Susan Jones | Morning Editor | Wednesday, March 9, 2005
But FBI Director Robert Mueller, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and gun control groups disagree.
In testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Mueller said lawmakers "ought to look at what can be done" to prevent people on the government's terrorism watch list from buying guns.
His comments followed the release of a government report showing that more than 40 people included on a terrorism watch list were allowed to buy guns last year.
According to the audit by the Government Accountability Office, 35 people on the government's terrorist watch list legally bought guns in the United States between Feb. 3 and June 20, 2004. Twelve more people on the list were allowed to buy guns between July 1 and Oct. 31 of last year.
But none of those people had been charged with, or convicted of, any crime, said the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
By law, convicted felons, illegal aliens and people declared mentally ill are not allowed to buy guns. Being included on a terrorism watch list may invite more scrutiny, but it does not automatically disqualify someone from legally buying a gun.
"How does somebody's name get on one of those lists? How is it removed?" asked CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. The government does not discuss details of its terrorism watch list, which reportedly includes some 50,000 names.
But Sen. Frank Lautenberg believes anyone included on the government's terrorism watch list should be treated differently when it comes to gun purchases.
The New Jersey Democrat says he will introduce a bill requiring the National Instant Check System (NICS) to retain records of gun purchases by "watch-listed" people for at least ten years. Current law requires the FBI to destroy gun-purchase applications within 24 hours of approval.
But current law is "aiding and abetting terrorists," Lautenberg was quoted as saying on Tuesday. "Lots of times you can't uncover the data you need in 24 hours."
CCRKBA said Lautenberg is using the GAO report -- which he requested -- in an attempt to advance his gun control agenda.
"In Sen. Lautenberg's warped view, anyone who buys a gun is a suspected terrorist," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. He believes Lautenberg is looking for a way to "justify a back-door gun registration scheme."
That way, if he ever gets his gun control bills through Congress, "he will know where to go to collect" all the guns, Gottlieb said.
According to CCRKBA, the GAO report shows that the NICS system works, but Sen. Lautenberg is trying to say it doesn't -- "so he can demand that we keep records on people who may have broken no laws."
CCRKBA said the American Civil Liberties Union would be in "hysterics" if Lautenberg's proposal to keep records on law-abiding Americans involved anything other than gun purchases.
CRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron said no system is completely fool-proof: "Even if we adopted all of the gun controls Frank Lautenberg has ever advocated, we would only disarm honest citizens, not criminals or potential terrorists, and he knows it."
According to USA Today, the terrorism watch list officially is known as the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File, and it includes everyone from actual terrorist suspects to their relatives, neighbors and co-workers.