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
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 (americansforgunsafety.com)
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
Michael S. Brown is a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, www.dsgl.org.