A top Homeland Security official shot a hole in Democrats’ efforts to deny gun sales to those on the government’s terrorist watch lists, saying Thursday that the list isn’t designed for those sorts of uses.
“I believe it would be apples and oranges,” Alan Bersin, assistant secretary for international affairs, testified to the House oversight committee.
Democrats, including President Obama, have said denying gun sales to those whose names are listed in the unified federal terrorist database is a no-brainer, arguing that recent attacks in Paris and California show just how much carnage can be wrought with firearms in the hands of terrorists.
But Republicans have rejected those moves, saying the terrorist watch list is a fuzzy tool meant to help shape law enforcement investigations, and cannot be used to deny an American his or her Second Amendment rights.
Mr. Bersin said few U.S. citizens are actually on the “No Fly List,” which is a subset of the terrorist watch list. He said it’s less than one name in 1,000.
He said names get listed after a federal agency says it has a “reasonable suspicion” someone could be involved with terrorism. That is a lower legal standard than what the courts have generally required for denying someone a constitutional right.
Under questioning from Rep. Blake Farenthold, Texas Republican, Mr. Bersin acknowledged that once listed, it’s not easy to get off the list.
“It’s an extended process,” Mr. Bersin said.