Anti-gun groups have been quick to exploit last week's al-Qaeda video in which Adam Gadahn, an American-born militant on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list, calls on followers in the United States to buy firearms and attack major institutions and public figures.
On June 7, the Brady Campaign, the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Legal Community Against Violence, and States United to Prevent Gun Violence wrote to President Obama, urging him "in the strongest terms to order an immediate and thorough review of steps the Administration can take in the short term to reduce the firepower available on the civilian gun market, to tighten existing laws regulating the gun industry, and to improve the background check system to make it harder for those with terrorist ties to obtain firearms."
Of course, it's never surprising that anything even remotely related to firearms inspires these anti-gun groups to promote whatever unrelated issues were already at the top of their agenda. And it's even less surprising that the groups' preferred initiatives would have no more effect on a committed terrorist than they've ever had on domestic criminals:
-- Terrorists around the world have never lacked for "firepower," no matter how harsh the laws in the countries they've attacked. India's strict laws, for example, failed to stop the deadly attack on Mumbai.
-- Even if private gun sales in the U.S. were banned, terrorists -- like common domestic criminals -- could simply use straw purchasers who can pass background checks, or could rely on stolen guns and other black market sources.
-- Legislation to arbitrarily deny sales to persons on the "terrorist watchlist" would be useless against Gadahn's target audience of "lone wolf" attackers with no previous ties to terrorist organizations.
-- Fully automatic "assault weapons" cannot be purchased over the counter.
Ironically, Gadahn's call for "lone wolf" attacks may itself be a sign of his group's decline. As the private intelligence firm Stratfor said in an analysis of the video, earlier al-Qaeda communications "suggested that militants who answered the call would be trained, equipped and put into the field of battle under competent commanders," while the more recent calls for would-be terrorists to go it alone "may be an admission of defeat and an indication that the jihadists might not be receiving the divine blessing they claim."