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Lautenberg, Conyers, Scott: Known or Suspected Terrorists Cleared To Buy Guns or Explosives 865 Times Since 2004
Lautenberg Introduces Legislation to Close "Terror Gap" In Nation's Gun Laws
Lautenberg Press Office (202) 224-3224
Monday, June 22,
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) today released a new GAO report finding that, from February 2004 to February 2009, there were 963 cases in which a known or suspected terrorist attempted to buy a gun. In 90 percent of those cases – a total of 865 times – they were cleared to proceed with that purchase. One of those cases involved the purchase of explosives.
“The special interest gun lobby has so twisted our nation’s laws that the rights of terrorists are placed above the safety of everyday Americans. The current law simply defies common sense. This new report is proof positive that known and suspected terrorists are exploiting a major loophole in our law, threatening our families and our communities. This ‘terror gap’ has been open too long and our national security demands that we shut it down,” Sen. Lautenberg said.
Congressman Robert C.” Bobby” Scott, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security said, “This report is disturbing and certainly warrants consideration by Congress and the Administration. One might reasonably ask what the purpose of a Terrorist Watch List is if those on it are free to acquire firearms and explosives.”
In response to this report, Sen. Lautenberg is introducing legislation to close the “terror gap” in the nation’s gun laws by giving the Attorney General authority to stop the sale of guns or explosives to terrorists. Under current federal law, there is no legal way to stop someone on the Terrorist Watch List from buying guns and explosives.
According to the new GAO report released today, which the lawmakers requested in July 2008, only ten percent of the time were terrorists suspects denied weapons because of disqualifying factors, such as a felony conviction or illegal immigrant status. Being on the Terrorist Watch List is currently not a disqualifying factor for buying firearms.
In January 2005, a previous GAO report requested by Senator Lautenberg 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. Today’s report shows an alarming increase in these numbers.
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, such as felony conviction, illegal status, or domestic violence convictions.
Sen. Lautenberg’s measure, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009, would:
- Provide the Attorney General with discretionary authority to deny the transfer or issuance of a firearm or 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;
- Requires the Attorney General to issue guidelines describing the circumstances under which such discretionary authority will be used;
- Include due process safeguards that afford an affected person an opportunity to challenge a denial by the Attorney General; and
- Protect the sensitive information upon which terrorist watch lists are based.
Click here for a complete bill summary.
In 2007, the Bush Administration backed the introduction of a previous version of this bill written by Senator Lautenberg.
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