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“Guns, But Not Trials, For Terror Suspects”: The Land Of Liberty According To Lindsey Graham

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not pleased that the Obama administration decided to prosecute Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in civilian court, even though it would probably be illegal and counterproductive to treat the U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant.

The senator, a lawyer and reserve Air Force JAG officer himself, called for stripping Tsarnaev of his constitutional rights to due process even before the 19-year-old was captured Friday evening. “The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise,” Graham said on Twitter on Friday. “Under the Law of War we can hold #Boston suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.”

But Graham seems to hold the opposite view when it comes to different constitutional rights for those accused or suspected of terrorism. At a press conference he set up this afternoon to slam the White House on the enemy combatant decision, he was asked about legislation that would stop people on the Terrorist Watch List from buying guns. Here’s his response:

GRAHAM: “I think, anyone who’s on the Terrorist Watch List should not lose their Second Amendment right without the ability to challenge that determination. I think, Senator Kennedy was on the Terrorist Watch List. There’ve been people come up on the watch list. I did not want to make that a — the basis to take someone’s Second Amendment rights away. What I would suggest, is that if you come up on the Terrorist Watch List, you have the ability to say, “No, I’m not a terrorist.” And that would be the proper way to do that.

Currently, the federal government can only prevent a firearm sale for 11 reasons — suspected ties to terrorism, or even suspicion that a gun would be used in an attack, are not one of them. Between February 2004 and December 2010, 1,453 people on the terror watch list tried to buy a gun and over 90 percent were not stopped.

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s bill to close what he calls the “terror gap” would not automatically strip anyone’s Second Amendment rights, as Graham suggests. It would, in fact, allow “any individual whose firearms or explosives license application has been denied to bring legal action to challenge the denial.” In Graham’s world, Tsarnaev would have no such clear recourse to challenge his status as an enemy combatant.

The Terrorist Watch List is imperfect and there are plenty of legitimate civil libertarian arguments to be made against restricting firearms access to people on the list, since people on it haven’t been convicted of any crimes and they’re not even allowed to know whether they’re on the list. For instance, Ted Kennedy was, indeed, briefly and erroneously placed on the no fly list in 2004, though that’s a different list. But Graham’s opposition to limiting the Second Amendment rights of people suspected of being terrorists is wholly inconsistent with his support for completely stripping away their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial in court.

Contrast his opposition to closing the “terror gap” with this, from a 2011 New York Times article:

Citizens who are suspected of joining Al Qaeda are opening themselves up “to imprisonment and death,” Mr. Graham said, adding, “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.’ ”

So the only right that Graham seems interested in preserving for people suspected of being affiliated with al-Qaida is their right to purchase firearms.

The NRA also opposes closing the “terror gap,” fearing that it would be used to strip the Second Amendment rights of “Americans who disagree with the policies of the Obama Administration,” “who believe in federalism,” or “who post their political opinions on the Internet.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, April 22, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Constitution, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Scaring People”: Karl Rove Is Arguing, “You Need To Stop Scaring People So I Can Start Scaring People”

The Senate fight over measures to reduce gun violence will begin in earnest when members return to session, but the challenge for Republicans will be to identify a way to condemn a universal background check provision that enjoys overwhelming public support.

On ABC yesterday, Karl Rove offered a terrific example of why the upcoming debate is likely to be exasperating. Here’s what the Republican strategist said about the background-check proposal:

“Let’s be very careful about quickly trampling on the rights of people who — and look, you want to get something done? Then stop scaring people.”

Right, scaring people is bad. Let’s have a debate, but leave the demagoguery out of it. Anything else, Mr. Rove?

“If there’s one thing that scares a lot of people who believe in the Second Amendment, it’s the federal government keeping a national registry of gun sales and gun purchases and gun owners.”

This is what makes Rove such a special person in our contemporary discourse. Mere mortals wouldn’t be able to pull off rhetoric like this with a straight face, and probably wouldn’t even try.

First, note the hilarious hypocrisy — Rove wants gun-safety proponents to “stop scaring people,” and in the next breath, warns that the federal government intends to trample on the rights of citizens and create a national gun registry. Rove is effectively arguing, “You need to stop scaring people, so I can start scaring people.”

Second, as a substantive matter, Rove has no idea what he’s talking about. The proposed background-check system doesn’t create a registry and doesn’t “trample” on anyone’s rights. Either Rove hasn’t bothered to get his facts straight or, in the hopes of scaring people after denouncing scaring people, he lied on national television.

What’s more, this fits into a pattern that has fascinated me for years. Rove has a remarkable ability to rely on some of the most ironic political attacks imaginable.

As I noted a couple of years ago, Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he’s accused Democrats of adding “arsenic to the nation’s political well.” Rove ran a White House that embraced a “permanent campaign,” so he’s accused the Obama team of embracing a “permanent campaign.” Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he’s accused Democrats of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on “pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted ” political events, so he’s accused Obama of relying on “pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted” political events. Rove looked at every policy issue “from a political perspective,” so he’s accused Democrats of looking at every policy issue “from a political perspective.” Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he’s accused Obama of snubbing news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he’s accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.

