NRA supports selling guns to terror suspects

The National Rifle Association is urging the Bush administration to withdraw its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms. Backed by the Justice Department, the measure would give the attorney general the discretion to block gun sales, licenses or permits to terror suspects.

In a letter this week to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, NRA executive director Chris Cox said the bill, offered last week by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere ‘suspicions’ of a terrorist threat."

"As many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word ‘suspect’ has no legal meaning, particularly when it comes to denying constitutional liberties," Cox wrote.

In a letter supporting the measure, Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling said the bill would not automatically prevent a gun sale to a suspected terrorist. In some cases, federal agents may want to let a sale go forward to avoid compromising an ongoing investigation.

Hertling also notes there is a process to challenge denial of a sale.

Current law requires gun dealers to conduct a criminal background check and deny sales if a gun purchaser falls under a specified prohibition, including a felony conviction, domestic abuse conviction or illegal immigration. There is no legal basis to deny a sale if a purchaser is on a terror watch list.

"When I tell people that you can be on a terrorist watch list and still be allowed to buy as many guns as you want, they are shocked," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports Lautenberg’s bill.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, lawmakers are considering a number of measures to strengthen gun sale laws. The NRA, which usually opposes increased restrictions on firearms, is taking different positions depending on the proposal.

"Right now law enforcement carefully monitors all firearms sales to those on the terror watch list," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "Injecting the attorney general into the process just politicizes it."

A 2005 study by the Government Accountability Office found that 35 of 44 firearm purchase attempts over a five-month period made by known or suspected terrorists were approved by the federal law enforcement officials.


On the Net:

Information on the bill, S. 1237, can be found at

National Rifle Association:

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence:


  1. The following commentary is from Wayne LaPierre’s blog, “What They Didn’t Tell You Today,” — You can access the site at


    Tuesday, May 15, 2007
    Mythbusting, Part 2

    Yesterday I talked about some of the myths surrounding the NRA’s position on legislation introduced by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg that would empower the attorney general to deny Second Amendment rights to individuals at will, without due process of law.

    Today I want to talk about the NRA’s position on mental health records and the National Instant Check System, or NICS.

    I’ve seen some talk by gun owners that the NRA supports this, or wants that, and I want to be crystal clear.

    The NRA has always supported including the records of individuals adjudicated mentally defective in the National Instant Background Check System. But we don’t support adding people who have not been adjudicated mentally defective to the system.

    Let’s say that as a child, you went to a therapist because your parents got divorced. You shouldn’t have your rights stripped from you. If you take an anti-depressant to stop smoking or for depression, you shouldn’t have your rights stripped from you.

    There is a process the courts use to adjudicate mental defectives, and it doesn’t involve having your rights taken away because you had an eating disorder, or because you lost a spouse two years ago, or because you took Ritalin in the third grade.

    The NICS system should include the records of those who’ve been adjudicated mentally defective, and should exclude those who are not adjudicated mentally defective.

    We believe in making NICS work as Congress intended, but that doesn’t mean expanding to include the personal records of the millions who seek and get coping help as they should.

    That’s our position, whether the media reports it or not.


    To get more comments on current issues and up to date information visit
    © 2007 National Rifle Association of America

    NRA Distinguished Life Member

  2. The following commentary from Wayne LaPierre’s blog, “What They Didn’t Tell You Today,” from You can access the site at


    Monday, May 14, 2007
    Mythbusting, Part 1

    Over the past week or so, the NRA’s take on a couple of proposals in Congress has received a lot of attention from the media. The only problem is, with the mainstream media’s reporting, they’ve also put out some bad information. It’s time to set the record straight, and over the next two days, I’m going to do just that.

    Today I want to talk about this proposal by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey that would allow the attorney general to deny anybody on a “watch list” the ability to purchase a firearm, get a Right-to-Carry license or get a federal firearms license.

    The NRA opposes this bill, but the media has been gleefully painting it as “The NRA supports the right of suspected terrorists to buy guns.” The NRA supports the Constitution, plain and simple.

    Imagine the implications of denying someone their constitutional rights just because someone, somewhere, suspects them of potential wrongdoing. You’re suspected of voter fraud, so we’re denying you the right to vote. You’re suspected of perjury, so we’re denying you your First Amendment freedom of the press. You haven’t been charged, you haven’t been arrested, you haven’t been indicted, you haven’t been convicted. Someone just thinks you’re suspicious. Is that enough to take away your rights?

    That’s not how the Constitution works. If someone is that much of a threat, they shouldn’t be on the street to begin with. They should be facing charges in our criminal justice system.

    Then there are the practical reasons to oppose this bill. No one knows who puts you on the “watch list,” or why, or how you get off. The Lautenberg bill provides an appeals process, but to appeal, you’ll have to rely on heavily redacted information that the government provides you. Through mistakes, bureaucratic red tape or political motivation, it’s certain that innocent people are going to be caught up in a nightmare of having their rights denied them. And believe me, politics will come into play.

    The NRA’s not soft on terrorism. We’re strong on the Constitution. Our principles require that we oppose any legislation that would deny Americans the right to keep and bear arms just because someone, somewhere, has put their name on a “watch list.”


    To get more comments on current issues and up to date information visit
    © 2007 National Rifle Association of America

    NRA Distinguished Life Member

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