As states mull gun ban for suspected terrorists, New Jersey already leads the way

Proponents see proposed inclusion of no-fly lists in background checks for gun sales as common-sense strategy to prevent would-be terrorists from obtaining weapons, but privacy and civil-rights advocates have concerns.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D) of New York, joined by Senate minority leader Harry Reid, (D) of Nevada (r.), criticizes Republicans for not doing enough to stop gun violence, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Sunday, Senator Schumer joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo in calling on federal officials to set up a protocol to allow states access to the normally confidential FBI terrorism watch list.

New Jersey gun laws installed in 2013 may be used as a model for other states now considering similar actions. 

New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California are all looking to restrict gun sales to people who are on federal terror watch lists after Congress refused to implement a federal measures.

The New Jersey regulations require criminal history checks through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and disqualifies anyone who is found to be a "known or appropriately suspected terrorist" from purchasing a gun.

Nationally, people on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's terrorism watch list were able to purchase guns 2,043 times over a 10-year period ending in 2014, according to the US Government Accountability Office. It is unclear whether the NCIC check has actually resulted in preventing any would-be terrorists from purchasing weapons.

About 1.1 million people and 25,000 US citizens were identified in 2013 as potential terrorists, according to the National Counterterrorism Center. The idea of barring all of those citizens from purchasing guns has received criticism from gun-rights supporters as well as some privacy and civil rights advocates who say it is unfair to restrict the rights of people who have not ben convicted of a crime.

The US Senate, citing civil liberty concerns, last week voted down a bill that would have handed the US Justice Department the authority to block suspected extremists from buying guns

"I think it is a very dangerous concept they're trying to introduce into our law," said California Rep. Tom McClintock (R), who was erroneously placed on a no-fly when he was a US Senator. "Fundamental rights, guaranteed by the bill of rights, can be denied to an individual by the act of a bureaucrat."

Many states are now looking into crafting their own gun law in lieu of the fact Congress has not acted to impose stricter limits on firearms and background checks.

Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy (D) recently announced that he is considering taking executive action to prohibit gun sales to people on federal no-fly lists. The New York state Senate last week also pushed to tighten controls for terrorists screening, while the state’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo said federal authorities should allow states direct access to FBI data.

"The problem is, access to the list is difficult," said Scott Knight, the chief of police in Chaska, Minn., and former chairman of the firearms committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "The criteria of how do people get on that list is not shared. So there are a number of logistical pieces that have to be worked out so the keepers of the list are then comfortable with sharing it in this arena as opposed to just air travel.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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