FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2009
MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS, NOW OVER 500 MEMBERS STRONG, URGES CONGRESS TO PREVENT SALES OF GUNS TO TERROR SUSPECTS BY CLOSING THE TERROR GAP AND REPEALING THE TIAHRT AMENDMENTS
In a Full-Page Advertisement in Today’s Washington Post, More than 500 Mayors Ask Congress to Close Glaring Gap in Federal Law that Allows Terror Suspects to Purchase Guns.
Coalition Launches www.CloseTheTerrorGap.org Website, Where Citizens Can Send Messages to Congress
Coalition Also Announces Membership of More Than 500 Mayors
The bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns today published a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post asking House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid to keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists. In response to the shooting at Fort Hood, the coalition is calling on Congress to close a loophole in federal law – known as the Terror Gap – that allows individuals on the terrorist watch lists to purchase firearms and explosives, and to repeal a provision in the federal budget – known as the Tiahrt Amendments – that require the FBI to destroy approved background checks of gun purchasers within 24 hours. Repealing the Tiahrt Amendments may have allowed the FBI to learn more about the gun purchase made by the Fort Hood shooter. Just last week, Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed legislation to close the Terror Gap. The full-page advertisement published in the Washington Post can be viewed here: www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/WashingtonPostAd
“Our coalition strongly supports the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” said coalition co-chair and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “But, terrorists don’t have a right to carry a gun or buy explosives. Closing the terror gap in the gun background check system is a common sense step, endorsed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, which would allow the FBI to prohibit people who are too dangerous to get on a plane from buying guns and explosives.”
“We have to do all that we can to strengthen our country’s gun background check system,” said coalition co-chair Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston. “The federal government has reported that suspected terrorist successfully bought guns and explosives 865 times in the last five years. Congress should not waste one more day before closing this glaring gap in gun and explosives background checks.”
The coalition also launched a new website, www.CloseTheTerrorGap.org, to allow citizens to send a message to their legislators calling for the passage of federal legislation to close the Terror Gap.
This month, at Fort Hood, Texas, Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly shot and killed 13 people, and injured more than 30 others. Published reports indicated that Major Hasan was investigated by the FBI for his links to an individual who was called the spiritual advisor to two of the 9/11 hijackers. In August, Major Hasan purchased a handgun used in the shooting rampage, and passed the federal background check designed to prevent criminals and other dangerous persons from obtaining guns. FBI counterterrorism officials were not notified when Major Hasan purchased a gun.
About the Terror Gap
Under current federal law, terror suspects who are barred from flying on planes can legally purchase firearms. According to the Government Accountability Office, in the past five years people on the terrorist watch list succeeded in purchasing guns and explosives from licensed dealers 865 times. Mayors Against Illegal Guns first highlighted 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 the gap. The following examples of acts committed by terrorists with guns show the importance of closing the Terror Gap:
LITTLE ROCK MILITARY RECRUITING STATION June 1, 2009
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad attacked a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas, shooting one private to death and wounding another. Mohammad was under FBI investigation as a terror suspect at the time of the shooting.
FORT DIX, 2007
Six terror suspects were caught training with various firearms and plotting to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey. When they attempted to buy additional firearms such as M-16s, AK-47s, and handguns from a government informant, law enforcement officials were able to arrest the terror suspects before they could strike. One of the six terror suspects pleaded guilty to providing firearms to illegal aliens and the other five suspects were convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel.
BROOKLYN BRIDGE, March 1, 1994
As a van containing 16 students was returning from a prayer vigil, Rashid Baz opened fire on them with a fully automatic weapon on an on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge, killing 16-year-old Ari Halberstam and wounding two others. Baz was armed with a machine gun, a 9 mm pistol, and a “street sweeper” shotgun.
CIA HEADQUARTERS, January 25, 1993
Mir Aimal Kasi walked into traffic stopped at a red light near CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Shooting from point blank with an assault rifle he purchased from a gun dealer in Virginia, he killed two CIA employees and wounded three others. Kasi then fled to Pakistan, where he remained at large until his arrest in 1997. He had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List as a result of this shooting.
“It defies common sense that the federal government is powerless to stop known and suspected terrorists from buying assault weapons,” said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, sponsor of S.1317, legislation that closes the Terror Gap. “At a time when thousands of Americans are putting their lives on the line every day to fight terrorism, my bill will give law enforcement a critical tool to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. I am pleased that the Obama Administration expressed support for my legislation and look forward to working with the Justice Department and my colleagues in Congress to close the Terror Gap in our laws once and for all.”
“I can’t think of a more obvious disqualifying criterion from purchasing a weapon than being listed on a terror watch list,” said Representative Peter King, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee and the lead sponsor of H.R.2159, legislation that closes the Terror Gap. “It is unfathomable to me that we knowingly allow the transfer of firearms to these individuals. Changing this policy should be a no-brainer.”
About the Tiahrt Amendments
The Tiahrt Amendments are provisions in the federal budget that restrict law enforcement access to critical data needed to combat gun trafficking. This year, after hearing from hundreds of mayors and police chiefs, the Obama Administration, in its proposed budget, removed one of the Tiahrt Amendment restrictions that limited local police access to crime gun trace data.
Another one of the Tiahrt Amendments requires the FBI to destroy records of approved background checks performed on gun purchasers within 24 hours. Before the Tiahrt Amendments were put in place, approved background check records were maintained for 180 days. Maintaining these records gives FBI the ability to more fully investigate the “straw purchasing” of firearms and instances where gun purchases were wrongly approved.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Grows to Over 500 Members
The coalition also announced that over 100 new members have joined in the last few months. Mayors Against Illegal Guns now counts over 500 mayors among its ranks.
“Mayors Against Illegal Guns has brought a formidable voice to the fight against easy access to guns by criminals,” said Mayor Thomas McMahon of Reading, Pennsylvania. “In Pennsylvania alone, we have built a coalition of more than 150 mayors, and the momentum is growing. We stand together, united behind a message of common sense reforms to reduce the supply of illegal guns that fuel violence in our communities. Too often, opponents try to cloud this issue with rhetoric. As Mayors, our voices can cut through that confusion. This is not about limiting anybody’s Second Amendment rights. This is about law enforcement, and individual responsibility. As mayors, we are responsible for the safety and prosperity of our communities. It is our duty to speak out on this important issue and to seek remedies.”
About Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Since its inception in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from just 15 mayors to more than 500 members. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has united the nation’s mayors around common goals: finding new way to strengthen the enforcement of existing laws, 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.
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