By Mike Lillis - 04/28/11 08:09 PM EDT
Hundreds of people on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List were cleared to purchase firearms in 2010, prompting at least one lawmaker and Capitol Hill gun-reformer to reiterate a call for tougher rules.
Of the 272 individuals on the Terrorist Watch List who attempted to buy firearms last year, 247 were allowed to make the purchase, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported Wednesday.
"It defies common sense that people on the terror watch list continue to be cleared to buy weapons legally in the United States,” Lautenberg, who requested the GAO report, said Thursday in a statement. "This is a homeland-security issue, not a gun issue, and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to stop a terrorist from buying a dangerous weapon in the United States."
Under current law, licensed gun dealers must perform background checks on all potential buyers to screen for those ineligible to possess firearms, including felons, illegal immigrants, spousal abusers and the severely mentally ill.
The list of ineligibles, however, does not include those on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List, which houses data on people "known or appropriately suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism."
The 25 individuals on the terrorist list who were denied approval last year were disqualified for reasons that included felony conviction and domestic violence.
"There is no basis to automatically prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives because they appear on the terrorist watch list," the GAO reported.
In January, Lautenberg introduced legislation empowering state attorneys
general to deny gun sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List if state
officials suspect they would use the weapons for terrorist attacks.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Dems: Immigration decision will 'energize' Hispanic voters Senate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling MORE (Ill.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Ryan: No plans to vote on Democratic gun bills after sit-in Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders shares star power with NY House hopeful Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Protecting living organ donors' rights MORE (N.Y.), Carl LevinCarl LevinFight for taxpayers draws fire Gun debate shows value of the filibuster House won't vote on Navy ship-naming restrictions MORE (Mich.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's 12:30 Report Hacked computer network mysteriously back online Marketplace for hacked-server sales may be much bigger than reported MORE (R.I.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Biden hits Trump on national security | Dems raise pressure over refugees | Graham vows fight over spending caps Graham: Opponents of lifting military spending caps are 'a-holes' Senate unlikely to vote on military cyber measure MORE (R.I.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA This week: Senate showdown over gun control Dems push vulnerable GOP senators on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.).
The National Rifle Association did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, but the nation's largest gun lobby has opposed past efforts to disqualify those on the government's terrorist list from buying firearms. The group argues that such a rule would violate the Second Amendment rights of those put on the list by mistake.