A bipartisan coalition of more than 600 American mayors today launched a television ad campaign urging Congress to immediately address gaps in U.S. gun laws that now allow terrorists and other criminals to easily buy firearms and explosives. The ad, entitled “What Are You Waiting For,” draws attention to a propaganda video released by Al Qaeda on June 3rd.
The complete Al Qaeda video is available at www.fixgunchecks.org/al-qaeda.
In the video, American-born terrorist Azzam al-Amriki, aka Adam Gadahn, urges “lone wolf” terrorists to exploit weaknesses in gun laws, saying these gaps present a “golden opportunity” to do “major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things, and brethren:”
“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?"
“Criminals already know how to take advantage of gaps in our gun laws, and now Al Qaeda knows, too,” said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Americans, including NRA members, overwhelmingly support stronger laws to keep guns away from terrorists and other dangerous people. You are checked against the terror watch list to board an airplane, but you don’t have to be checked when buying assault weapons. Weak gun laws aren’t just a crime problem, they’re a national security threat – and this ad should be a wake-up call to Congress.”
“Whether it’s an illegal gun in the hands of a career criminal or an assault rifle in the hands of a terrorist, mayors and law enforcement take these threats seriously,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “We hope this ad campaign will focus public attention right where it belongs: on a Congress that continues to be asleep at the switch on a critical national security issue.”
Terrorists operating within the United States have increasingly used loopholes in firearms regulations to acquire weapons. According to 2011 Government Accountability Office data, terror suspects have successfully purchased guns or explosives more than 1,300 times in the U.S. since 2004. Last week, Federal authorities arrested Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, aka Joseph Anthony Davis, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Domingue, Jr., of Los Angeles, on terrorism and gun-related charges when they bought machine guns in an FBI sting operation. The men were allegedly planning to use the guns in an attack on the Military Entrance Processing Station in Seattle.
While fully automatic weapons are not available to the public, the Al Qaeda video statement identifies acknowledged weaknesses in U.S. firearms regulation and national security infrastructure that make semi-automatic assault weapons and a wide range of military-style weaponry easily available, often without a background check.
The Al Qaeda video underscores the fact that firearms are often sold at gun shows without background checks. A gap in Federal law exempts private sellers – any seller who is not a federally licensed gun dealer – from conducting an instant background check on buyers. These private sellers often congregate at gun shows, but also sell firearms in parking lots, over the Internet and in other venues. An estimated 40 percent of U.S. gun purchases are sold without background checks via this “private sale loophole.”
Legislation pending in Congress would address this weakness in the law. The Fix Gun Checks Act (S.436/H.R.1781) would close the private sale loophole by improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and requiring instant background checks for all gun sales.
In addition to the private sale loophole, the Al Qaeda video calls attention to a “terror gap” in the U.S. national security framework. Currently, Federal authorities have no power to stop terror suspects – even those on a terror watch list – from buying guns and explosives.
As with the private sale loophole, members of Congress have introduced legislation to close the terror gap. The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act (S.34/H.R.1506) would give the Attorney General the discretion to block terror suspects from buying guns or explosives on a case-by-case basis. The bipartisan bill was first drafted by President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice and endorsed by the Obama Administration. It has been introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
Overwhelming majorities of the public – including gun owners – support closing both of these loopholes. A January 2011 poll conducted by a team of Republican and Democratic pollsters for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from. The same poll showed that 88 percent of Americans as well as 88 percent gun owners support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns. A 2009 survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 82 percent of NRA members support barring terror suspects from buying guns.
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ad includes a link to www.FixGunChecks.org, where viewers can learn more about efforts to close these legal loopholes and urge their members of Congress to take action.
About Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Since its inception in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 mayors to more than 600. The coalition has united the nation’s mayors around these common goals: protecting their communities by holding gun offenders and irresponsible gun dealers accountable; providing access to trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other prohibited purchasers to get guns.