And now Rove wants gun-safety advocates to “stop scaring people,” while he makes bogus charges intended to scare people.

If this is indicative of how the debate over background checks is likely to proceed, it’s probably wise to invest in some antacids now.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 25, 2013

March 26, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Guns, Guns And More Guns!”: Appealing To The Most Racist Elements Of Our Society

A headline on today’s New York Times blares:

Sales of Guns Soar in U.S. as Nation Weighs Tougher Limits

(Well, the Times‘ trumpet blares through a mute.)

Here’s some of the scariest bits, in Michael Cooper’s article — a piece that’s pretty frightening throughout:

High-capacity magazines, which some state and federal officials want to ban or restrict, were selling briskly across the country: one Iowa dealer said that 30-round magazines were fetching five times what they sold for just weeks ago.

Gun dealers and buyers alike said that the rapid growth in gun sales — which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election and soared after the Dec. 14 shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted him to call for new gun laws — shows little sign of abating.

The day after the Sandy Hook shooting, I started stumbling upon news of surging gun sales, and found it startling — especially to learn that Connecticut was among the states where gun-sellers were running out of AR-15 rifles, of the kind used by murderer Adam Lanza, and large-capacity magazines.

But, in retrospect, the response was predictable.

Since the election of our nation’s first African American president, right-wing leaders have played on the twisted guilt-and-projection continuum that plagues the more racist elements of the white, male cohort to convince them that the black man was coming for their guns (leaving to their fertile imaginations what he might do to their women).

Here’s Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, addressing the so-called Second Amendment Rally at the Washington Monument on April 19, 2010, the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 Americans:

We’re in a war. The other side knows they’re at war, because they started it. They’re comin’ for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They’re comin’ for everything because they’re a bunch of socialists.

And, whoa, are some of those imaginations fertile indeed! A veritable mix of manure and composted grey matter. Just look at the growing trend of “Sandy Hook truthers” — people who contend the massacre never happened, but was just a narrative ruse invented by government in collusion with the news media, all so Obama might disarm his enemies and have his way with America.

Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald dares to explore the truthers’ claims:

In the latest angle, theorists think they have found “absolute proof” of a conspiracy to defraud the American people. “You reported in December that this little girl had been killed,” a reader emailed Salon in response to a story. “She has been found, and photographed with President Obama.”

The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.


The crux of the theory is a photograph of Parker’s sister sitting on President Obama’s lap when he visited with the victims’ families. The girl is wearing the same dress Emilie wore in a pre-shooting photograph of the family shared with media, so she must be Emilie, alive and well. “BAM! I cannot believe how idiot these people are [sic]… That’s her,” one YouTuber exclaims as he watches the two images superimposed on each other. (Apparently missed by these crack investigators is the possibility that the sister wore Emilie’s dress and that they look alike because they are sisters, after all.)

This is not to say that all of those in a state of panic, stocking up on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, are massacre-deniers. Some obviously just have a burning need for military-style weapons and oodles of rapid-fire ammo. (Go figure.)

And not every person in the gun-store stampede is motivated by race, of course. Many of these folks have long been suspicious of the intentions of liberals and/or Democrats for decades, flames of fear fanned by the likes of the John Birch Society and religious right.

But add to that paranoia the toxic brew of America’s failure to accept the brutality of its racist past and the reality of its race-fixated present, and there’s much to give pause in this current stream of events.

By: Adele Stan, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 12, 2013

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beware Of Walmart’s Role”: There’s Plenty Of Dark Money Baked Into The Anti-Gun Control Cake

As Vice President Joe Biden plotted his task force’s plan of action on gun control this week, he invited representatives Walmart to the White House to talk about it. That makes sense—as we detailed last month, the retail giant is the biggest seller of weapons and ammunition in the United States. Stakeholders as far-flung as the hunting groups Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever were invited to meet with Biden’s task force, so Walmart surely has a place at the table.

In fact, many progressives and gun control advocates argue this is a very positive development .The thinking goes like this: Walmart would stand to benefit from a strengthened background check system, because independent sellers would have to go to a certified gun retailer (like Walmart) to conduct background checks—or might stop selling guns altogether, thus sending more customers Walmart’s way. The chain also must protect its image as a responsible, family-friendly store: it previously partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to adopt tougher standards for gun sales.

So maybe Walmart can hop on board and advocate for the White House’s gun control package, thus lending a significant voice and lobbying power to the good guys’ side, and creating a crucial rift between gun retailers and manufacturers.

That all sounds good—if it happens like that. (Store officials haven’t yet announced any position on gun control following the White House meetings.) But there’s significant reason to suspect it won’t work out so splendidly. Clearly, the best of both worlds for Walmart would be a strengthened background check system that drives new customers to its stores, and no assault weapons ban.

