Eric Holder and the Phantom Terrorists at U.S. Gun Shows
The fact that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder is no friend to gun owners is not a surprise. What may be a surprise, and worthy of examination at his confirmation hearing, is Holder's post-9/11 contention that a pressing threat to our national security is terrorists shopping for weapons at U.S. gun shows.
In an op-ed from October 2001, Holder cited the 9/11 attacks as a reason to enact tighter gun control provisions:
In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the nation is eager for ways to increase security at home — and understandably so. These unspeakable crimes have taken thousands of innocent lives, devastated countless families and made us feel a new and terrible kind of vulnerability. Throughout the country, people are having the same conversations: How could this happen? How do we cope with it? And what can we do, as a nation and as individuals, to safeguard against further acts of terrorism? ...
If the recent increase in firearms sales is attributable to people who may lawfully purchase firearms, that is the decision of the individual and not a matter that should be the subject of government oversight. If, on the other hand, any firearm purchased in this country falls into the hands of a terrorist because no background check was done, that is another national tragedy waiting to happen.
In his op-ed, Holder claimed there were "numerous and chilling" examples of gun shows putting arms in the hands of terrorists, and specified two. The first was Conor Claxton, who Holder wrote was "smuggling guns and other weapons from the state for use by the Provisional Irish Republican Army." Claxton was indeed convicted of weapons smuggling, but was acquitted on the charges of attempting to supply arms to terrorists. And for what it is worth, the IRA claimed they had not sent Claxton to obtain the arms. In the eyes of the law, he was your basic gun smuggler — a criminal, to be sure, but not a terrorist.
The second example cited by Holder was Ali Boumelhem, who, in his description, "went to a Michigan gun show, where he was legally exempt from a background check, and purchased assault weapons, shotguns, ammunition and flash suppressors that he intended to ship to the terrorist group Hezbollah."
NRO contributor Dave Kopel pointed out that while some of what Boumelhem was accused of smuggling could have been obtained at a gun show, the FBI informant's description of "automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers" are certainly not. Kopel observed, "it appears that Boumelhem had some source unrelated to gun shows from which he obtained very powerful weapons." Kopel noted that Boumelhem was already a convicted felon and unable to make the purchases, so he brought his brother to gun shows, to make "straw purchases." Background checks like the one Holder was calling for would not have stopped the straw purchases, since the straw purchaser (the surrogate for the real buyer) is chosen because he has a clean record.
Beyond that, if any member of al-Qaeda had ever bought a gun at an American gun show, we would have heard about it, endlessly. The fact that these two are the only examples citable out of the millions of transactions at gun shows over the past decades suggests that on the list of threats to U.S. national security, the probability of a terrorist buying a firearm at a gun show ranks just above an invasion from Mars.
It is revealing that in the aftermath of two terrifying terror attacks — one involving boxcutters and hijacked planes, the other involving anthrax — that the first instinct of Holder was to make it harder to purchase a gun. As the nation was beset by real threats, he decried the fake one.
UPDATE: Another fun question for the confirmation hearing: What did then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder think when Bill Clinton convened a meeting in 1999 "to prepare an all-out offensive on guns in the coming year"? Did he feel that "an all-out offensive on guns" was in keeping with the Second Amendment?
LINK to original article.