Armed and dangerous

Posted: Feb 05, 2003 12:00 AM
It's more than a little ironic that many of the politicians who push for stringent gun-control laws now want the federal government to sit on its hands while a madman like Saddam Hussein sits on stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Start with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has supported a ban on Saturday night specials -- aka, "junk guns." Boxer wants the law to prohibit not just criminals, but also working mothers and fathers in the flats of Oakland, from buying Saturday night specials. God forbid that poor folk should buy a gun they can afford in order to protect their families. In 1999, Boxer said that she supported more stringent gun control. "Here's my goal: I want to make sure that guns are kept away from criminals, from people with mental problems and from children," she said. But when it comes to protecting the world's children from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- a criminal with mental problems who has violated U.N. resolutions requiring him to give up his caches of weapons of mass destruction -- well, the record shows that Boxer voted against last year's Senate resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq to enforce the U.N. resolutions. Yet in the wake of Sept. 11 and in the face of a possible terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction, suddenly civil liberties are more important to the anti-gun crowd. Last month, the Senate voted to freeze funding for the Department of Defense's project to monitor public databases in search of suspicious patterns of activity; those involving certain travel destinations and credit-card purchases. Critics claimed that the Total Information Awareness program would violate individual privacy and civil liberties. One senator told The Washington Times that TIA represented the most "far-reaching government surveillance plan in history." Yet many of the politicians who voted against funding the program have been unhesitating boosters of mandatory gun registration. They didn't lose much sleep over trampling on the privacy and civil rights of law-abiding gun owners. As Boxer once put it: "You register your car. What's the problem registering your gun?" I'll stipulate: The decision to place Iran-Contra scandal alumnus Rear Admiral John Poindexter at the helm of the Department of Defense's Total Information Awareness program was a major blunder. That doesn't change the fact, however, that the government isn't likely to learn much more about you under the Total Information Awareness program than could be learned by a bank checking into your creditworthiness. And there's a big difference between culling from what is already public information and creating a national database of personal information that previously didn't exist. Before voting to defund TIA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was a co-sponsor of an early measure to study its possible incursions on personal privacy and civil liberties. Yet Feinstein has been a longtime advocate of prying federal gun-control registration. In 1999, Feinstein vowed to introduce "legislation to provide for a precise system of registration and licensing of every weapon in this country." Personal privacy? Civil liberties? Not for gun owners. The anti-gun Democrats are ready to go after law-abiding gun owners, but a law-breaking thug such as Saddam Hussein evokes from them only calls for patience. They won't address danger and evil looming on a global scale, nor do they care much about the civil liberties of those who are gauche enough to own guns.