Is the NRA Really Defending Gun Rights for Suspected Terrorists?

The short answer is yes. An ominous headline on the National Rifle Association's Web site reads, "Bloomberg and others call for denial of gun rights based on error-filled watch list."

The mistake-riddled, rights-suppressing document in question is, of course, the FBI's terror watch list. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly went to Capitol Hill earlier this week in an attempt to convince legislators to pass a bill designed to prevent people on the FBI's list from legally purchasing guns and explosives. The legislation, which George W. Bush lobbied for back when he was in the White House, has gained traction on the heels of the attempted car-bomb attack on Times Square.

"If society decides that these people are too dangerous to get on an airplane with other people, then it's probably appropriate to look very hard before you let them buy a gun," Bloomberg told a Senate committee.

That's not how the NRA sees it. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the organization, told NEWSWEEK the bill is "21st-century McCarthyism."

"Our system of justice doesn't say that secret lists can be judge and jury when it comes to denying Americans their constitutional rights," Arulanandam said, sounding conspicuously like the ACLU circa 2003. "The simple fact is, there are innocent people on the list."

And the comparisons to the Red Scare continue: "Joe McCarthy and his allies used the word 'communist' to strike fear into the hearts of the American people and railroad people into following their agenda," he said. "I think in the 21st century, [U.S. Sen. Frank] Lautenberg and Bloomberg are abusing the word 'terrorist' to resurrect and pursue a gun-control agenda."

So, does this mean the NRA is soft on terror? No, says Arulanandam, the organization is all for prosecuting and punishing "legitimate terrorists." But he added that such accusations, once again, warrant comparisons to the McCarthy era: "If you questioned [McCarthy], you were branded a communist sympathizer. Today, if you question Lautenberg and Bloomberg, the media is ready to brand you a terrorist sympathizer."

So, to sum up: the NRA is pro-gun, anti-terrorist, pro-suspected-terrorists-being-able-to-buy-guns, and very anti–Joe McCarthy.