Is the NRA right about the terror watch list?

Department of Homeland Security (Photo: Associated Press)

Department of Homeland Security (Photo: Associated Press)

The National Rifle Association was under fire this week for opposing a bill that would essentially bar those on the U.S. government’s secret terrorist watchlist from obtaining guns.

More than 2,000 people listed in what the Federal Bureau Investigation calls the Terrorist Screening Database have legally purchased guns over the past decade and recently-introduced legislation seeks to keep more of them from doing so, the Washington Post reported.

New York Republican Rep. Peter King seeks to close the so-called terrorist loophole, which doesn’t require the watch list be referenced against federal background checks. The terrorist watch list reportedly contains the names of about 700,000 with suspected terrorist ties – more than 2,000 of those individuals have legally purchased guns over the past decade.

The National Rifle Association called King’s bill an assault on Second Amendment rights, which yielded a fiery response from the media. The New York Daily Post criticized the gun rights group, going as far as referring to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as “Jihadi Wayne.”

In a statement posted on the NRA Institute for Legislative Action website Friday, the group said it does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms and that “any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong.”

“Under the current system, law enforcement is notified every time a person on the list attempts to purchase a firearm. Law Enforcement then makes a case by case decision on the appropriate follow-up for each circumstance,” said Jennifer Baker, NRA director of public affairs.

Though the government won’t provide the public any information on the list, it has said membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit an individual from owning firearms or explosives.

A government official told he could neither confirm nor deny whether any individual may be included in the Terrorist Screening Database “or a subset list.”

“Disclosure of an individual’s inclusion or non-inclusion in the TSDB or on the No Fly List would significantly impair the government’s ability to investigate and counteract terrorism, and protect transportation security,” said Dave Joly, spokesperson for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, in an email.     

Almost half of the people in the federal database are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept and published in April last year.

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