Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"How many times have the suicide bombers been interdicted not by Israeli police, not by Israeli security but by armed Israeli citizens with carry permits who stopped the terror before it had a chance to begin..."
What do the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) have in common with gun rights activists?
It would appear that the ACLU and NACDL are just as mistrusting about government intrusion as gunowners. At least, that was the impression that speakers from both organizations left with the audience during the Saturday afternoon, Sept. 25, session of the 19th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) in Arlington, VA.
Gregory T. Nojeim, ACLU's assistant director and chief legislative counsel in Washington, DC, and Kyle O'Dowd, NACDL's legislative director, both told the conference audience about problems with the Patriot Act and the kind of intrusion, and even false accusations, which could arise out of overzealous application of the new federal law. Both men and their organizations have worked closely with pro-gun organizations on Capitol Hill on issues of common interest.
They were just two of the highlights of the conference, which also saw remarks by former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, nationally-recognized self-defense authority Massad Ayoob, and many other leaders in the gun rights movement. There was plenty of talk about what gunowners should, and should not, do to bolster their rights, a panel discussion on concealed carry reciprocity and a roundup of firearms legal issues at the state and federal levels.
Nojeim, O'Dowd, Ayoob and Barr were on a panel discussing Domestic Security and Individual Liberties.
Acknowledging that "it's a little unusual for an ACLU representative to address a gun rights organization," Nojeim noted, "but we live in unusual times." He said the government's war on terrorism affects the home, car and workplace, and he warned the audience that under current anti-terrorist statutes, nobody is secure in their home any longer.
He criticized the Patriot Act as authorizing "pretense searches" of private residences or places of employment without the subject of the search being aware. Nojeim said "sneak and peek" searches are supposed to be a tool to root out terrorist suspects, but they could just as easily be employed against a law-abiding American citizen.
"Now the government doesn't need that grand jury subpoena; it doesn't even need to be investigating crime," he asserted. He said there does not have to be an actual crime, or even probable cause to mount such an investigation.
"We need your help," he told about 400 gunowners attending the GRPC. "We are working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to fix the Patriot Act."
He also cautioned the audience about proposals that would turn a state driver's license into a national identity card.
"This card," he said of the driving license, "is about permission to drive. A national ID card is about permission to live."
That's apparently part of a new package that would be called Patriot II that is even more intrusive than the original legislation. He expects proposed changes to the Patriot Act to come up in April or May 2005.
O'Dowd focused on the plight of Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield, who was held in jail for more than two weeks on the false suspicion that he was somehow linked to the Madrid train bombing. O'Dowd pretty much summed up the Mayfield case as an FBI fiasco, based upon faulty fingerprint identification. Also, Mayfield's wife is a naturalized citizen born in Egypt, and he is a Muslim convert.
But only after Mayfield had spent 19 days in confinement, after US investigators had apparently misrepresented the opinion of the Spanish National Police about the fingerprint they had recovered, and after a federal prosecutor acknowledged that there might be a problem with the print identification did Mayfield walk out of jail.
During the course of this investigation, the government released information that could ultimately harm Mayfield's ability to make a living and to travel freely.
O'Dowd said that everyone in the room has a right to know more about how the government exercises its new authorities under the Patriot Act.
Citizens v. Terrorists
Ayoob took another tack, speaking from his perspective as a commissioned police officer.
"I can tell you that from our perspective of homeland security," he said, "that things are going far better than the newspapers are being allowed to tell you. By definition, the successes are not being reported without tipping off the other side with proprietary information."
He alluded to an alert recently circulated by a police chief in Illinois. They had intercepted a message from a radical Muslim website that reminded American sympathizers that "the offices of ROTC buildings, armed services recruiting centers, individual military personnel and police officers are military targets."
But Ayoob also noted that one critical line of defense against urban terrorists is the armed citizen, as has been demonstrated in Israel.
"How many times have the suicide bombers been interdicted not by Israeli police, not by Israeli security but by armed Israeli citizens with carry permits who stopped the terror before it had a chance to begin," he queried. "The men who began to open fire on a sidewalk café only to be shot down by three ordinary Israeli citizens who pulled 9mms from under their coats, and the surviving terrorist the next day in outrage told his questioners, 'How dare they have guns to shoot at us?' Last year, the suicide bomber who opened his coat and reached for the detonating device in a public market, (and) a woman pulled a pistol and shot him in the head. A single 115-grain 9mm bullet through the central nervous system does short circuit the trigger. The international news said she was a security guard. There are those in the news media who don't get it right. She was a mother and a homemaker."
Barr delivered a searing testimonial to the Founding Fathers, noting that they understood the meaning of privacy, and notions of freedom and history.
"They had studied-the history of civilizations that had risen and fallen," he said, "and they understood what caused them to fall. They incorporated that wisdom of the ages into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
"These men and all of us in this country and all of us in this room, law enforcement officers and military men and women, they understand freedom," Barr continued.
He said the basic concept of freedom was that there were things off limits to intrusion. This notion, he said, was the "very foundational principal of the 4th amendment."
"That is the foundational principal that is being gutted by much of what has happened in terms of how the government is fighting this war against terror since 9-11," he observed, "and the irony is we do not need to gut the 4th Amendment to beat the terrorists.
"We just heard a very common sense way to beat them," Barr continued, "an armed citizenry, a citizenry able to defend itself."
Barr said the terrorist strike was largely made possible by policies that allowed foreigners to stay here on expired visas and for other reasons.
"They succeeded because we let our guard down," he stated. "They had the power to stop those men from boarding those airplanes with those box cutters; they simply chose not to do so. Terrible lapses in judgment, terrible lapses in security with tragic consequences."
However, Barr assured the audience that, "We are cleaning house, getting rid of people who made those policy decisions."
But he warned about giving government agencies any more power than they have now.
"They are never satisfied," Barr said. "Government never has enough power. No matter how much power you give government, it always wants more. It is time that we stand up and say that is not the way to handle these problems. And find better ways of using existing power rather than going after the citizenry."
Instead, Barr advocated, "Finding those people, tracking them down, shipping them back to the countries from which they came, and keeping them from coming back again. That would be one of the best anti-terrorism measures that our government could take. We ought to demand that they do it. Instead government is profiling law-abiding citizens in massive databases in the vain hope exercised by these brainiacs in government that if you throw enough information on enough law-abiding citizens into enough computers and you come up with enough algorithms to analyze all of that data, Presto! The terrorists are going to stick out like sore thumbs. That is absolute nonsense."
He closed with this warning: "A citizenry that has no privacy is not free."