By Mike Lillis - 03/06/13 07:11 PM EST
A prominent Senate Democrat introduced legislation this week designed to keep firearms out of the hands of suspected terrorists living in the United States.
Sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the proposal would bar those on the government's terrorist watch list from buying guns – a designation that currently doesn't disqualify them.
"Even if every gun sale is subjected to a background check, terrorists will still be able to buy guns legally in America unless we pass my bill to close the 'Terror Gap,'" Lautenberg said Wednesday in a statement.
"From attacks on Ft. Hood to Mumbai, terror plots carried out using guns and readily available explosives are more and more common and we must act to stop terrorists from getting these weapons and killing Americans.”
Current federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on potential gun buyers to weed out those prohibited from buying or owning guns, including felons, fugitives, spousal abusers, illegal immigrants and the severely mentally ill. But those on the FBI's terrorist watch list — while barred from air travel — may purchase guns legally.
Launched in 2003 in response to the 9/11 attacks, the FBI watch list compiles the names of those "known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that, of the 272 people on the terrorist watch list who attempted to buy firearms in 2010, 247 were allowed to make the purchase. The 25 denials were blocked because they fell into one of the prohibited categories.
Between 2004-2010, more than 1,300 people on the terrorist watch list were cleared to buy weapons, the GAO found.
Opponents of past efforts to close the so-called "terror gap," including the National Rifle Association, have argued that the FBI's list is not 100 percent accurate. As a result, critics say, proposals like Lautenberg's would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of those put on the list by mistake.
Lautenberg's proposal has been endorsed by Sens. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalLeahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo Obama defeat is Schumer victory Overnight Cybersecurity: FBI probes possible hack of Dems' phones | Trump's '400-pound hacker' | Pressure builds on Yahoo | Poll trolls run wild MORE (D-Conn.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDems gain upper hand on budget Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (D-Calif.), Mo Cowan (D-Mass.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems gain upper hand on budget McConnell: Senate could drop flood money from spending bill Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (D-Ill.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinSenate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override WH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senate Dems call for investigation into Wells Fargo's wage practices MORE (D-N.Y.), Carl LevinCarl LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert MenendezDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Dem senator: Louisiana Republican 'found Jesus' on flood funding Taiwan and ICAO: this is the time MORE (D-N.J.), Jack ReedJack ReedDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas MORE (D-R.I.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCongress departs for recess until after Election Day Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto MORE (D-N.Y.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: SEC begins probing Exxon Senate Dems unveil new public option push for ObamaCare Emails: Powell talked Clinton health concerns with Dem mega-donor MORE (D-R.I.) and Angus KingAngus KingWells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel Pentagon chief: 9/11 bill could be used against US troops GOP chairman: White House ‘running rogue’ on water rule MORE (I-Maine).
The proposal has bipartisan support in the House, where GOP Rep. Pete King (N.Y.) introduced a similar proposal earlier this year.