A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that more than 2,000 terror suspects have been able to purchase guns legally between 2004 and 2014.
"Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law," GAO concluded in 2010, according to the Washington Post.
The GAO reported that at least 2,233 attempts were made by suspected terrorists to purchase firearms over that 10-year period, and that those attempts were successful 91 percent of the time.
Under federal law, individuals who have a history of felonies, domestic violence, or mental illness are prohibited from possessing a gun. But the federal government has no power to stop people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, which includes the no-fly list, from buying firearms.
But placement on the terrorism watchlist is controversial. The Intercept reported last April that, the guidelines for putting people on the list don’t require any evidence they are actually linked to a terrorist organization.
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi who reviewed the [guidelines] document added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”
Over the years, efforts have been made by lawmakers to close the loophole and prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives. But because of strong opposition by gun rights supporters, none has been successful.
“The National Rifle Association which opposed previous bills, argued that the watchlist is too broad because it includes people who are still being investigated by authorities,” ABC News reports.
This year, there is a new piece of legislation, named the "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015" sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Peter T. King (R) of New York that, “would prevent several hundred gun purchases by suspected terrorists each year, and it includes provisions to let people challenge a denial if they believe they were placed on the watchlist in error,” Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham points out.
On Wednesday, the NRA spoke out and denied the allegations that the lobby group is against a law seeking to stop terror suspects from buying guns in the US.
“The National Rifle Association wants to prevent terrorists from obtaining any deadly weapon and to suggest otherwise is offensive and wrong,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told the New York Daily News. “It is not surprising that anti-gun politicians and publications are distorting the facts to push a gun control agenda.”
The conversation on gun control has gained renewed traction following a terrorist attack in Paris last week that left at least 129 people dead and hundreds injured.