Bloomberg group presses lawmakers to support ‘terror gap’ gun bill

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is turning up the heat on Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to gain their support for a bill that would prevent people on terror watch lists from passing gun background checks.

Gun owners and military veterans, organized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) gun control advocacy group, are planning to present petitions to the senators on Thursday and Friday, asking the lawmakers to back the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
Under current law, people on the FBI’s terrorist “no fly” list are not included in the bureau’s separate National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Gun control advocates say that creates a “terror gap,” making it possible for suspected terrorists to legally purchase a firearm through a federally licensed dealer.

Between 2004 and 2009, there were 963 gun background checks that resulted in terrorist watch list matches after being run through NICS. About 90 percent of those matches were allowed to move forward, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) retrospective study. Of the 10 percent of firearm denials, the GAO study found they were refused based on other flags raised by the applicant and not their terrorist watch list status.

The three senators targeted by the Mayors group all voted against a bill last month that would have expanded background check requirements for firearm purchases.

Bloomberg’s group has focused its attention on them as the most likely lawmakers in the upper chamber who could be persuaded to vote in favor of a similar bill if it comes back before the Senate.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has introduced measures that would expand the authority of the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, to deny a suspected terrorist the right to purchase a gun and would allow people on the FBI’s terror watch list to be flagged when trying to buy a firearm.

The bill, which has been introduced regularly since 2005, earned the backing of the DOJ in 2007 under then-President George W. Bush. The DOJ endorsed the measure after a two-year study of federal gun laws.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has opposed the bill, with the group’s president David Keene arguing that, “There’s no evidence terrorists are buying guns.”

Democrats have pushed the issue in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last month. The hunt for the two suspects culminated in an extensive shootout with police, and authorities have sought to uncover how the brothers obtained the guns used in the firefight, with some speculating that they may have been stolen.

The issue of the terror gap first gained traction in 2009 after Nidal Hasan allegedly killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.

Hasan was in touch with the radical American al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, before the shooting, and lawmakers have argued that if he was placed on a terrorist watch list and the “terror gap” was closed, he would not have been able to obtain the gun he used as easily. Hasan purchased the gun legally at a local firearms store.