IB-2005-B (June 2005)
Author: Independent Institute
The civil libertarians who warned about a New McCarthyism in the United States turned out to be right. As in the early 1950s, politicians- abetted by an uncritical press- are using national security as a pretext to take away constitutional rights. Like the Old McCarthyism, the New McCarthyism wants constitutional rights eliminated without due process, based on mere suspicion. Like the Old McCarthyism, the New McCarthyism’s leading advocate happens to be a congressperson named McCarthy.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) has introduced legislation, H.R. 1195 to ban persons on the “No Fly List” from buying firearms. The McCarthy bill was announced shortly after the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which detailed some deficiencies involving federal background checks on gun buyers. (Gun Control and Terrorism: FBI Could Better Manage Firearm Related Background Check Involving Terrorist Watch List Records, GAO-05-127, Jan. 2005). The GAO report also proposed some specific solutions, although the McCarthyite gun ban proposal was not among them.
The GAO report had been produced at the request of Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who have announced plans to introduce a narrower bill of their own.
To understand the issue it is necessary to understand some technical details about the operation of federal background checks for gun buyers.