminals and terrorists to buy guns at gun shows and on the Internet -- undetected. The Senate also rejected a prohibition on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and military assault weapons, the type used in many mass shooting in the U.S. over the past 30 years. If we are to learn anything from the bombing in Boston and help prevent future mass terrorist attacks, it's critical to evaluate current U.S. laws passed by our politicians allowing access to firearms and bomb making materials.

As the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings unfolds, many of these same politicians, who continually vote against common sense gun violence prevention laws, are now criticizing the FBI and BATF for not sharing information. Ironically, these same politicians are some of the strongest backers of the gun/explosives industry and the NRA efforts blocking both agencies from regulating private gun sales, maintaining gun purchase records, sharing critical crime gun trace data and regulating (tracking) smokeless and black powder used for decades by terrorists and criminals to make bombs. Furthermore, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the NRA convinced a majority of the politicians in Congress to continue allowing people on suspected terrorist watch lists, such as one of the Boston Marathon terrorists, to legally buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers.

DID YOU KNOW? It is estimated that 40 percent of guns sold each year in the U.S. are sold by private dealers with no legal background check requirement or detection. In fact, the FBI is only permitted to regulate federally licensed gun dealers and is required to destroy all gun purchase records after 24 hours. Apparently the FBI cannot be trusted to maintain a database of gun purchasers -- something that might come in handy when investigating both terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The BATF, likewise, is restricted from regulating all private gun sales including at about 5,000 gun shows annually. Further, a 2008 Congressional appropriations rider, known as the Tiahrt Amendment severely limits the authority of the BATF to disclose crime gun trace data to the public or even among law enforcement agencies.

DID YOU KNOW? The BATF is also prohibited from regulating smokeless and black powder, the most common explosive used by criminals in the manufacture of pipe bombs. The bombs used at the Boston Marathon are just the latest example of the use of black and smokeless powder for bomb making by terrorists and criminals. Since the early 1970s, the NRA and the gun industry have used their political influence to exempt smokeless and black powder from federal regulation, including requiring background checks that apply to other explosives. A 1998 study by the National Research Council found that black and smokeless powder were the most common substances used in criminal bombings.

DID YOU KNOW? Military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds were banned under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Act. The politicians in our Congress failed to renew the law in 2004, despite support from more than 70 percent of Americans polled. Standard hunting rifles are usually equipped with no more than a 5-shot magazine, standard pistols and revolvers hold six to 10 rounds and standard law enforcement service weapons hold 13 to 17 rounds. Duck hunting licenses limit hunters to no more than three rounds to protect the duck population.

DID YOU KNOW? Large capacity ammunition magazines can hold 30, 50 or even 100 rounds, enabling shooters to kill large numbers of people without having to reload. The gunman in Newtown, Conn., fired more than 150 rounds in less than five minutes, killing 20 innocent children and six of their instructors. Military assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines have been used in most high-profile mass shootings, in addition to Sandy Hook Elementary School (26 killed), including: Aurora, Colo. (12 killed, 59 wounded); Virginia Tech (32 killed, 17 wounded); Fort Hood (13 killed, 34 wounded); Tucson (six killed, 12 wounded) and Columbine High School (13 killed, 23 wounded).

DID YOU KNOW? The National Consumer Product Safety Commission is banned by Congress from regulating firearms. Teddy bears and toy guns have manufacturing standards while inherently dangerous firearms do not. The gun industry has continually designed and marketed firearms that are aimed at criminal use. Examples include: 1) "cop-killer bullets"; 2) the .22-caliber FN Herstal used at the Ft. Hood massacre which is marketed to perforate 48 layers of Kevlar from a distance of up to 200 meters and is sold with a high-capacity 20-round magazine; 3) the TEC-9, marketed as having a finish resistant to fingerprints and; 4) a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle, advertised as capable of taking down an aircraft.

DID YOU KNOW? In 2005, President Bush signed into law the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a bill that prohibits victims of the gun industry's negligent practices from filing lawsuits in America's courts. No other industry in the country benefits from such special legal protection. Imagine a congressional grant of immunity has been afforded the industry that manufactures firearms giving them carte blanche ability to market to those not wishing to leave finger prints, shoot down aircraft or pierce 48 layers of Kevlar commonly worn by police. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

A Time for Citizen Action!

We can't let the 26 children and teachers massacred at Sandy Hook die in vain. We must make our politicians in Congress realize that the NRA's attempt to convince America to arm its school teachers, its shop owners, its janitors, and its burger joint attendants in order to protect our citizens against the criminals and terrorists it has conspired to arm and protect, is a brilliant business plan benefiting the gun industry bereft of any moral compass. How many more Americans must die from gun violence and terrorist bombs before we hold the politicians in our Congress accountable?