WASHINGTON — People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.
In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.
The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.
Gun purchases must be approved unless federal officials can find some other disqualification of the would-be buyer, like being a felon, an illegal immigrant or a drug addict.
Does this make sense to anyone? A person on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from boarding an airplane but can still legally buy a gun?
Apparently it makes sense to the gun nuts, who are actually fighting changing the law:
“We’re concerned about the quality and the integrity of the list,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “There have been numerous studies and reports questioning the integrity, and we believe law-abiding people who are on the list by error should not be arbitrarily denied their civil rights” under the Second Amendment.
Mr. Lautenberg introduced a similar gun-control measure in 2007, but it stalled after opposition from the N.R.A. The senator attributed the outcome to “knuckling under to the gun lobby.”
I have doubts about the integrity of the terrorist watch list too, but I’d rather we focus our energy and efforts on managing the list than run the risk that the next James VonBrunn, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, or Eric Roeder can buy a gun, explosives, and even semi-automatic weapons.
And it’s completely stupid that some of the same folks who rang alarm bells over Gitmo detainees being in U.S. prisons don’t seem in the least bit concerned that someone on the terrorist watch list can buy an AK-47 with nothing legally to stop him or her. It is simply far too easy to buy a gun in this country and the people who are fighting changes the loudest are ignoring the reality that guns are involved in 70% of all U.S. homicides.
If, as the gun nuts like to remind us, that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then shouldn’t we have a law that stops people suspected of being dangerous from possessing guns? Especially when we're already restricting these people from things like boarding airplanes? Gun nuts stopped making sense to me a long time ago, however.
So here’s a plan: How about we do whatever needs to be done to clean up the terrorist watch list and get people who don’t belong on it off. Let those people board airplanes, buy guns, get their visas and basically get on with their lives.
And the people we have evidence of being a threat to the country: those folks let’s legally keep from buying weapons.
You got a problem with that?