Al Qaeda Threat Highlighted In National Gun Control Ad Campaign

06/28/2011 09:40 am ET | Updated Aug 28, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Hoping to maintain a bit of political pressure on Congress and the White House, a prominent gun control advocacy group is turning recent, foreboding statements from an al Qaeda operative into a national ad campaign.

The Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group of more than 600 mayors, released a new spot on Tuesday highlighting a video statement from Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman for al Qaeda, that urged followers to exploit a U.S. gun show loophole.

"The latest al Qaeda plot instructs terrorists on how to buy guns in America," the ad says, before shifting to audio of Gadahn.

The al Qaeda spokesman declares: "This is a golden opportunity. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show ... and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check. ... So what are you waiting for?"

"Call your member of Congress," the ad concludes. "Tell them to close the loopholes that let terrorists and criminals buy guns."

WATCH:

The spot does clarify -- in small text at the end -- Gadahn's misleading assessment of the accessibility of firearms at gun shows. In fact, purchasers cannot obtain fully automatic assault rifles at those venues. Consumers can purchase semi-automatics.

The broader point for the coalition, however, remains the same: A loophole exists in current gun laws. Private sellers are not required to perform the same background checks at gun shows that federal licensed dealers must. By some estimations, private sales make up 40 percent of total gun show sales.

The coalition has been pushing for Congress to pass legislation to change this exception for several years now, most vocally in the aftermath of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. They've won victories around the margins but the larger goal has been elusive. The Justice Department held a series of policy-focused meetings with stakeholders, but nothing, so far, has come from those talks.

It seems the greater battle gun control advocates are fighting is simply to keep their concerns at the forefront of the political debate. The new ad linking gun control to terrorism seems calculated to remind lawmakers and government officials that promises of reform have gone unfulfilled.

The spot will run on national cable channels, including MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, for a week -- no small ad buy. It will then air at least once or twice on a Sunday show in the Washington, D.C., market, an official with the group told The Huffington Post.