Letter Raises Further Doubts About Barrett Story on Sale of 50 Caliber
Sniper Rifles to Bin Laden - Press Release
DC—The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released
a letter from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that flatly
denies any CIA role in the transfer of 25 Barrett 50 caliber sniper
rifles to terrorist Osama bin Laden. The letter to Congressman Henry
Waxman (D-CA) raises further doubts about Barrett's explanation that
the transfer was part of an official U.S. aid program. The letter
confirms a February 2002 VPC report, based on interviews with former
top CIA officials, that found no credible evidence that the transfer
was part of the official U.S. aid program.
of 25 Barrett anti-armor sniper rifles was revealed in the 2001
criminal trial of bin Laden operatives convicted of bombing two
U.S. embassies in Africa. Government witness Essam al Ridi, a naturalized
Egyptian, testified that he bought the 25 anti-armor sniper rifles
and shipped them to bin Laden's group. After the VPC reported this
transfer, which occurred in 1988 or 1989, the Barrett Firearms Manufacturing
Co. claimed that the rifles sent to bin Laden were part of the secret
American program of aid to Afghan rebels fighting occupying Soviet
forces. It accused the VPC of hiding this information.
CIA, which ran the secret Afghan aid program, told Congressman Waxman
that after "an extensive review of our records," it had found "no
information that indicates the Central Intelligence Agency aided
or was otherwise involved in a transfer of weapons by Essam al Ridi
to Afghanistan between 1985 and 1990." The letter confirms what
the three top CIA officials who ran the Afghan rebel aid program
told the VPC earlier this year—the 25 rifles transferred to Osama
bin Laden were not part of the U.S. aid program.
"All of the
objective, credible evidence now supports the VPC's position," said
VPC Senior Policy Analyst Tom Diaz. "We still don't know exactly
how or from whom Essam al Ridi got the 25 Barrett rifles he shipped
to bin Laden. But it is clear that he was not acting on behalf of
the U.S. government, as Barrett claims. Instead, he was simply taking
advantage of lax federal laws that allow the easy purchase of weapons
of war like these by terrorists, other extremists, and common criminals."
Adds Diaz, "The
burden is clearly on Barrett to put up or shut up and release any
documents it may have supporting its version of the transfer of
these anti-armor sniper rifles to bin Laden's agent."
Bragg Tragedies Focus Attention on National Plague of Murder-Suicide
- Press Release
DC —At least 662 Americans died in murder-suicides during the first
half of 2001, and almost all (94.5 percent) were killed with firearms,
according to American Roulette:
The Untold Story of Murder-Suicide in the United States,
a recent study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). Since June 11,
2002, two Fort Bragg soldiers have killed their wives and themselves.
The VPC study,
based on news clips collected nationwide, is one of the largest
and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on murder-suicide.
Using the VPC figures, more than 1,300 Americans die each year in
murder-suicides. During the six-month study period, 20 North Carolina
residents were killed in murder-suicides. The study notes that murder-suicides
range from high-profile mass shootings like the April 20, 1999,
Columbine massacre to familial shootings claiming the lives of spouses
VPC executive director, states, "Guns are the catalytic component
in murder-suicide. Just as important, it must be understood that
the emotional factors that drive suicide can be all too easily turned
outward on friends, family, co-workers, and complete strangers because
of the unmatched lethality of firearms. Every major murder-suicide
study ever conducted has shown that a firearm—with its unmatched
combination of lethality and availability—is the weapon most often
used to murder the victims, with the offenders then turning the
gun on themselves."
For the study,
the VPC used a national clipping service to collect every reported
murder-suicide in the United States from January 1, 2001 to June
30, 2001. Currently there is no national tracking system for these
incidents. As a result, the VPC study provides the most accurate
portrait of murder-suicide in America possible.
had more than 10 murder-suicide incidents during the study period:
Florida (35), California (29) and Texas (29), Pennsylvania (17),
New York (14), Virginia (12), and Ohio (11). North Carolina had
nine murder-suicide incidents.
