This morning, the leading mouthpieces of the gun lobby—NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox, and Presidential nominee Donald Trump—appeared on national news shows peddling misinformation about our national security threat posed by easy access to firearms, distorting the gun lobby’s record on protecting the country from terrorist attacks with guns and once again pushing their agenda of guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked—even for suspected terrorists.
Correcting the record: What the FBI Can and Can’t Do Under Current Law
Wayne LaPierre misrepresented current law, leaving viewers with the impression that the FBI already has the authority to block gun sales to terrorists. LaPierre wrongly asserted that if someone is on a terror watch list, the FBI can currently delay a gun sale for three days, during which they can go to court and have a judge determine to block a gun sale. That’s not how the system works. The FBI currently has no ability to intervene, go to court and get a court order to stop the sale of guns or explosives to suspected terrorists short of indicting them.
LaPierre also falsely implied that the Orlando shooter was only able to buy his gun because the FBI had dropped him from the terrorist watch lists. This too is incorrect. It is perfectly legal for someone suspected of terrorism—even if currently listed on a terrorist watch list—to buy a gun. That means the FBI would not have been able to block the gun sale to the Orlando shooter even if he was currently on a terror watch list.
LaPierre’s attempt to blame the status of the terror watch lists is a red herring. The real issue here is not the status of the terror watch lists—it’s whether the FBI should have the authority to immediately block the sale of a gun to a suspected terrorist and prevent what could be an imminent deadly attack.
Where the NRA Really Stands on Guns for Suspected Terrorists
It’s simply not true that the NRA has always stood for keeping guns away from terrorists.
For nearly a decade, the NRA repeatedly blocked efforts in Congress to make it harder for terrorists to get their hands on guns—and NRA-backed legislators even voted to make sure suspected terrorists could legally carry concealed loaded weapons all over the country.
Even now as LaPierre and Cox declare the NRA’s commitment to keeping guns from terrorists, they’re playing politics over public safety and national security. The NRA-backed bill in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Cornyn, is a hollow decoy that would make it nearly impossible for the FBI to block gun sales to terrorists. LaPierre himself described it as merely a ‘codification’ of the current system—which did not prevent the Orlando shooter from buying guns and continues to leave us vulnerable to more armed terrorists walking our streets.
LaPierre and Cox are touting talking points, not workable counterterrorism measures.
Only Senator Feinstein’s proposal gives the FBI a workable tool for intervening in emergency situations and keeping guns away from terrorists while protecting due process. More information is available on Senator Feinstein’s proposal (fact sheet linked here) and the NRA’s decoy legislation (fact sheet linked here).
Why is the NRA Speaking Out Now
The NRA is feeling the pressure, hence the feigned support for closing the terror gap. The Orlando shooting is the fourth mass shooting in the last year to be investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. Millions of Americans around the country are demanding action from Congress to close the loopholes that allow terrorists to get guns—and there is a powerful and organized gun violence prevention movement to counter to the NRA’s fear-mongering extremism that has gone unchecked for too long.
The gun lobby and the politicians in their pocket can no longer ignore that easy access to firearms is not a grave national security threat. Whatever happens in the Senate tomorrow, Americans won’t be fooled by the NRA’s false claims and decoy policy proposals—and they will remember in November who sided with the gun lobby and the terrorists over public safety and national security.
If you would like more information about the mistruths spouted by the gun lobby or the decoy legislation up for a vote tomorrow, or if you would like to speak with a gun violence prevention policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.