Officials are still searching for a motive behind the mass shooting that killed 14 people and injured at least 21 others in San Bernardino, California this week. Following the shooting, President Barack Obama called for new gun control measures, including one that would ban any individual on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, otherwise known as the no-fly list, from buying guns.

“For those who are concerned about terrorism, some may be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can’t get on planes,” Obama told CBS News in an interview after the shooting, “but those same people who we don’t allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. That’s a law that needs to be changed.”

Democratic lawmakers such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have closed ranks behind the president and supported a bill that would prevent anyone on the list from buying a firearm or materials for an explosive device. Supporters of the bill say it is common sense, but when the bill arrived at the Senate on Thursday, it was voted down.

So why do so many people disagree? Especially after news reports that the suspects behind the San Bernardino shooting, Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, were in contact with those on the watch list?

Well, that is because critics of the watch list say that its screening process is far from accurate, and includes many Americans with absolutely no ties to terrorist groups. Many Republican lawmakers, including many of the current presidential candidates, oppose banning those on the list from buying firearms. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and now running for the Republican nomination, says that she was personally affected.

“My best friend’s husband was on the watch list for years, it was a complete mistake,” she told MSNBC. “He also happened to be a gun owner. If I had utter faith in the competence of government I might agree with that [bill], but do you? I don’t. The government screws up all the time.”

The FBI terrorist watchlist is secret list of individuals believed to have connections to terrorism, but critics say the screening process seems arbitrary. In many cases, opponents say that people on the list have no idea why they are on it, or how to be taken off. Sometimes the only way to find out if you are on the list in the first place is by trying to board a plane.

Perhaps more worryingly, skeptics say that it can take little more than a racist co-worker or a paranoid neighbor to land someone on the watch list. According to Newsweek, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that in 2013, more than 680,000 people were on the list. In 2009, that list had over one million names. Between 2007 and 2009, roughly 51,000 people attempted to remove themselves from the list, and in the vast majority of these cases it turned out to be the result of a mistaken identity.

It is for these reasons why many pro-gun groups, such as the NRA, oppose the bill to ban those on the list from purchasing firearms.

“The NRA’s only objective is to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the list are afforded their constitutional right to due process,” said Jennifer Baker, the NRA’s director of public affairs.

“The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong,” she added. “Under the current system, law enforcement is notified every time a person on the list attempts to purchase a firearm. Law Enforcement then makes a case by case decision on the appropriate follow-up for each circumstance.”

According to the CBC, the Government Accountability Office reported that people on the list do successfully purchase firearms—and are monitored separately from those not on the list. Between 2013 and 2014, the FBI conducted 485 background checks for individuals on the watch list. Only 30 were denied.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Image from Brian Ambrozy on flickr

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31 thoughts on “Should People on the “Terrorist Watch List” Be Allowed to Buy Guns?

  1. “Damned if you do, damned if you dont”.
    I feel it is better to err on side of safety.
    What is needed if better looking into people getting off the list.
    Also need more people to report suspicious activity without being
    criticized for being a good citizen. If found out a person does this
    for animosity or just because they don’t like the person, hold them
    Sorry, but we are headed into the “Big Brother” mentality because our
    government agencies are inept.

  2. It is simply the height of political hypocrisy, via nra (Koch bro) money to not allow someone to fly, but they can buy gun. Just another example of political hacks bottom fishing for votes to argue that “deprives one of rights, blah blah”. It seems that gun sales more important then public safety. 680K on list and they can ALL legally buy guns, simply mazes out stupid scale. How much longer do we have to put up with such absurd stuff before right/nra deals in reality. We all pretty much know that if you are on “the list” you can get off it. NO ONE has state how many “innocents” are on list, nor how they got there as so far all posted about the issue are not using any facts. It is way past time we use some common sense on this stuff rather then politics and votes. Even if 60K “mistaken” on the list, that leaves 640K that are to dangerous to fly, but can buy any guns they want. Time for sanity folks, NOT some ole political posturing, and we want flights from foreign nations to tighten up who gets on plane, but will not stop them from buying guns…. and we wonder why world sees us as decaying nation with no common sense… there is no justification for allowing gun buys when on list, none…

      1. Your post is amusing at best, but unlike some, if was on list, would simply get to folks to get me off the list. Unlike some, would NOT want guns sold to folks on the list, but then nra minions have little common sense, as paranoids just do, via amusing lemming like, say as nra directs. For me, I think for self. Reality is one must really be stupid to allow gun sales to those that cannot be allowed to fly, and if error happens, it can be corrected. No system is perfect, but since this one has ability to be corrected, better corrected then shot by some gunnie on the list who is allowed to buy guns. Sorry but your post is rather childish.

      2. nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without !due process of law!

        The No Fly List is a violation of Due Process

      3. My goodness, another “expert”, amuse us with more of you high powered law readings… note in military you’d be called a guard house lawyer. Amusing post.

      4. Ain’t that one of them pesky amendments to the constitution or something? We wouldn’t expect you to know this chuck, it’s ok, we understand, CNN didn’t prepare you.