General Ashcroft Misled Congress and the American People on Legality
of Checking Terrorist Gun Purchase Records - Press Release
DC—Attorney General John Ashcroft misled Congress and the American
public when he repeatedly stated that the Justice Department was
legally prohibited from checking gun purchase records in connection
with the post-9/11 terrorism investigation to determine if potential
terrorists had purchased firearms, a new General Accounting Office
(GAO) report reveals. The Justice Department's refusal to review
the records received widespread press attention when it was revealed
by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) in December 2001.
Gun Control: Potential Effects of Next-Day Destruction of NICS Background
Check Records, reveals for the first time the existence of an
October 1, 2001 memorandum prepared by the Justice Department's
Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). [The VPC has obtained a full copy
of the memo.] The memo concludes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation
has the legal authority to check approved gun purchase records to
ascertain whether prohibited persons bought guns in connection with
the post-9/11 terrorism investigation. The memorandum flatly contradicts
Attorney General Ashcroft's insistence that the Justice Department
was legally prohibited from checking approved gun purchase records
in connection with the terrorism investigation.
"The OLC memorandum
is the smoking gun proving that Ashcroft grossly misled Congress
and the American people," states Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation
director and legislative counsel. "Attorney General Ashcroft described
the Department's legal authority with the same accuracy that WorldCom
reported its profits."
public and congressional criticism of the Justice Department's position,
the Department never disclosed the existence of the OLC memorandum.
The VPC has identified no less than eight separate statements to
the news media and in congressional testimony by Justice Department
officials asserting in unequivocal terms that the Department lacked
the legal authority to do precisely what the October 2001 OLC memo
said was legal.
which examines the potential impact of the Ashcroft Justice Department's
proposal to require the destruction of approved gun purchase records
within 24 hours, concludes that the destruction of records would
have dire consequences for public safety. Another key finding is
that retained records were used to initiate firearms retrieval actions,
which take place when a felon, fugitive, domestic abuser, or other
prohibited person clears a background check and law enforcement
subsequently finds out they are prohibited. In an astonishing 97
percent of retrieval cases that the GAO studied over a six-month
period, law enforcement would not have been able to retrieve an
illegally purchased firearm from a prohibited person under the shortened
retention period proposed by the Attorney General.
"The GAO report should put the final nail in the coffin of the Ashcroft
Justice Department's records-destruction proposal. The report leaves
no doubt that when it comes to enforcing the gun laws Attorney General
Ashcroft is not guided by facts, law, or public safety, but by blind
allegiance to the gun lobby."
Denounces Passage of "Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act"—Urges Senate
Not To Make the Same Mistake - Press Release
DC—The Violence Policy Center (VPC) strongly denounced yesterday's
passage of the "Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act" (H.R. 4635).
of Representatives has collectively misjudged the effectiveness
of guns in the cockpits of our nation's commercial planes," Kristen
Rand, VPC legislative director stated today. "We strongly urge the
Senate not to make the same mistake."
by the VPC in opposition to arming pilots look at the on-the-ground
experience of law enforcement personnel:
- One study
found that 21 percent of police officers killed with a handgun
were shot with their own service weapon.
- Trained law
enforcement officers have only an 18 to 22 percent hit ratio in
armed confrontations. The cramped quarters of an airliner do not
lend themselves to success.
pilots are not infallible. In fact, 84 percent of all fatal commercial
air crashes are the result of pilot error. In a nation where states
prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, we are relying on
pilots of passenger planes, where hundreds of lives are at stake,
to be both policeman and pilot," Rand added.
"There are many
necessary and constructive steps that can be taken to protect pilots
and passengers short of arming pilots. If firearms are absolutely
necessary, they should be carried by trained air marshals whose
only responsibility is protecting the safety of crew members and
passengers," Rand concluded.
Statement Opposing "Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act" - Press Release
DC—The Violence Policy Center (VPC) released the following statement
today by Legislative Director Kristen Rand, in opposition to Arming
Pilots Against Terrorism Act (H.R. 4635).
The VPC is
in strong opposition to guns of any kind in the cockpits of our
nation's passenger planes. Introducing guns to the close quarters
of an airliner may be even more hazardous than putting guns in
classrooms, as some urged following the 1999 Columbine massacre.
and foremost consideration should be the fact that the weapon,
by definition, would potentially be available to every passenger.
