Police Chiefs Endorse Lautenberg, King Bill to Close "Terror Gap"

Press Release

By:  Pete King
Date: March 12, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


Lautenberg-King Bill Would Restrict Terrorists' Access to Guns

For Immediate Release
Lautenberg Press Office 202.224.3224
Carol Danko (King) 202.225.7896

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has announced its support for legislation -- the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007 (S.1237/H.R.2074) -- Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Pete King (R-NY) have introduced to prevent terrorist suspects from purchasing firearms.

The Lautenberg-King bill seeks to close the "terror gap" in federal gun laws by giving the Attorney General the power to block gun sales to those on the federal government's terror watch list. Under current federal gun laws, there is no provision to prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms legally.

"Terror suspects shouldn't be able to buy guns. It is time to shut down this 'terror gap' in our gun laws that has been open for too long. I welcome the endorsement of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This support from police chiefs is further evidence this common-sense law enforcement measure should become law," said Sen. Lautenberg, who introduced the Senate bill and has worked for years to prevent terrorist from getting guns.

"The safety of the American people should always come before giving terrorists access to guns, and that is why the terror loophole must be closed," said Rep. King, the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security. "The IACP understands that our bill is the logical next step in protecting America from dangerous individuals. They are an honorable organization and I am proud to have their support."

The letter from the International Association of Chiefs of Police reads: "The IACP has long advocated for laws that prevent individuals who pose a danger to society or themselves from purchasing firearms. As you know, under current law an individual wishing to purchase a firearm must undergo a background check, having their name run through the National Instant Background Check System. Certain individuals—such as those convicted of a felony or those listed on the FBI's Violent Gang List—cannot legally purchase firearms. S.1237 would properly classify those who are on the terror watch list prohibited purchases."

Under the federal Brady Law, a licensed firearms dealer must request a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before an unlicensed individual may purchase a weapon. However, even if a NICS check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist, nothing in current law prevents that person from purchasing a gun unless he or she meets one of the other disqualifying factors, including felony or domestic abuse convictions.

In January 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) produced a report to Sens. Lautenberg and Joe Biden (D-DE) that found that from February 3 to June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm purchase attempts were made by individuals designated as known or suspected terrorists by the federal government. In 35 cases, the FBI authorized the transactions to proceed because FBI field agents were unable to find any disqualifying information (such as felony or domestic abuse convictions) within the federally prescribed three business days.

Following the GAO report in March 2005, Sen. Lautenberg wrote letters to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller requesting recommendations for changing existing laws and Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations permitting terrorists to purchase guns and, in response to the Senator's request, the DOJ created a department-wide working group. Sen. Lautenberg and Rep. King then introduced legislation incorporating that working group's legislative recommendations.

The Lautenberg-King measure specifically:

• Provides the Attorney General with discretionary authority to deny the transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearm or explosives license or permit when a background check reveals that the purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist and the Attorney General reasonably believes that the person may use a firearm or explosives in connection with terrorism;

• Includes due process safeguards that afford an affected person an opportunity to challenge a denial by the Attorney General; and

• Protects the sensitive information upon which terrorist watch lists are based.

In addition to the IACP, the Bush Administration and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 250 mayors from more than 40 states, support this legislation.

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