THE BLOG

Bush Administration OK'd Import of Assault Rifle Used by Fort Dix Terror Suspects

It's no secret that the Bush administration -- its strings pulled by the National Rifle Association -- has decided that there is no nexus between the easy availability of military style weaponry in the U.S. and the potential for terrorists to obtain military style weaponry in the U.S. Or that individuals on the terrorist watch list should, perhaps, just perhaps, not be allowed to purchase firearms. But is it too fine a point to call out the Bush administration for having specifically authorized the import of the foreign-made SKS assault rifle (by placing it on the innocuous sounding "curios or relics" list) that was one of the weapons the U.S. government alleges that six men plotting an assault on Fort Dix trained with in the Poconos? The guns the alleged terrorists used for target practice are identified in the criminal complaint filed in a federal district court in New Jersey. In addition to the Yugoslavian SKS, the alleged terrorists also trained with a Beretta Storm, another imported assault rifle.

Although the federal assault weapons ban has expired, the Bush administration has the executive authority to ban the import of foreign-made assault weapons like the SKS and Storm. Such an action would not require Congressional approval. Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George Herbert Walker Bush used their executive powers to stop the import of specific assault rifles. In contrast, the administration of George W. Bush has specifically authorized the importation of SKS assault rifles made in Albania and the former Yugoslavia.

And while the "curios or relics" list sounds sort of warm and fuzzy, conjuring images of flintlocks, blunderbusses, or other thundersticks from a by-gone era, a lot of the firearms on it are just as deadly as the local gun store's fare. Often they just have a few more miles on them. A 2002 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) report labeled the SKS "the rifle model most frequently encountered by law enforcement officers" and stated, "These high capacity rifles pose an enhanced threat to law enforcement, in part because of their ability to expel projectiles at velocities that are capable of penetrating the type of soft body armor typically worn by the law enforcement officers."

According to Jody Weis, special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia office, the Fort Dix terror suspects "were forming a platoon to take out an army." The ease with which military-style firearms and firearms training can be obtained in the United States has long been touted in terrorist training manuals, including How Can I Train Myself for Jihad, which states, "...obtain an assault rifle legally, preferably AK-47 or variations, learn how to use it properly and go and practice in the areas allowed for such training."

Or pick up a Bush administration-approved SKS assault rifle.