Terrorism recasts gun debate

Terrorism recasts gun debate
© Getty

Gun control groups have a new argument: U.S. gun laws make it easy for terrorists to get firearms.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and other groups arguing for tighter gun control point to what they say is a “terror loophole” to make their case.


People on the terrorism no-fly list are still allowed to buy guns as long as they don’t have a criminal record. 

Those prohibited from purchasing firearms because of an unrelated felony or domestic violence conviction can also avoid the background check requirements by purchasing a firearm online or at a gun show

“It is our great fear that if Congress does not heed this warning and continues to do nothing to address the issue of the easy availability of guns in our nation without background checks, this issue is a time bomb waiting to explode,” said Dan Gross, The Brady Campaign’s president.

“If it winds up resulting in the loss of American lives to terrorism on our soil, Congress will have to answer as to why it did nothing about it.”

The Senate voted Thursday on legislation backed by the Brady Campaign that allowed federal authorities to block suspected terrorists from purchasing guns.

But in a 45-54 vote, the Senate rejected adding the measure to legislation repealing ObamaCare. Only one Democrat, Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.), opposed the measure, while Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.) was the only Republican to back it.

The failure highlights the tough road gun control activists face in seeking to win the change.

It’s not clear the new arguments about terrorism will resonate with lawmakers, or the public.

Gun rights supporters argue that if more people were armed, they could defend themselves from would-be terrorists. GOP presidential candidates have made similar arguments in response to the terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people, and mass shootings in the United States. 

“When you look at Paris — you know the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris — nobody had guns but the bad guys. Nobody had guns. Nobody,” Trump said at a campaign rally after the attacks. “They were just shooting them one by one and then they (security forces) broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists.

“You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry —“ Trump said, pausing as the crowd erupted into raucous applause, “— it would've been a much, much different situation.”

Democrats noted that terror groups themselves are telling their would-be supporters to take advantage of U.S. gun laws.

In 2011, al Qaeda encouraged would-be terrorists to take advantage of weak gun laws in the United States. 

Such fears could be further fanned by the news that one of the shooters involved in the deadly San Bernardino killings on Wednesday pledged allegiance to ISIS during the crime.

Gun control groups point out there more than 2,000 people on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist have legally purchased firearms over the last decade, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. They cite this an example of the imminent threat posed by terrorists.

“After the horrific terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds others, Americans are left wondering if something similar could happen here,” Everytown for Gun Safety wrote in a recent alert. 

“The alarming truth is our current gun laws fail to prevent suspected terrorists from arming themselves on American soil,” Everytown added.

Second Amendment defenders warn that some people — including even congressmen and senators — have been mistakenly placed on the no-fly list. They argue it is unfair to block these people from owning guns without so much as a court trial.

“It is appalling that anti-gun politicians are exploiting the Paris terrorist attacks to push their gun-control agenda,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a statement. 

“The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, [and] any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong,” she added. “The NRA’s only objective is to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the list are afforded their constitutional right to due process.”

Gun rights groups also argue that stricter gun laws will not stop terrorists from getting their hands on these deadly weapons.

“If we learned anything from the Paris shootings, where the gun laws are much stricter, it is that prohibiting good people from possessing guns does not stop criminals and terrorists from getting their hands on them,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for the Gun Owners of America.