247 on terror watch list bought guns

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

The findings were not overlooked by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who slammed the current law as too lenient and urged Congress to close what gun reformers call the "terror gap."

"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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (Ill.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein Trump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE (N.Y.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (Mich.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (R.I.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill What the gun safety debate says about Washington Senators ask for committee vote on 'red flag' bills after shootings MORE (R.I.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? 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.