‘Terrorists and Guns’

‘TERRORISTS AND GUNS’…. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has been pushing a bill that seems pretty reasonable — if you’re on the FBI terror watch list, you should be ineligible to buy weapons in the U.S. Law enforcement has long supported the proposal, but Congress keeps rejecting it.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the subject yesterday, and as Gail Collins noted, it didn’t go well.

“I think you’re going too far here,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He was speaking in opposition to a bill that would keep people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.

Say what?

Yes, if you are on the terrorist watch list, the authorities can keep you from getting on a plane but not from purchasing an AK-47. This makes sense to Congress because, as Graham accurately pointed out, “when the founders sat down and wrote the Constitution, they didn’t consider flying.”

The subject of guns turns Congress into a twilight zone. People who are perfectly happy to let the government wiretap phones go nuts when the government wants to keep track of weapons permits. A guy who stands up in the House and defends the torture of terror suspects will nearly faint with horror at the prospect of depriving someone on the watch list of the right to purchase a pistol.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “Let me emphasize that none of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun.” She then proceeded to explain her opposition to a bill that would prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

The NYT‘s Gail Collins added, “There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.”

That’s a good line, but it’s also an important point. Conservative Republicans have spent the week reminding us of their firm belief that terrorist suspects should be afforded no rights at all. Miranda? Don’t bother. Citizenship? Probably not. Due process? That’s pre-9/11 thinking.

But if you’re on the terrorist watch list and want to stock up on automatic rifles, conservative Republicans will do whatever it takes to make sure you can do just that.

Keep in mind, the terrorist watch list is admittedly flawed. But Lautenberg’s proposal would allow those on the list to challenge their inclusion, and if cleared, to then be able to purchase firearms like everyone else. For the GOP, that’s asking too much.

Even now, when a given a choice between being “tough on terror” and offending the NRA, Republicans are loath to consider the latter, even at the expense of the former.