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Terrorists who want to buy guns have friends on Capitol Hill

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Washington Wednesday, calling on Congress to close the so called 'terror gap' in the nation's gun laws. He told the Senate hearing that he was pleased with the response to the Times Square car bomb.

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is the NRA a terrorist organization?

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By George W. Bush's standard -- you're either with us or against us in the fight against terrorism -- NRA chief Wayne LaPierre should be just a few frequent-flier miles short of a free ticket to Gitmo right about now. Seems he and the rest of the gun lobby are fighting for terrorists' right to buy firearms.

The Bush administration urged Congress to pass a law barring people on the terrorist watch list from buying explosives and guns. The gun lobby objected. Now the Obama administration is urging Congress to pass the same legislation, and the gun lobby continues to object.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, using the star power they acquired in the apprehension of the Times Square bomb suspect, came to Capitol Hill to plead for Congress to change the absurdity in the law that keeps those with alleged terrorist ties off airplanes but enables them to legally buy guns and explosives.

The New Yorkers' case was strengthened by the news that the Times Square suspect bought a gun in Connecticut as he set his plot in motion and had the gun with him when he drove to the airport Monday.

"At a time when the threat of terrorism is still very real, as we in New York City know all too well," Bloomberg told a Senate committee, "I think it's imperative that Congress close this terror gap in our gun laws and close it quickly."

"Failure to do so places this country at even greater risk," seconded the commissioner.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who has joined the cause, warned that if a terrorist uses a gun that he buys legally, "there would be blood on our hands."

The hearing, before Joe Lieberman's homeland security panel, provided a rare chance for gun-control advocates to take the offensive in a debate that has mostly gone against them in recent years. More broadly, the issue allowed Democrats to exploit the war on terrorism in a way Republicans have been doing for years.

The bill to close the gun loophole isn't on the radar of Democratic leaders, making it unlikely that it will reach the Senate floor. Still, Lieberman's hearing was fascinating because it forced the pro-gun crowd to take their philosophy to its logical extreme: Are they so absolute about the Second Amendment that they'd risk national security by fighting for the right of would-be terrorists to own guns? Alarmingly, they are.

The NRA, restating its opposition to the bill a few months ago, said it is all part of a conspiracy by "politicians who hate the Second Amendment" and who "think that more gun owners can be placed on the list over time." At Wednesday's hearing, a representative of the conservative Liberty Coalition made a similar argument: "The bill should be titled the Gun Owners Are Probably All Terrorists Act."

Faced with a choice between conspiracy theories and the testimony of the heroes of Times Square, it was no surprise that pro-gun Republican senators on the committee such as Tom Coburn (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.) and John Ensign (Nev.) declined to participate in the hearing. Also taking a pass was pro-gun Democrat Jon Tester (Mont.).


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