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Gloves Come Off
How VPC Tries to Equate YOU and bin Laden

by Sean Oberle

November 22, 2001

The Most Dishonest Gun Prohibitionist Group in — Envision the WTC crumbling. Think of those people who jumped rather than burn to death. Think of those firemen rushing bravely up the steps only to be crushed by tons of rock and molten steel. Think of a flight attendant getting her throat cut with a box cutter. Think of the thousands of kids who will never again see their moms and dads. Dig down deep. Remember how angry you were on September 11.

All Americans felt that anger — still do — and Tom Diaz of Violence Policy Center (VPC) is trying to redirect that anger at you … yes you … because you don’t share his views on gun control. Consider his following statements about his November 20 “report,” his newest attempt to link gun control to WTC:

“These terrorists' own words starkly document that to prevent terrorism America must address its own weak gun laws," states Diaz. "We leave Americans at deadly risk if we fail to do so. This chilling new information presents the NRA and its gun industry cohorts with a stark choice: support America or support terror.” (See: Jihad Trainees Urged to Use Lax U.S. Gun Laws to Wage Holy War.)

Got that? You either support VPC’s vision of strong gun laws or you oppose America and are on the side of murderers like Osama bin Laden.

But the Rest is Just Absurd

What is “this chilling new information”? What are “these terrorists’ own words”? They come from a pamphlet called How Can I Train for Jihad. VPC ominously claims to have “obtained the full text of the pamphlet, which has also reportedly been found in abandoned terrorist safe houses in Kabul, Afghanistan.” 

If you think from this description that VPC got some rare, secret document, you are mistaken. I too “obtained” the full text, and I didn’t even have to meet a deep-throat source in a darkened parking garage or travel with Geraldo Rivera to Afghanistan. I simply did a search for the title on Google and in less than 30 seconds found about a dozen sites that carry the full text. Click here to read one.

The document — which has been making the rounds of the internet for some time — supposedly is some sort of authentic terrorist advisory piece (I have no idea about the authenticity). It contains a section on firearms training, which mentions what terrorists-in-waiting can do in the U.S. — although it is not exclusively about the U.S. as a person who read only VPC’s portrayal would believe.

“This Chilling New Information”

VPC latches onto the firearms section to whip up fear about “lax U.S. gun laws.” The following are VPC’s portrayals of “these terrorists’ own words” about firearms:

Using public firearm training courses. ‘Some of them are only meant for security personnel but generally they will teach anyone,’ explains the document. ‘Find one, book your place, go there, learn, come back home and keep it [to] yourself.’”

Leaving aside the question of whether courses intended only for “security personnel” truly will accept anyone off the street as a general rule, is VPC suggesting that firearm training should become illegal? After all, VPC claims that these words are evidence of the “lax U.S. gun laws” that need to be fixed to support America and oppose terrorism. Do you support legal firearms training? You must support terrorism, using VPC’s logic.

Training for military type combat assaults. The pamphlet advises, ‘Useful courses to learn are sniping, general shooting and other rifle courses,’ and specifically discourages handgun training until rifle training is mastered.”

If you look at the actual pamphlet, it is not clear whether the writer is suggesting that sniper training occur in the United States. The statement about sniping immediately proceeds this sentence: 

“In other countries, e.g. some states of USA, South Africa, it is perfectly legal for members of the public to own certain types of firearms.” 

It is possible to interpret that to mean: “get sniper training and in other countries, like the U.S., get guns.”

In any event, other than the “sniping,” this statement describes innocuous activity, assuming that you believe “general shooting” courses should be legal. As for sniping, any course that teaches a person to be a competent hunter of big game provides sniping training — it combines the use of cover with good marksmanship. Should we make hunting classes illegal? 

Obtaining military style weapons. ‘[I]t is perfectly legal for members of the public to own certain types of firearms’ such as assault rifles. ‘[O]btain an assault rifle legally, preferably AK-47 or variations, learn how to use it properly,’ urges the paper.”

It seems that the writers of the pamphlet have an unrealistic idea of how easy it is to obtain such weapons in the United States. Assault rifles, by definition, are capable of fully-automatic fire, making them subject to the heavy regulations of the 1934 National Firearms Act. Semi-automatic rifles that look like assault rifles (the made-up class of guns called assault weapons) are subject to the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban.

Avoiding illegal trading in firearms. ‘Respect the laws of the country you are in and avoid dealing in illegal firearms,’ warns the document. ‘One can learn to operate many arms legally, so there is no need to spend years in prison for dealing in small, illegal firearms.’”

This is evidence of a problem? A warning to obey the laws is “chilling new information” that highlights the need for tighter laws? 

VPC’s Real Target: .50 Caliber Rifles

Of course, VPC doesn’t suggest anything to tighten the supposedly lax gun laws that these statements allegedly highlight. No, it changes the subject to its latest bugbear.

All of this “chilling new information” — really old information available over the Internet for some time — simply is an excuse for VPC to repeat its call for banning .50 caliber rifles. Indeed, VPC apparently gets so caught up in its over-the-top hyperbole about terrorists, that it makes two claims about .50s that simply are not true:

“50 caliber (sic) sniper rifles ... can be purchased more easily than handguns in the U.S.”

And a Rolls Royce is easier to purchase than a Ford.

“Ordinary Americans and terrorists alike can train to use 50 caliber (sic) sniper rifles and other weapons of war at the more than 1,800 shooting ranges in the United States — some of which are on federal land.”

And you can drive an 18-wheeler on the local go-kart track. 

From Anger to Bemusement

I have to admit: unlike my typical laughing response to most VPC claptrap, this screed made me angry at first. I don’t like being tied to scum like Osama bin Laden simply because I don’t share Tom Diaz’s views about .50 caliber rifles. 

But you know what? After I took the time to analyze the pap, I realized that once again, VPC has done nothing but create a lot of words with no substance — it uses a bunch of scary adjectives to describe what everyone already knows: firearms and firearm training are available in the United States. Only this time, it added a vicious insult. 

Now I’m just bemused, wondering whether Tom Diaz actually believes what he writes.

Sean Oberle is a Featured Writer and gun control analyst for He can be reached at View other articles from him at