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Americans for Gun Safety

by Dr. Michael S. Brown

April 25, 2002

An organization calling itself "Americans for Gun Safety" has financed a wave of radio ads, currently running in selected cities, that claim gun shows are a source of weapons for foreign terrorists. Listeners are urged to pressure Congress to fix this allegedly urgent problem.

These radio spots are deceptive political attack ads, like those we complain about at election time. It takes only a moment's thought to recall that terrorists have numerous sources of armaments that are vastly superior in price, quality and selection to what can be obtained at American gun shows.

Today's real terrorist threat does not even involve guns. Terror bombers use explosives and hijackers use improvised weapons like box cutters. We are also concerned with weapons of mass destruction, which certainly do not come from gun shows.

The strategy behind this strange series of ads can only be understood by looking at the reality of Americans for Gun Safety (AGS). The important questions to ask are how many members have joined this organization, where does their money come from, and what is their interest in gun safety?

The answer to the first question is easy. There are no members. AGS is a front organization for billionaire Andrew McKelvey, who likes to spend his money influencing public opinion.

Choosing an issue to support was probably tough for a rich urban liberal like Mr. McKelvey. Many liberal issues involve restrictions on corporations and free markets, not the sort of thing his high society friends would approve of.

Campaigning for tougher gun laws is the perfect solution. McKelvey is certainly aware that all the laws he is proposing will never affect his kind. No self-respecting billionaire would ever be seen looking for bargains at a gun show with all those icky working class peasants. No matter how strict gun laws become, the rich will always have easy access to guns.

Their claimed interest in gun safety is also easy to explain. They really aren't interested in promoting gun safety at all. Their entire safety effort appears to consist of some simple advice on their web site. As far as I can tell, they have not sponsored a single gun safety or hunter's education class. All of their money goes into anti-gun advertising, other anti-gun organizations, or to support political candidates who are cozy with McKelvey.

To better understand the disingenuous nature of this slick operation, visit their website ( and note the prominent opening claim that AGS "supports the rights of individuals who own firearms for sport, protection, and collection."

Then view the page labeled "about AGS." Read the list of AGS priorities to see what they are actually doing. Don't hold your breath as you search for projects that actually support the rights of individuals. All you will find is a list of ways they are spending McKelvey's money in support of more laws to restrict gun rights, while doing absolutely nothing to defend them.

The basic premise of AGS is therefore a deception. It is simply a unit of the anti-gun lobby operating under a false flag.

There are logical reasons why the anti-gun lobby has chosen to attack gun shows. First, they are an easy target. Only a small percentage of people have attended a gun show, so it is easy to inaccurately portray them as havens for criminals and terrorists.

Perhaps even more important, gun shows offer fundraising and outreach opportunities for gun rights organizations. By attacking gun shows, AGS strikes at the heart of their enemy.

Unfortunately for AGS, attacks on gun shows have lost momentum since a government study revealed that only seven tenths of one percent of criminals obtained their guns from gun shows. This may be why they are stretching the truth in a desperate attempt to link gun shows with terrorists.

As with all political attack ads, the reality does not match the rhetoric. And the story behind the ads is more interesting than the ads themselves. Radio listeners would be well advised to do their own research and make up their own minds.

Michael S. Brown is a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, email:


Justice Department study on sources of guns for criminals:

Americans for Gun Safety:

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Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. JUSTICE LEARNED HAND

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