US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), joined colleagues Tuesday calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan to quickly schedule votes on legislation that would close an egregious loophole and prevent individuals on the Federal Terrorist Watchlist from being able to purchase firearms and explosives that may be used in connection with terrorism.
Under current law, a member of a terrorist organization is not prohibited from “possessing firearms or explosives” or from being able to purchase handguns or assault-style rifles. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to exploit this loophole and purchase guns at least 2,233 times, succeeding in 2,043 of those instances, or 91 percent of the time. The letter supporting the legislation, which is already sponsored in the House of Representatives by leading Republican Representative Peter King, comes after the Republican frontrunner for President, Donald Trump, said that anyone on a terror watchlist should “absolutely” not be allowed to purchase a gun.
Specifically, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015”, empowers the U.S. Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to suspected terrorists if it is reasonably believed those individuals may use firearms or explosives in connection with an act of terrorism, all while protecting legitimate gun owners’ rights to acquire guns or explosives.
The full text of the Senate Democrats’ letter can be found below:
Dear Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan,
We write to urge you to quickly bring S. 551/H.R. 1076, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” to the Senate and House Floor for consideration and a vote.
In light of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the need to pass such legislation is more imperative than ever so that the United States can address a serious national security and public safety weakness: the terrorist background check loophole that allows suspected terrorist to swiftly pass a background check and obtain a dangerous weapon.
There is no reason why suspected terrorists who we consider too dangerous to board airplanes should be able to walk into any gun store in the United States and purchase a firearm or an explosive for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist act. But today, suspected terrorists can legally purchase guns in the United States—and they’re doing so, even while law enforcement may be investigating them or pursuing their arrest or indictment.
According to a Government Accountability Office letter, between February 2004 and December 2014, individuals on the federal terrorist watchlist tried to buy or obtain a firearm or explosive license or permit at least 2,233 times.
In 2,043 of those cases (91 percent of the time), the individuals successfully passed the background checks and were able to purchase the weapons or explosives. In 2013 and 2014, FBI data showed that individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm-related background checks 485 times, and 455 of those (about 94%) were allowed to proceed.
When over 90 percent of those on the terrorist watchlist who try to pass a background check succeed, it is absolutely clear we have a major vulnerability that could lead to deadly terrorist attacks.
Indeed, the Washington Post reports that since March 2014, U.S. authorities have charged 66 men and women around the country with alleged ISIL activities, and that according to the FBI, in a handful of those cases, it has disrupted terrorism plots targeting U.S. military or law enforcement personnel.
The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” will make our communities safer, including U.S. military and law enforcement personnel. It will prevent hundreds of gun purchases by suspected terrorists each year. Specifically the bill would allow the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to suspected terrorists if it is reasonably believed those individuals may use firearms or explosives in connection with an act of terrorism.
Importantly, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” provides important safeguards to protect a legitimate gun owner’s right to acquire firearms or explosives.
The need to close the terrorist background check loophole should not be a partisan issue. The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” has received support from members of Congress in both parties. It is also supported by law enforcement and a broad cross-section of Americans. This and similar proposals have received support from both Republican and Democratic administrations, including the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
We urge you to quickly bring the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” to the Senate and House floor for a vote. Republicans and Democrats alike—should have the opportunity to do their part to keep our country safe by ensuring terrorists cannot obtain firearms and explosives.
By passing the bill we could save American lives and help prevent terrorists from obtaining dangerous weapons.
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer
Patrick J. Leahy
Barbara A. Mikulski
Thomas R. Carper
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Mark R. Warner
Mazie K. Hirono
Angus S. King, Jr.
Edward J. Markey
Cory A. Booker