About 90 percent of people on a terrorist watch list who applied passed the required background check to purchase a gun, said a Goverment Accountability Office report quoted by the Christian Science Monitor. Gun-control activists say the report demonstrates potentially lethal flaws in gun laws. Gun-rights advocates say the terror list is perhaps a greater menace in itself. They see it as ripe for manipulation – allowing the government to label people as terrorists when it is politically expedient to do so.
The FBI can halt the purchase of a gun by someone with a criminal conviction, so the 900 people in the GAO report “are people who have no criminal conviction, but they’re on this mystery list,” says criminologist Gary Kleck, author of “Stopping Power: Why 70 million Americans own guns.” There’s currently no basis automatically to prevent a person from buying a gun simply because they appear on the terrorist watch list, wrote Ellen Larence, the GAO’s director of homeland security and justice issues. There must be additional disqualifying factors, such as a felony conviction or illegal immigration status. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) calls this “the terror gap,” and he wants to fix it with new legislation.