PolitiFact: Can suspected terrorists buy guns?

Posted at 7:28 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 20:28:53-04

Gun owners and gun opponents are usually at odds over laws aimed at who should be able to buy a firearm.
PolitFact at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looked at whether authorities are notified if someone on the terrorist watch list tries to buy a gun.
A week after Omar Mateen killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, questions were raised about gun laws. Federal authorities disclosed Mateen was - at one time - on the terror watch list.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about legislation intended to delay or prevent people on those lists from obtaining guns.

"The question right now," Ryan said, "is if someone is on a terror watch list, are the authorities notified as to whether a person on that list is trying to purchase a gun or not? That is the procedure right now."
The Brady Bill federally mandated background checks of gun sales by federally licensed firearm dealers. In 2004 the FBI began cross referencing the terrorist watch list.
But not all gun buys face the same scrutiny when purchased through private sales.
"There are 18 states that require sales through private dealers to go through background checks, Wisconsin is not one of them," said Greg Borowski at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "A majority of states do not require that."

Being on the terror watch list does not prevent someone from buying a gun. PolitiFact found in nearly 2500 background checks for people on the list - a majority were able to buy a gun.

"Some government reports show that 91% of people who meet this criteria someone on the terror watch list who went to buy a gun were still permitted to buy it because they didn't have a felony conviction or weren't an illegal immigrant," said Borowski.
PolitiFact rated Ryan's claim Half True.

PolitiFact says unlicensed gun sales are decreasing, but they still represent millions of gun sales each year.