FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2009
MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS URGE WASHINGTON TO CLOSE TERROR GAP AFTER NEW FBI DATA REVEAL THAT PEOPLE ON TERRORIST WATCH LIST EXPLOITED TERROR GAP 230 TIMES TO PURCHASE GUNS
The bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns today brought to light newly released FBI data that document 230 occasions in 2006 where persons on the violent gang and terrorist watch list were able to purchase guns because of a gap in background checks. Under the current federal laws governing firearms, there are nine factors that disqualify individuals from purchasing a gun, including felony convictions or evidence of a serious mental health problem, but being a known or suspected terrorist on the violent gang and terrorist watch list is not one of them. This serious loophole in federal law - known as the Terror Gap - renders the government powerless to stop a gun sale to a violent gang member or terrorist. Mayors Against Illegal Guns first began to highlight the Terror Gap in September 2007 and has supported legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Peter King (R-NY) to close this gap.
"Suspected terrorists can't fly in an airplane, but they can buy guns - and that defies common sense," said coalition co-chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "Even after the Bush Administration endorsed legislation to close this glaring gap in our federal gun laws, Congress failed to act. This shocking new FBI report should be the impetus for Washington to act on this national security issue."
"This new FBI report reinforces the need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals - and terrorists," said coalition co-chair and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "The federal government prohibits felons from obtaining weapons, and suspected terrorists and gang members should be held to the same standards and restrictions."
The FBI report, the 2006 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations Report, recently made available at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics.htm, shows that of the 279 gun purchase attempts made in 2006 by individuals who had been added to the FBI violent gang member and terrorist watch list, 230 gun sales went forward. The FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF) contains what is commonly called the FBI's terrorist watch list, and the FBI report found that only 49 of the 279 background check matches to the VGTOF resulted in denials in 2006 - and those denials were only made because of some other disqualifying factor. For the other 230 gun purchase attempts, the sales went through even though the buyer was on the violent gang and terrorist list.
Terrorists Have Already Attacked Americans Using Firearms
The fact that individuals on the terrorist watch list are able to purchase guns in the U.S. was first uncovered in 2005 in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested by Senators Joe Biden and Frank Lautenberg. Individuals with ties to terrorists have bought guns in the past and used them to kill Americans. Some notable incidents:
In the summer of 2007, six terror suspects were arrested for plotting an attack on Fort Dix after trying to buy an assortment of M-16s, AK-47s, and handguns from a government informant. On December 22, 2008, five of the six suspects were convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel - three of those convicted were sentenced yesterday to life in prison without possibility of parole. The sixth suspect pleaded guilty in October 2007 to providing firearms to illegal aliens, and got 20 months in prison. In addition, four of the five suspects convicted of conspiracy were also convicted of illegal gun possession.
On February 23, 1997, Ali Abu Kamal opened fire on the observation deck of the Empire State Building with a handgun purchased in Florida in violation of federal law, killing one tourist and wounding six others before killing himself.
On March 1, 1994, Rashid Baz shot and killed 16-year old Ari Halberstam on an on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. Baz was armed with a machine gun, a 9 MM pistol, and a "street sweeper" shotgun.
On November 5, 1990 in a Manhattan hotel, El Sayed A. Nosair assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane with a .357 revolver with a defaced serial number. Nosair was linked to the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
About the Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Since its inception in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from just 15 mayors to over 350 members in over 40 states. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has united the nation's mayors around these common goals: protecting their communities by holding gun offenders and irresponsible gun dealers accountable, demanding access to trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat illegal gun trafficking, and working with legislators to fix gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other prohibited purchasers to get guns.
||Mayor Bloomberg's Press Office
||Mayor Menino's Press Office