Guns Don’t Kill People, People Do. (and sometimes those people are on the Terrorist Watch List)

Posted on June 22, 2009


A Signature Ironic NYT Feature Photo, Repurposed for this Story

A Signature Ironic NYT Feature Photo, Repurposed for this Story

From the NYT:

June 20, 2009

On Terrorist Watch List, but Allowed to Buy Guns

WASHINGTON — People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.

In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives…

Nonetheless, the rate of approval for requests to buy a gun went up from 80 percent in 2005 to the new study’s 90 percent. Officials were searching for explanations for the increase, which might reflect the overall growth in both the number of people on the watch list and of gun purchases.

This is hilarious at first, until you realize that literally the only thing the Terrorist Watch List is good for is harassing, framing  and inconveniencing people, as this passage makes perfectly clear:

The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.

Gun purchases must be approved unless federal officials can find some other disqualification of the would-be buyer, like being a felon, an illegal immigrant or a drug addict.

The government’s consolidated watch list, used to identify people suspected of links to terrorists, has grown to more than one million names since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It also has drawn widespread criticism over the prevalence of mistaken identities and unclear links to terrorism.

A report in May from the Justice Department inspector general found that the list kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation carried the names of 24,000 people included on the basis of outdated or sometimes irrelevant information.

But this part really ices this shit-cake of absurdity:

Gun rights advocates said showing up on a terrorist watch list should not be grounds for being denied a gun.

“We’re concerned about the quality and the integrity of the list,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “There have been numerous studies and reports questioning the integrity, and we believe law-abiding people who are on the list by error should not be arbitrarily denied their civil rights” under the Second Amendment.

Mr. Lautenberg introduced a similar gun-control measure in 2007, but it stalled after opposition from the N.R.A. The senator attributed the outcome to “knuckling under to the gun lobby.”

Mr. Arulanandam said the gun lobby would have to examine the details of the newest proposal before taking a position. But he added: “Senator Lautenberg has always been on the wrong side of the Second Amendment. His approach is not in the interests of public safety.”

Right; now the NRA cares about people on the terrorist watch list.

I’ve been posting a lot about these all sound, no fury civil rights violating programs in the United States. Abdul Hakim Mohammed managed to committ an act of terror on an armed forces recruitment center while being investigated by the FBI’s counter terrorism task force; meanwhile the FBI spent millions of dollars outfitting a rag-tag crew of bigoted petty thieves with learning disabilities so that they could publically bust them in the act. Right wing nutcases are literally parading in the streets with weapons thanks to a traditionally very hands-off approach to domestic terrorism.

And yet for years, we’ve been told that if we simply sacrifice our rights–or more importantly, the rights of Muslims and Others–the government would keep us safe. Those who never believed it will find little comfort in the current spectacles playing themselves out in our theatre of the absurd, nor in the resulting schadenfreude.

Well, just a little maybe.