Reps. Rice & Quigley Lead Call to Prevent Suspected Terrorists from Buying Guns
37 House Democrats sign letter urging House appropriators to close the terror gap in gun background checks
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and 35 fellow House Democrats yesterday called on House appropriators to close the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to purchase firearms and explosives. In a letter to Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson and Ranking Member José Serrano and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter and Ranking Member Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rice, Quigley and House Democrats urged appropriators to authorize the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to prohibit individuals on the FBI Terrorist Watchlist from purchasing firearms and explosives.
Under current federal law, nine broad categories of people are prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms – including convicted felons, domestic abusers and people with certain mental health disorders. But that prohibition does not extend to suspected terrorists on the FBI Terrorist Watchlist, meaning that an individual the FBI considers too dangerous to board a plane can still legally purchase a semi-automatic weapon. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation found that individuals on the Terrorist Watchlist attempted to purchase weapons from American dealers at least 2,233 times between 2004 and 2014, and were successful in 2,043 or 91% of those instances. Surveys have shown overwhelming public support for closing the loophole, even among gun owners and NRA members.
“With all of President Trump’s talk about protecting the homeland and combating terrorism, preventing suspected terrorists from buying guns should be a no brainer for both parties in Congress,” said Representative Kathleen Rice, a Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “No matter how entrenched this debate might be, we should all agree that an individual considered too dangerous to board a plane shouldn’t be able to walk into a store and buy a semi-automatic weapon. The American people – Democrats, Republicans, gun owners, and even NRA members – overwhelmingly support action to close this loophole, and it would be unconscionable for Congress to let another year go by without getting it done.”
“While we must ensure that we strike a proper balance between protecting our national security and protecting our civil liberties, there is no reason to safeguard suspected terrorists in that effort,” said Rep. Mike Quigley. “With the rise in lone wolf extremism and home-grown terror threats, Members of Congress have a responsibility to show those who wish us harm that we will always put the safety of American citizens before the interests of the gun lobby.”
The full text of the letter is copied below, and a final copy with a full list of signatures is available here.
April 4, 2017
Dear Chairman Culberson, Ranking Member Serrano, Chairman Carter, and Ranking Member Roybal-Allard:
As you begin work on fiscal year 2018 appropriations legislation for both Commerce, Justice, and Science as well as Homeland Security, we urge you to give the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives by closing a gaping loophole in our nation’s homeland security.
Federal law currently designates nine broad categories of people as dangerous enough to bar them from purchasing or owning firearms. Astonishingly, suspected terrorists on the FBI Terrorist Watchlist are not one of those categories. Quite simply, this means that an individual can be considered such a substantial threat to the national security of the United States that the FBI prohibits them from boarding a plane, yet they still have the ability to easily and legally purchase a semiautomatic weapon.
From the terror attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and Charleston in 2015 to Orlando in 2016 and Kansas City in 2017, terrorists both foreign and domestic are increasingly using firearms to carry out their attacks. Congress has a responsibility to do all it can to keep firearms out of the hands of terrorists. A recent Government Accountability Office investigation found that individuals on the Terrorist Watchlist attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times between 2004 and 2014, and they were successful in 2,043 or 91% of those times.
The American people, gun owning and not, overwhelmingly support responsible, common-sense gun safety reforms. This policy change, first proposed by President George W. Bush’s administration, is the definition of a responsible, common-sense reform. A 2013 survey found that 80% of non-NRA gun owners and 71% of NRA gun owners support prohibiting people on the Terrorist Watchlist from obtaining guns.
Closing this loophole is a simple, responsible, and straightforward public safety measure. We urge you to seize on this critical opportunity to protect the American people and the national security of the United States. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.