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The Daily Need

On terrorist watch list, but allowed to buy guns

The Houston gun show. Photo: Flickr/M. Glasgow

The AP is reporting today that 247 people who are on the federal government’s so-called “terrorism watch list” bought guns in the U.S. last year, and it’s all totally legal. We know about these purchases because these buyers all went through the mandatory federal background check required from licensed gun dealers. But there is no law prohibiting people on the terror watch list from buying guns.

There’s also no way of knowing how many people on the terror watch list bought guns from private gun dealers, like those who set up stalls at hundreds of gun shows around the country. Why? Because private gun sales – meaning guns sold by un-licensed sellers – require no federal background check whatsoever.

Gun-rights groups like the NRA have long argued that the terrorism watch list is arbitrary and has no due-process behind it, and thus it should have no bearing on who can buy guns.

From the AP:

The watch list is secret and generated at the government’s discretion. It is not a list of people convicted of terrorism crimes. The list of about 450,000 people includes suspected members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps. People’s names are added to and removed from the watch list every day, and most people never know whether they’re on it.

As NTK reported earlier, state and federal restrictions on who can buy a gun (and where those guns can be carried) have been getting looser in recent years. Many gun-rights advocates feared President Obama would halt this trend, but even after promising to re-open the gun-rights debate in the wake of the massacre in Tucson, the Obama administration has been largely silent.