That includes passengers with a case of air rage or those suffering
from suicidal tendencies, as well as terrorists.
those contemplating terrorism will know that a gun is available
and will act accordingly— and the terrorists will usually have
the element of surprise on their side.
task of defending the airliner to an already engaged pilot is
a scenario rife with potentially disastrous consequences. In fact,
highly trained police officers, whose only job is law enforcement,
all too often have their service weapons turned against them by
Releases License to Kill IV: More Guns, More Crime - Press
new study released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) shows
that Texas concealed handgun license holders have been arrested
5,314 times since the concealed handgun license law went into effect—an
average of two and one-half arrests every day from
January 1, 1996, until August 31, 2001. Texas has a "shall issue"
concealed carry system, in which an adult (21 or over), is issued
a license that allows them to have a handgun on or about their person
as long as it is not visible or discernible through ordinary observation
after they meet specific, objective criteria.
License to Kill IV: More Guns,
More Crime, from January 1, 1996, through August 31, 2001,
there were 41 arrests for murder and attempted murder by concealed
handgun license holders in Texas. License
to Kill IV: More Guns, More Crime discusses the dangerous
ramifications of concealed carry legislation and details the arrests
of 11 concealed handgun license holders subsequent to licensure
for the crimes of homicide, attempted homicide, and aggravated kidnapping.
Arrest data is regularly accepted as a valid measure of crime, reflecting
law enforcement response to criminal activity, and is used by agencies
such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its Uniform
Crime Reports (UCR).
"The NRA told
Texans in 1996 that a concealed handgun law would make Texas a safer
place," VPC Health Policy Analyst Karen Brock, MPH, said today.
"The thousands of arrests of concealed handgun license holders demonstrates
the exact opposite to be true: license holders are committing crimes,
not preventing them. States now considering concealed carry laws
should learn from the dire consequences that Texans now live with
day-in and day-out."
of Violence Policy Center in Response to Supreme Court Refusal to
Hear Second Amendment Cases - Press Release
Today the Supreme
Court denied review in two cases in which criminal defendants had
asked the high court to strike down federal gun laws on Second Amendment
grounds. In briefs filed in Emerson v. United States and
Haney v. United States, the Ashcroft Justice Department announced
a 180-degree shift in the Department's interpretation of the Second
Amendment, arguing for an expansive individual rights interpretation
of the Amendment. At the same time, the Justice Department asked
the Court to reject the defendants' petitions for review. In response
to the Supreme Court's action today, Mathew Nosanchuk, the Violence
Policy Center's litigation director and legislative counsel, issued
the following statement:
Court action is a victory for public safety and security and a
defeat for the National Rifle Association and gun criminals, who
have been chomping at the bit for the Supreme Court to overrule
its own precedent on the Second Amendment. By declining to hear
the Emerson and Haney cases, the Supreme Court–as
it has done repeatedly for decades–once again refused to reopen
the question of whether the Second Amendment protects an expansive
individual right to keep and bear arms that is unrelated in any
way to service in the ‘well regulated militia' cited in the Second
Amendment. In its unanimous 1939 decision in United States
v. Miller, the Court held unambiguously that the ‘obvious
purpose' of the Second Amendment was to ‘assure the continuation
and render possible the effectiveness' of the militia, and ‘[i]t
must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.'
by the Supreme Court reaffirms, the Ashcroft Justice Department's
policy shift notwithstanding, that the Miller decision
remains the law of the land–and it continues to be followed in
the lower courts. The Ashcroft Justice Department completely ignored
Miller in its Supreme Court briefs, and the NRA has argued
that Miller means something other than what it says. If
the lower courts have been misreading Miller for 63 years–as
the NRA and pro-gun advocates believe–the Supreme Court has had
ample opportunity to correct the error. Once again, it has declined
to do so.
the Justices do not share Attorney General John Ashcroft's enthusiasm
for reinterpreting the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, criminal
defendants and the gun lobby can be expected to rely on the non-binding
and ill-advised statements contained in the Ashcroft Justice Department's
Emerson and Haney briefs in their efforts to overturn
our nation's gun laws."
