Jacob Sullum
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The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says Sunday's deadly attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, a Milwaukee suburb, shows "our elected officials" need to "do something." Slightly more specifically, the group says we should "Demand Congress Stop Arming Dangerous People."

I did not realize there was a federal program that supplies mass murderers with weapons. Obviously, this is a poor use of our tax dollars. Congress should not only eliminate this program but it should also prevent dangerous people from buying guns on their own.

But how do we know who is dangerous? The Brady Campaign mentions "convicted felons," "convicted domestic abusers," "terrorists" and "people found to be dangerously mentally ill." It omits a crucial category: people with dangerous ideas.

Wade M. Page, the Army veteran identified as the gunman who was shot to death by police after killing six people and injuring three at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, had documented ties to white supremacist groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks extremists, he was "a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band" called End Apathy.

"The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent," Mark Potok, a senior fellow of the SPLC, told The New York Times. "It talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies."

According to the SITE Monitoring Service, Page was a familiar presence on websites run by Stormfront, Hammerskin Nation and other white supremacist groups, where he "frequently included white supremacist symbolism" in his posts. In a 2010 interview with End Apathy's record company, Page said he aimed to cure "a sick society" and bemoaned "how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy."

In other words, Page's scary views were well-known long before he bought the 9mm handgun he used in this week's attack. Yet he was still able to pass a federal background check.

Federal law currently bans gun ownership by felons, illegal drug users, people convicted of misdemeanors involving domestic violence and people "committed to a mental institution" or "adjudicated as a mental defective." Amazingly, there is no ideological test for gun ownership, even though someone like Page, "who fed and was fueled by hate" (as the Times put it), is far more dangerous than the average pot smoker or mental patient.

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Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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