Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) today introduced the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 to give the Department of Justice authority to prevent a known or suspected terrorist from buying firearms or explosives.
Cosponsors include Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). The House bill has 14 cosponsors.
“Under current law, known or suspected terrorists on terrorist watch lists are prohibited from boarding airplanes, but they are legally allowed to buy firearms and explosives anywhere in the United States. That makes no sense,” said Senator Feinstein. “The Kouachi brothers, responsible for the attacks in Paris, were on U.S. terrorist watch lists, including the no-fly list. However, if the brothers had instead been in the United States, they would have been able to legally purchase weapons. Sadly, this situation isn’t rare. Individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list who sought to purchase a weapon in 2013 and 2014 cleared the background check in 455 out of 486 attempts. We need to close this dangerous loophole and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.”
“After September 11th, common sense dictates that the federal government stop gun sales to suspects on the terrorist watch list,” said Representative King. “Federal law already prohibits nine categories of dangerous persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, including the mentally ill and criminals. Yet, after almost 14 years, we still allow suspected terrorists the ability to purchase firearms. It’s time for common sense to prevail before it’s too late.”
The Department of Justice under President George W. Bush initially proposed the legislation in 2007. In response to a question from Senator Feinstein, Attorney General Eric Holder testified at a 2009 Judiciary Committee hearing that the Obama administration also supported the legislation.
According to information prepared by the Government Accountability Office, individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list, which includes the no-fly list, cleared a background check for a gun transaction in 94 percent of attempted transactions in 2013 and 2014 (455 out of 486 times).
Between February 2004 and December 2014, individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list cleared a background check in 91 percent of attempted transactions (2,043 of 2,233 times), according to GAO data.
The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 would:
- Allow the attorney general to deny the purchase or transfer of a firearm or explosive to a known or suspected terrorist if the prospective recipient may use the firearm or explosive in connection with terrorism.
- Maintain protections in current law that allow a person who believes he has been mistakenly prevented from buying a firearm to learn of the reason for the denial, and then to challenge the denial, first administratively with the Department of Justice, and then through a lawsuit against the Justice Department.
- Allow the Justice Department, in any administrative or court proceeding challenging the accuracy of a denied firearm or explosive transfer under the bill, to protect information that, if disclosed, would compromise national security.