of Violence Policy Center in Response to D.C. Gun Crime Defendants
Using U.S. Department of Justice Second Amendment Policy Shift to
Strike Down Gun Laws - Press Release
Post reported May 30, 2002, that criminal defendants in Washington,
D.C. are seeking to have the District's gun laws declared unconstitutional
on Second Amendment grounds. The defendants are relying on the 180-degree
shift in the Department of Justice's interpretation of the Second
Amendment that was announced May 6, 2002 in briefs filed in the
U.S. Supreme Court. Mathew Nosanchuk, the Violence Policy Center's
litigation director and legislative counsel, issued the following
General Theodore Olson filed briefs in the Supreme Court embracing
the expansive individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment,
we warned that the primary beneficiaries of the Ashcroft Justice
Department's novel interpretation would be criminal defendants.
An expansive individual right under the Second Amendment simply
is not supported by history of the Constitution or binding Supreme
Court precedent and threatens to undermine the Justice Department's
enforcement of existing gun laws.
"Now, the chickens
have come home to roost. As the Washington Post today reported,
the defendants are charged in separate cases with unlawful possession
of a handgun and ammunition respectively. They both rely explicitly
on the Justice Department's briefs—and a memorandum from Attorney
General Ashcroft to all 93 U.S. Attorneys in which he directs them
to follow his interpretation of the Second Amendment—to support
their Second Amendment challenges to the District's gun laws. According
to the brief in one of the cases: ‘As made clear by the various
government representations, the United States now understands and
represents before tribunals that the Second Amendment right to bear
arms is an individual and personal right, not
a collective right of the state to form a militia.' On this basis,
the defendants seek to have the District's laws, which impose a
virtual ban on the private possession of handguns and ammunition,
by criminal defendants on the Justice Department's new position
puts the lie to the Justice Department's claim that it can be tough
on gun crime and soft on the Second Amendment. Instead of promoting
some abstract concept of constitutional law to score political points
with the gun lobby, the Ashcroft Justice Department is handing criminal
defendants arguments that will used to invalidate gun laws. The
real-world implications of the Department's position make it clear
that the Department will have to choose: protect public safety and
security or implement an expansive individual rights interpretation
of the Second Amendment that gun criminals will use to their advantage."
and NRA Provide Second Amendment Gun Defense for Accused American
Taliban Terrorist John Walker Lindh - Press Release
Washington, DC—One week after the Ashcroft Justice Department formally
adopted the National Rifle Association (NRA) view that the Second
Amendment guarantees a broad individual right to keep and bear arms,
the defense team for accused American Taliban terrorist John Walker
Lindh has used the government's arguments made to the U.S. Supreme
Court to urge dismissal of the gun charge filed against him.
Department position, announced last week in briefs filed with the
U.S. Supreme Court, is contrary to both Supreme Court precedent
and long-standing and consistent bipartisan Justice Department policy
that the Second Amendment protects a militia-based—not an expansive
individual—right to bear arms.
Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk states, "We warned
of this inevitable result and it has not taken long for our fears
to come true. The Ashcroft Justice Department has betrayed its law
enforcement responsibilities by strengthening the legal position
of those charged with committing serious crimes. These are the real-life
consequences of a cynical, politically motivated action. Now defendants
charged with a gun crime will argue the NRA-endorsed, Ashcroft-
implemented, American Taliban defense. The tough-on-crime rhetoric
of President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft, and the NRA means
little now that they have given accused gun criminals a new Justice
Policy Center warned of the clear threat to public health and safety
posed by the Justice Department shift in a May 2 letter sent to
Solicitor General Ted Olson by former Deputy Solicitor General Andrew
Frey on behalf of the VPC before the briefs were filed. The letter
stated: "Prosecuting gun crimes would also be made more difficult
in the wake of a policy change by the government....A person accused
of violating one or more of these statutes will have the opportunity
to make the argument that he was merely exercising his Second Amendment
right at the time of his arrest, and that any statute purporting
to impose criminal penalties for that conduct is unconstitutional....The
ability of the United States to perform its task of defending the
laws enacted by the Congress will be needlessly, and perhaps seriously,
compromised by a filing of the sort we here urge you to avoid."
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