      5. Amusing post from another guardhouse lawyer. there is no evidence or case where the no fly list ever challenged in court as it is perfectly legal. nra and it’s mostly uneducated minions, paranoids and other such jerks seem to feel that it is perfectly all right to ban from flight, but under the mfg lobby money and Kock funding, while to dangerous to allow on aircraft, not to dangerous to buy a gun. Just further proof our education systems, for decades is deserving of ranking 37th in world. Yep, another “Constitution Expert’s’ uneducated blither AKA nra talking point #//
        Amazed with such heady data as you clowns us, you have not taken no fly to court, but you are amusing in a childish, but somewhat ill informed and paranoid manner. Ype nra parrots, amusing stuff.

      6. Flying around isn’t a constitutional liberty, owning a gun IS a constitutionally protected liberty. the No Fly List/Terrorist CANNOT be used because, as stated before, a man cannot be deprived of life liberty or property unless through DUE PROCESS, Due Process meaning a Judge and a Jury and a Court try out.

    1. Funny, but when I think of this “No Fly List” I see nothing but Muslim names, which is all it should contain, because the list is in existence because of a terrorist act, by a Muslim. Since neither of the California shooters were on such a list, maybe you are saying that it would simply be easier to just ban Muslim’s from buying or owning guns, completely. That is really what you are saying, isn’t it?

      1. Well what you “think” is really now what is, but amuse yourself as needed. Now where is any mention, other the blithering by that fool Trump on targeting Muslims. I guess some folks are channeling ole Sen Jet a commie McCarthy madness or perhaps the Klan has found new targets. Never thought I would be in a USA that has suddenly turned in semi rogue nation. NOTE for all the cowards and paranoid, now Canada is allowing 25K refugees… and they do not even have all the handguns to protect themselves as does USA,of course France the victim, is allowing 25K+ refugees, again no proliferation of “home defense guns”, same for other other nations, but USA is responding like paranoid nation of cowards. Yet amusing with all the fear, we cannot allow folks on aircraft but it is safer for us all if they buy guns, AKA more nra fools messages for a bunch of obvious fools… gun is OK, but you cannot fly.. how bright is that… guess nra has put guns sales over safety, there are over 680,000 on the rolling list, so expect errors, but there is absolutely no defense for banning from flight, but not from buying guns. Kind of supports why USA is 37th in education.

      2. France has halted the refugee program indefinitely and Canada is considering it, if you would watch something other than MSNBC and PBS, you would know this. As far as paranoid, even if you aren’t paranoid, ISIS still hates you. I don’t mean that generally either. They really do hate you personally.

      3. Well yeh, guess I should watch fox and such, as then as polls/studies reflect, I would be among lowest informed out there. So enjoy fox, but prefer to think for self, and not even member of any pol party, nor like many, a single issue voter. Am a vet and amused at how so many beat the war drums, an armed usa (no caps) will be safer and other rubbish of the paranoids, nra lemmings and those of no racial, ethnic or religious tolerance, aka the same beer hall class’s Hitler appealed to when he targeted Jews. History is resplendent in killers that first had to generate a targeted class and then promote fear, as is nra an trumpitler.

  3. As long as citizen’s are made aware of the criteria and that there is an organization (FBI and/or DIA, NSA) that can investigate to ensure Citizens do not just “end up” on the list. I believe if on a watch list then should be banded. but the issue again is the system we have in place can work, but the government opts not to use it the correct way.

  4. If the government can prove terrorist connections , remove that person .If they can’t ,.remove that person from the list . Eliminate the people who make the secret list if it is not reliable !

    1. So you have no fear of someone on list buying a gun, but you’d not fly with them? How many “Innocents” on the 680K folks listed? No one seems able to post that and see lots of data about list, but have yet to see any facts about how the nra minions got the data from the list. So please explain how come if to dangerous to fly,not to dangerouts to buy a gun? If someone finds themselves innocently on the list, they can get off it, but if on list for reason, why can they then buy a gun?

  5. The list also included children and Babies. Their list will consist of every american that now owns a gun and that is the plan to disarm the American People. The criminals will always have a way to get guns , so making laws to ban guns is just one to take our 2nd amendment away.

  6. Completely ridiculous to think that the average gun toting American is all for keeping people suspected of being dangerous/terrorist off of our planes BUT not out of our fun shops. WTF people are you afraid that the government is going to find out you’re a closet Klan or Black Panther member and you’re going to end up on this list? How are we so quick to say lets go send our kids to war but not say lets yet to stop the war happening in our streets right now.

      1. So you have copy of no fly list, and note that fools center for the paranoid, nra, was all in favor of restrictive gun laws when they were all afraid of Panters. Not to amusing how the undercurrent of racism, ethnic hate and religious intolerance seems to be part of nra pledge or some such related perversion. Yep, OK to buy a gun but we will not allow you fly as you are to dangerous. Seems take single digit IQ to understand logic there.

