Just because the government suspects that you have ties to terrorism doesn’t mean you can’t buy a gun.
Nearly 250 people on the government’s terror watch list purchased guns in the United States last year legally, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing FBI figures they had obtained.
How’d they do it? They went about it like anyone else would, background check and all. The government can prevent people from purchasing a gun for 11 reasons, but being on the watch list isn't one of them. Convicted felons can't buy weapons, but the watch list includes people suspected of – but not necessarily convicted of – ties to terrorists.
Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, want to close what they call the “terror gap” in the nation’s gun laws. But doing so won’t be easy, mostly because of the fluid nature of the secret terror watch list.
The list of about 450,000 people includes suspected members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps. People's names are added to and removed from the watch list every day, and most people never know whether they're on it. …
Some other numbers:
- About the same number of people on the list successfully bought a gun in 2009 as they did last year.
- Between February 2004 and December of last year, 1,453 people on the terror watch list tried to buy firearms or explosives. Of those, 90 percent were successful.
- There is no public information available about anyone on the list who legally bought a gun, then used it in a crime.
So what’s the solution?
For Lautenberg and a dozen or so likeminded lawmakers, the answer is to give the government the ability to prevent someone on the list from buying a gun if the attorney general deems that person will use it to commit a terrorist act. The Justice Department, under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has supported the effort.