Exiting counterterrorism official warns of extremists' access to guns in US

The retiring head of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) warned ahead of his exit Friday about extremists' ability to acquire lethal weapons in the U.S.

In a final briefing with reporters ahead of his departure, NCTC Director Nicholas Rasmussen voiced concern about the ability to protect from mass casualty attacks.

“We find ourselves in a more dangerous situation because our population of violent extremists has no difficulty gaining access to weapons that are quite lethal,” Rasmussen said, according to The Washington Post. “I wish that weren’t so.”

Rasmussen, who served as the NCTC's director for three years, said he had no solutions to offer domestic law enforcement agencies working to prevent mass-casualty attacks, but said a link between the availability of guns and the potential for violence is a calculation for counterterrorism analysts.

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“More weapons, more readily available, increases the lethality of those that would pick them up and use them,” he said.

Rasmussen said the U.S. should be focused on stemming the spread of violent ideologies, adding that anti-Muslim rhetoric has complicated that effort, according to the Post.

Rasmussen's exit will transfer temporary control of the center to its deputy director, Russell Travers, until the Trump administration appoints a permanent replacement.

Rasmussen, a holdover from the Obama administration, previously served in the State Department and on the National Security Council under former President George W. Bush. He worked in the NCTC, created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, from 2004 to 2007.