  7. Is the Terrorist Watch List the same as the No Fly List? There seems to be a fine line between them and there shouldn’t be. I have been unable to find a definitive answer or an exacting criteria for either. The Watch List should be for someone that might, maybe be and is it the process of being checked out. Someone who is on the Watch List and attempts fly or purchase a firearm should be immediately moved to the top of the list and the investigative process completed within hours. If there are substantive reasons to doubt their clearance, they should be informed of such and the authorities then have an additional 72 hours to complete their investigation and either clear the individual or obtain a court order to deny or extend the delay. If there is an active criminal investigation underway that disclosure could hinder, the court could allow, within reason, the agency to decide how to proceed.

    Being added to either list must bear a valid reason and result in personal responsibility of the government individual who makes that decision. There must a definite and immediate procedure in place for a citizen to contest such placement in an open court of law. No behind the scenes, unnamed, unknown government employee can add someone on a whim, hunch or hearsay. The racist co-worker or a paranoid neighbor just doesn’t cut it!

    I read that membership in a terrorist organization is not grounds for placement on the No Fly List or to be prevented from purchasing a firearm. This a stupid and that voluntary action should have you placed on all list and immediately deported or, if a citizen, tried for terrorism. It is no different than “planning to murder some”. Joining a terrorist organization is the equivalent of Conspiracy to Commit Terrorism.

    Additionally, anyone who is under observation for, or deemed mentally ill, should likewise be added to the above list. Again the qualified medical physician who makes that decision, must be held legally accountable. Also, somewhat the same with someone who has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or under a temporary restraining order, should be prevented from firearm purchases, but placed on the No Fly List.

    All of this pertains to the individual who attempts purchased a firearm legally and still offers no redress to the millions of illegal gun purchases. There are already sufficient laws regarding that in place, but the courts and in some case the police agencies themselves to let the violator walk, especially in the inner cities.

    1. One question, seems everyone ref’s the “illegal gun purchases” AKA Gun show loophole, but none of gunnies-nra have solution, just howl and bay we need more guns, which has not worked out to well so far. Time for sane gun laws written by moderated on both sides of issue.

  8. This administration has referred to the right as radical right, radical republicans….He said a few years ago that the danger was in domestic terrorism….. He mentioned the top people to watch would be returning servicemen from war…… This list could very easily be filled with good conservatives that they say are “radical” by some ambiguous criteria. You could be lost in the beaurocracy for years, even if you can get taken off the list. This is not because of ineptitude, it is presidence, and an end run around the claim that your guns won’t be taken away……unless you are a crazy loon, radical right, or domestic terrorist. Then your guns will be taken away. Then the rest who are the anti gun left will turn in theirs and the govt will have effectively pulled off the “Australian” model our fearless leader has inferred.

      1. Yep and guy who got gun got it mail order, but someone on no fly list, for what ever reason, can still buy guns. 680K on list and it seems in minds of nra and it’s lemmings, none to dangerous to buy a gun. Score one for fools who buy into such stuff. By the way, just how many “innocents” on the no fly list? You kiddies are simply saying nra told us that it is bad for gun sales to exempt 680 folks, so let them buy any guns they want, but keep them off airplanes… as we are in business of selling more guns via promoting fear, paranoia and more then a little intolerance.

      2. Unless a NO FLY LIST is full of people CONVICTED by a court or ordered ineligible to own weapons by a court, then it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to take away the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

      3. Since you do not know what makes up the criteria for no fly, then you have no idea of why some prevented from flying… not the right to free travel is also guaranteed, but if you are a danger enough to nation to not be allowed to fly then you are danger enough to not by gun and that would not be violate 2nd. You guardhouse nra lawyer shills are amusing . The ONLY reason for any discussion of issue is nra and gun/ammo mfgs do not want to lose out on 680,000 potential customers and their minions dumbed down enough to buy into another worn our argument on “constitutional” by the usual predicable nra parrot’s. But the law is WOULD NOT be “uncunstutuional saz nra en uthers” as it has a protocol to get off the list, same as carry permits or purchase of a gun, can be denied and appeal process there. It would only deny right to buy gun if there was no appeal process, as happens with many gun laws You really need ot update you nra talking points. vet

        Note it is unconstitutional to restrict travel in USA.

      4. You realize that it requires a court order to declare someone ineligible for a gun, either the Court must declare you Mentally Ill, or you must be convicted of a felony crime.

        Plus the “No Fly List” doesn’t even keep you from flying, you just get pulled to the side for questioning for a few hours

        Either way, being on the No-Fly-List is something that is done Arbitrarily by a Bureaucratic organization and you are not informed of your status on the no fly list until you try to fly. It would be a violation of the 2nd and 5th Amendments to disqualify someone for being on the No Fly List.

  9. Amusing how you ilk attacks messenger but not the message AKA…nra response 101 when no logical argument available. For myself do not read rants by isis, but your kind would… amusing, if a bit childish post, must be Mom left house and you got on her PC without adult supervision.

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