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Gun background checks ignore those on terrorism watch list

By Hanna Mordoh, Reporter, hannam@kmiz.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 02:11:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 10:59:01 PM CDT
Gun Background Checks
COLUMBIA, Mo. -

It may not be difficult for those on the terrorist watch list to get their hands on a gun. A new NPR report shows someone can pass a background check, and also be on federal government's radar as a possible terrorist.

The FBI said when it comes to gun sales they follow the current legislation and had no other comment.

"The mere fact you are on a terrorist watch list alone would not prevent you from purchasing firearm," said Dale Roberts, local lawyer who teaches firearms law for the Missouri Bar.

The 2nd Amendment right can only be denied for certain reasons such as being convicted of a crime or having a mental health record. "So if you are on the terrorist watch list and you have one of those disqualifications, certainly that would stop you," said Roberts.

According to NPR, 90 percent of the people on the list between 2004-2010 were able to buy guns and explosives. Currently the federal government doesn't share the watch list with the gun application list. Should the process be changed?

"I have mixed feelings about it. If you have been investigated and you are on the watch list for good reason, then I kind of think they should scrutinize that. But, there's the possibility you are on the watch list accidentally or incorrectly," said Roberts.

According to NPR some people make the watch list simply because they knew suspected terrorists or had similar names. Also, being on the list doesn't mean you are guilty of a crime.

"It's a difficult process. If you are on the watch list you probably don't know it and to be denied that constitutional right would be infringement upon due process" said Roberts.

To safely preserve that right, a process called National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) through the FBI is used to check gun-buyer's backgrounds. It can immediate deny, approve, or delay the purchase for 72 hours.

"Is there any sort of middle ground for the NICS people to look at a terrorist watch list? The delayed function might give them that opportunity," said Roberts.

While what to do is unclear, law enforcement admit changes might not stop tragedy.

"The fact it's against the law to set off a bomb certainly doesn't stop them. So, I am not sure the fact its illegal to purchase a fire arm would stop them," said Roberts.

If being on the terrorist watch list were to stop someone from being able to buy a gun, then the person would have to be notified why, and that they were on the list. That process is something the government likely would not want to do.

ABC 17 News also called Homeland Security to learn more about the terrorist watch list, and called the National Rifle Association to see if they had any comment. Neither group returned the station's calls.

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