House to Vote on Controversial Gun Bill that Equates Terrorism with Islam

A protest for gun reform in January 2013. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

House to Vote on Controversial Gun Bill that Equates Terrorism with Islam

"It's nothing more than a political tactic to avoid responsibility—a contrived effort to look busy and feign concern."

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday will vote on a gun reform bill that, if passed, would require the establishment of a new government "counter-terrorism" office--a controversial rider that is far from what Democrats demanded during their sit-in last month, unlikely to quell tension between the parties, and is and a slap in the face to those demanding meaningful action.

More than a dozen Democrats, led by Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), occupied the House for 25 hours in late June to demand the chamber vote on two measures that would expand background checks and prohibit gun sales to people on the government's controversial "watch lists."

But Tuesday's vote veers far from that call, instead tacking some gun sale limits onto a rider that would set up an agency focusing on the "ideology" of "radical Islamist terrorism"--essentially forcing the government to codify equating terrorism with Islam.

The Washington Post reports:

They include the creation of a new government counterterrorism office; plans for a nationwide exercise to determine the threat posed by foreign fighters and U.S. citizens traveling to train with terror groups; authority to revoke the U.S. passports of people who belong to or have helped terror groups; and an alert system to notify the FBI whenever someone who has been on a watch list in the past five years purchases a gun.

[....] The section of the legislation that would prevent a gun sale to a suspected terrorist requires the government to prove to a judge, in three business days, that there is probable cause that the would-be buyer has links to terrorism."

Democrats criticized the proposal on the floor of the House.

"It's nothing more than a political tactic to avoid responsibility--a contrived effort to look busy and feign concern," said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

As ThinkProgressnotes, the legislation also implicitly ignores mass shootings conducted by white extremists:

A recent FBI report found that only a small percentage of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 were perpetrated by Muslims. Right-wing terrorists, meanwhile, are killing more Americans than Jihadists.

Nevertheless, the House legislation claims that the Obama administration has repeatedly ignored this "preeminent" threat.

"The preeminent terrorist threats to the United States are radical Islamist terrorist networks such as al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their allies and affiliate networks, as well as lone-wolf supporters and sympathizers in the United States and around the world," the bill says.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House majority leader, on Tuesday also said Republicans were considering punishing Democrats who took part in last month's historic protest, claiming that it was "not becoming of the U.S. Congress."

It is unclear what that punishment would look like, although the New York Timessays that "individual censure" is unlikely.

A spokesperson for House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who took part in the protest, slammed the threat of punishment as capitulation to the National Rifle Association (NRA), stating Tuesday, "The lengths the House Republican leadership will go to follow the NRA's marching orders know no bounds."

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