The demise of Osama bin Laden, and its celebration, warrants interest in a short terrorism report published last week.
The U.S. government, the Associated Press reported, says more than 200 people suspected of ties to terrorism bought firearms in 2010. That would be firearms purchased here in the United States.
The purchases were permitted under federal law, and the 247 people allowed to buy weapons did so after going through required background checks, AP reported. About the same number bought guns in 2009, according to the government.
How can this be? How can someone on a federal government watch list of people with suspected ties to al-Qaida or some supremacist wingnut group buy a weapon?
It’s possible, it turns out, because it is not illegal for people listed on the government’s terrorism watch list to buy weapons.
Seriously. Even though allowing suspected terrorists to buy weapons seems to conflict with the Second Amendment’s idea of a “well-regulated militia.” Among other issues.
What’s a more frightening prospect? The idea that the government’s terrorism list is basically bogus, based on unfounded suspicions and reports, and there really isn’t any reason to keep weapons from such law-abiding, unfairly accused, people?
Or that hundreds and hundreds of people with real ties to terrorism have legally purchased weapons in the country where they intend to do harm?
Apparently it’s the latter. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is trying again to change the law. According to AP: “The secret, fluid nature of the watch list has made it challenging to close what Sen. Lautenberg has called a ‘terror gap’ in the nation’s gun laws.”
The gap, according to Lautenberg’s legislation, is this: Even if the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System “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 nine other disqualifying factors, such as being a convicted felon or domestic abuser.”
Is that a gap or a grand canyon?
Lautenberg’s bill cites a Government Accountability Office report that found from February 2004 through February 2009, “There were 963 cases in which a known or suspected terrorist identified in federal terrorist watch list records attempted to buy a gun or explosives. In 90 percent of these cases — a total of 865 different times — the known or suspected terrorist was cleared to buy a firearm or explosive.”
Allowing known terrorists to legally buy guns and explosives? It seems incomprehensible.
Why would we arm the enemy?