Terry Jeffrey

The only thing stupider than allowing a known foreign terrorist into the United States may be allowing that terrorist to buy guns.

Current U.S. law allows this happen. It also allows known terrorists on the no-fly list to buy guns.

Perhaps worse still, the U.S. government has approved background checks for watch-listed terrorists to possess explosives in the United States.

From March 2009 through February 2010, according to prepared congressional testimony from Eileen Larence, the Government Accountability Office's director of homeland security and justice issues, 272 NICS background checks turned up individuals on the terrorist watch list. All but one was for a firearms purchase. The other was for explosives.

"One of the 272 transactions involved an explosives background check, which was allowed to proceed because the check revealed no disqualifying factors under the Safe Explosives Act," Larence testified.

Of the 271 firearms-background checks that revealed the prospective gun purchaser was on the terrorist watch list, only 22 resulted in the would-be purchaser being denied a gun. The other 249 transactions were allowed to proceed.

Some of the watch-listed terrorists allowed to buy guns were on the no-fly list. "According to FBI officials, several of the 272 background checks resulted in matches to watch list records that -- in addition to being in the FBI's Known or Suspected Terrorist File -- were on the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list," Larence testified. "In general, persons on the no-fly list are deemed to be a threat to civil aviation or national security and therefore should be precluded from boarding an aircraft. According to FBI officials, all of these transactions were allowed to proceed because the background checks revealed no prohibiting information under current law."

According to Larence's testimony, presented to the Senate Homeland Security Committee in May, in the six years from February 2004 through February 2010, 650 separate individuals on the terrorist watch list went through NICS background checks because they were trying to purchase guns or secure a license for explosives. Because some made multiple transactions, the total number of attempted gun or explosives transactions involving watch-listed terrorists who underwent FBI NICS checks during the period was 1,228.

Ninety-one percent of these transactions -- 1,119 -- were approved.

What is going on here?

The law, as it currently stands, does not prevent a "known or suspected terrorist" (KST) from purchasing guns and explosives in the United States.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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