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As Bush Administration Finally Agrees To Restrict Terrorists Access To Guns, Lautenberg Introduces Bill To Close 'Terror Gap'
After Considering Lautenberg's Request for More Than Two Years, Bush Administration Endorses First Change to Federal Gun Law In More Than a DecadeMichael Pagan (202) 228-6393
Friday, April 27, 2007WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last night, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to prohibit terrorist suspects from purchasing firearms, mirroring an Administration plan released yesterday. The bill seeks to close the "terror gap" in federal gun law by giving the Attorney General the power to block gun sales to terror suspects. Under current federal gun law, there is no provision to deny suspected terrorists from purchasing a firearm.
"It took years, but the Administration finally realized that letting terrorists buy guns is dangerous. This 'terror gap' in our gun laws has been open too long and I am going to shut it down," said Sen. Lautenberg.
Under the federal Brady Act, a licensed firearms dealer must request a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before an unlicensed individual may purchase a weapon. However, even if a NICS check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist, nothing in current law prevents that person from purchasing a gun unless he or she meets one of the other disqualifying factors, including felony or domestic abuse convictions.
In January 2005, the GAO produced a report to Sens. Lautenberg and Biden (D-DE) that found that from February 3 to June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm purchase attempts were made by individuals designated as known or suspected terrorists by the federal government. In 35 cases, the FBI authorized the transactions to proceed because FBI field agents were unable to find any disqualifying information (such as felony convictions or illegal immigrant status) within the federally prescribed three business days.
Following the GAO report in March 2005, Sen. Lautenberg wrote letters to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller requesting recommendations on existing laws and Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations permitting terrorists to purchase guns and, in response to the Senator's request, the DOJ created a department-wide working group. That working group produced the legislative recommendations that Lautenberg introduced on Thursday.
This week -- more than two years later -- DOJ recommended the introduction of the "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007." The Administration's recommendation came only following last week's tragedy at Virginia Tech and the day before Director Mueller's testimony in front of Sen. Lautenberg at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the FBI's 2008 budget.
"Before I got involved, the Administration refused to even share information with law enforcement about terrorists who purchased guns. Now that the Administration has finally agreed to limit gun sales to terrorists, I am going to push legislation swiftly through Congress to close this 'terror gap' loophole," said Lautenberg.
Sen. Lautenberg's measure - the "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007" - specifically:
• Provides the Attorney General with discretionary authority to deny the transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearm or explosives license or permit when a background check reveals that the purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist and the Attorney General reasonably believes that the person may use a firearm or explosives in connection with terrorism;
• Includes due process safeguards that afford an affected person an opportunity to challenge a denial by the Attorney General; and
• Protects the sensitive information upon which terrorist watch list listings are based.
Should this new measure become law, it would be the first change to the Brady Law since Sen. Lautenberg's 1996 law that has kept more than 150,000 guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.