More than two years after the 9/11 atrocities, nobody would consider thwarting honest legislation aimed at preventing terrorists from obtaining firearms for further attacks on American citizens. But there is good reason for Americans to be cautious about blindly endorsing the proposed Terrorist Apprehension Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a traditional opponent of firearms civil rights. That bill ostensibly would give law enforcement greater ability to monitor gun purchases by people on a “terrorist watch list.”

Lautenberg has an additional bill in the shadows, the so-called Homeland Security Gun Safety Act of 2003. This bill essentially would circumvent federal firearms law governing background checks and retention of records on millions of law-abiding citizens. It would not be surprising to see the issue of terrorism used as an excuse to enact far-reaching legislation that would infringe on the firearms civil rights of Americans.

Lautenberg has yet to confer with gun-rights groups on either bill — a signal that he is less interested in snaring terrorists than in further eroding our gun rights.

There are other nagging questions about the Terrorist Apprehension Act, not the least of which is how someone winds up on a “terrorist watch list.” Are these people foreign nationals, or does the list include U.S. citizens whose only crime, perhaps, is having an unusual family name, ethnic heritage or religious belief? Are they on the list because of known terrorist activity? Why were they allowed into the USA in the first place, and why aren’t they deported when found? Why wait until they try to buy a gun?

Unfortunately, the sponsors of this legislation have a well-established track record of opposition to anyone — not just terrorists — owning firearms. Some might reasonably argue that a terrorist, in Lautenberg’s narrow view, is anyone who wants to buy a gun or already owns one.

No one wants to arm a terrorist. However, no American should be willing to make it easy to trample on the rights of our fellow citizens in the process of protecting our freedom and liberty. To do so would let the terrorists win.