Bills are moving through Congress to ban gun sales to individuals named on terrorist watch lists, but critics question the lists’ accuracy and say mistakes will deprive citizens of their Second Amendment rights.
Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, said yesterday he will not support legislation that would deny U.S. citizens their constitutional right through a secret list without adjudication.
“Boarding an airplane is a privilege, owning a gun is a right,” Mr. King said.
Bills in the House and Senate are in response to a Government Accountability Office audit that found 35 gun sales were approved to individuals whose names matched those on suspected-terrorist watch lists.
“I realize not everyone on the no-fly list is a terrorist or has terrorist ties,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, New York Democrat, who is pushing a “no fly, no buy” bill.
“Any law-abiding citizen wrongly included on the list will be able to follow the Transportation Security Administration’s procedure for quick removal from the no-fly list.”
Mrs. McCarthy’s bill would add the no-fly list used by airlines to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System used by gun store owners to make mandatory background checks.
The National Shooting and Sports Foundation (NSSF) says the recent revelations that the secret government lists include senators and congressman, as well as the foundation’s own senior vice president and general council, are proof the lists are not reliable.
“It’s a secret government list and we don’t know who gets on or why,” said Gary Mehalik, communications director for the NSSF, a trade association for the firearms industry. “It’s an excuse for gun control.”
“If someone is suspected of terrorism, which is a crime, they should be arrested and not be roaming around free,” Mr. Mehalik said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat; and Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, say they have been stopped at airports because their names are on the no-fly list.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, also is sponsoring legislation that would forbid gun sales to individuals on the terrorist watch lists and require sales records be kept for an extended period of time.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees this week and said it is up to Congress to legislate changes to ban guns sales to those whose names appear on the lists.
The FBI-CIA Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which consolidated more than a dozen previous lists from numerous government agencies, including the State Department’s TIPOFF database of more than 110,000 known and suspected terrorists. The TSA’s no-fly list contains individuals who have made specific threats to civil aviation and suspected terrorists.