How Many on the U.S. Terror Watch List Bought Guns? 247

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Here's your troubling number for the day: The FBI has reported to the GAO that 247 people on the government's terror watch list proceeded to purchase firearms, the AP reports, out of 1,453 people on the list who tried in 2010. The list contains around 450,000 people, and includes "suspected members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps."

As The Atlantic's Raymond Bonner observed today, the U.S. military isn't always the most meticulous with details in their terrorism investigations. A terror suspect is hardly a confirmed terrorist. Even so, the idea of terror suspects buying weapons doesn't ever go over well with politicians:

The 247 people who were allowed to buy weapons did so after going through required background checks as required by federal law.

It is not illegal for people listed on the government's terror watch list to buy weapons. For years, that has bothered Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who is trying again to change the law to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

The secret, fluid nature of the terror watch list has made closing what Lautenberg calls a "terror gap" in the nation's gun laws a challenge. About the same number of people suspected of ties to terrorism also successfully purchased guns in the U.S. in 2009.

...

Lautenberg and two dozen other members of Congress want the attorney general to have the authority to prevent someone on the terror watch list from buying a gun if the attorney general believes that person will use it in a terrorist act. The Justice Department under both the Bush and Obama administrations has supported this effort.

"This is a homeland security issue, not a gun issue, and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to stop a terrorist from buying a dangerous weapon in the United States," Lautenberg told the AP.

Read the full story at the Associated Press.

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John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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