Gun sales are a key part of Walmart’s recent sales spike, and have shot up 76 percent over the past two years. Walmart doesn’t sell handguns, and so assault rifles make up a significant portion of its gun inventory and thus its increasing sales. Meanwhile, there’s big pressure on Walmart from manufacturers not to stop carrying assault weapons. Freedom Group, a large gun manufacturing conglomerate and maker of the infamous Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle, said in its most recent financial report that “In the event that Wal-Mart were to significantly reduce or terminate its purchases of firearms, ammunition and/or other products from us, our financial condition or results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected.”

Walmart has already shown great hesitancy to pull back whatsoever on assault weapons sales. In the wake of the Newtown shooting, as competitors like Dick’s Sporting Goods yanked all assault rifles from shelves temporarily, Walmart didn’t stop selling a single assault weapon.

So: would Walmart be able so support the White House package upfront, perhaps even winning some special goodies that would drive customers specifically to its stores for background checks, while quietly killing the assault weapons ban behind the scenes? It’s happened before, in a very similar dynamic.

During the healthcare reform battles, the Obama White House was eager to get health insurance companies behind the reform push, and they had every reason to do so—the individual mandate meant millions of new customers. So the industry signed on. But there were many other aspects of the legislation it didn’t like, like the medical loss ratio and the public option. So behind everyone’s back, the health industry funneled massive amounts of money—$102.4 million dollars—to the US Chamber of Commerce to fight those aspects of the bill. This dark money was exceptionally difficult to track, but National Journal did it, months after the final legislation was passed.

Walmart, today, already sends significant amounts of money to strong opponents of gun control. The Walmart 1% blog found that between 2010 and 2012, Walmart gave over $1 million to candidates backed by the NRA. They note that “among politicians with 2012 grades from the NRA, 84% of the Waltons’ 2010-2012 cycle contributions went to candidates with scores between A+ and A-.”

So the retail giant already has some money baked into the anti-gun control cake in Washington, and could certainly promise more to these members if they vigorously oppose an assault weapons ban. Moreover, the dark money problem looms large. As Lee Fang has noted, the NRA has a half-dozen legal entities, many of them able to accept undisclosed donations to mount attack ads and lobbying campaigns. Walmart could easily dump money into these groups and it’s likely we would never know.

An outcome where the background check system is strengthened but there is no assault weapons ban is quite possible: even some conservative members of Congress with ‘A’ ratings from the NRA are coming out for better background checks. Walmart, ever the canny DC operator, must know that this is in reach. I would personally be shocked if the two-step strategy described above isn’t what they end up pursuing.

In that scenario, more gun buyers would be herded to Walmart, where there are plenty of assault rifles helpfully on sale. This is not a good result for gun control advocates. A full assault weapons ban should be enacted—and if Walmart is serious about being a good citizen and backing responsible gun measures, it should lead the way by discontinuing all assault weapon sales. Until it does that, beware any role it plays in the reform process.


By: George Zornick, The Nation, January 11, 2013

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NRA Getting A Bang For Its Bucks”: Gun Sales Rise Sharply After Newtown Shooting

Firearm sales are surging across the country in response to President Barack Obama’s promise to pursue new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

According to a December 18 Fox News report, shortly after the massacre, consumers began buying huge numbers of AR-15 rifles — the same type used by shooter Adam Lanza — in preparation for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban:

–The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says it set a new record for single-day background check submittals this past weekend.

–In San Diego, Northwest Armory gun store owner Karl Durkheimer said Saturday “was the biggest day we’ve seen in 20 years. Sunday will probably eclipse that.”

–In southwest Ohio, from dawn to dusk a Cincinnati gun show had a line of 400 waiting to get in, said Joe Eaton of the Buckeye Firearms Association. ”Sales were through the roof on Saturday,” said Eaton. “People were buying everything they could out of fear the president would try to ban certain guns and high-capacity magazines.”

The initial sales surge has proven surprisingly durable in the days since the shooting. Several gun store owners told Outdoor Life’s John Haughey that the weekend before Christmas was one of their busiest ever.

According to local reporting, gun sales have also skyrocketed in Arizona and New Mexico.

One weapons company, Brownells Inc. — which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools — says that it sold an astonishing three and a half years worth of ammunition magazines in three days after the Newtown shooting.

This is the second major surge in gun sales over the past two months; they also rose sharply directly after President Obama’s re-election on November 6th.

The rapidly rising sales help to explain the motivation behind the NRA’s inflammatory response to the Newtown shooting. Although Wayne LaPierre’s defiant speech and appearance on Meet The Press were widely panned, they kept guns in the headlines, which have kept gun sales high. Over the past seven years, the gun industry has donated between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to the NRA’s corporate-giving campaign; even if Congress does reinstate the assault weapons ban in the coming months, it’s pretty clear that the NRA has gotten a good bang for its buck.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 26, 2012

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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