Why is it, nearly three and half years after 9/11, that suspected terrorists on the federal government's watch lists are still allowed to buy guns in the US?
That's the troubling question raised by a new Government Accountability Office report, released Tuesday.
In fact, dozens of such suspects were approved to buy or carry a gun between February and June of 2004, according to the report, because they weren't automatically disqualified under current gun law. Unbelievably, in a nine-month period in 2004, the GAO found that 47 of 58 gun applications from suspected terrorists on an FBI watch list were actually approved.
How is this possible? Part of the explanation lies in the fact that Congress hasn't really ever moved to update the 1968 Gun Control Act, according to Americans for Gun Safety (AGS). Thus, those on the terrorist watch lists aren't automatically excluded from gun ownership.
Clearly, Congress should amend the 1968 law and close this "terrorist loophole," along with closing the gun-show loophole (where buyers don't need a background check). A watch list of irresponsible gun dealers should be created. A recent AGS report found a fraction of gun dealers responsible for selling guns used in a large number of crimes.
Protecting the rights of would-be gun owners and making sure that guns aren't for sale to suspected terrorists should be entirely separate matters.