As if the FBI report that there are 900 homegrown ISIS terrorist cases being investigated right now wasn’t scary enough, another alarming trend has been revealed. The homegrown terrorists are getting their hands on guns – legally. Known and suspected terrorists are purchasing firearms under federal law.
From the Washington Post:
Between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.
According to the GAO, that figure is actually very optimistic and a floor number because the 2011 and 2012 numbers include only partial data because of a programming error that the FBI subsequently fixed.
“Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law,” the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2010. While there are laws in place that prohibit felons, fugitives, drug addicts and domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm in the United States, individuals on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watch list can freely purchase handguns or assault-style rifles. And they are taking full advantage of this freedom.
Lawmakers have attempted to close this dangerous loophole and bill have been introduced in Congress dating back to 2007, but nothing has actually been done. Most recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) introduced the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015,” which would prevent several hundred gun purchases by suspected terrorists each year. It even provided a challenge system if a person believed that they were wrongly placed on the terrorist watch list.
However, these bills have been shot down time and time again due to opposition from the National Rifle Association and their allies in Congress. The NRA vehemently opposed earlier versions of the bill, and on their website detail the many reasons why they object. The rationale behind the opposition included that the bills are “aimed primarily at law-abiding American gun owners,” that “prohibiting the possession of firearms doesn’t stop criminals from illegally acquiring them” and that the bills were “sponsored by gun control extremists.”
Another opponent of the bills have been civil libertarians who say that the watch list is far from a perfect tool in assessing someone’s terror threat. They have said that the list has far too many people on it; the watch list has inflated to 700,000 in recent years. Many of those on the watch list may be on there simply because they are family members, acquaintances or people only marginally acquainted with individuals who actually belong to terror groups.