An American-born Al Qaeda speaker once said, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms…so what are you waiting for?”
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people in a club in Orlando, Florida. Mateen had been placed on a terror watch list twice but was removed from the list in 2013 after the FBI closed their investigations. Years later, Mateen walked into a gun shop and purchased a firearm without any questioning before using the gun on his shooting rampage.
These tragic events ignited a debate over whether people on the watch list or no-fly list should be allowed to purchase firearms. While many are opposed to restricting gun purchases, suspected terrorists cannot be trusted with guns and should never be able to buy them.
In 2003, President George Bush created an FBI terrorist database to help agencies with screening processes. This database includes a broader watch list to keep an eye on suspicious persons and a more exclusive no-fly list. Each list corresponds to a different threat level.
In 2014, there were 800,000 names on the watch list and 64,000 names on the no-fly list. Government agencies are required to submit the names of people who may pose a security threat. Analysts then review the evidence provided and decide whether the person in question is dangerous. If the analysts determine the person constitutes a credible threat, their name goes on one of the lists.
From 2005-2015, 2500 people on the terrorist watch list tried to buy a firearm, and 91% of the purchases were approved.
A law has been proposed that would ban people on the watch list from purchasing guns, but Congress has repeatedly rejected it. Congress will allow suspected terrorists to buy guns, but believe they would be too dangerous to allow on airplanes. This is a puzzling contradiction, since Congress supports the terrorist watch lists but will not use them to effectively regulate gun purchases.
It is illogical to allow suspected terrorists to purchase guns while those convicted of domestic or sexual assault or of drug abuse or dishonorably discharged from the military cannot. The safety of the nation rests on preventing any of these people from possessing firearms.
On average, 27 Americans are shot every day, a number we should be striving to reduce. If Congress had approved this ban, Omar Mateen would not have been able to purchase a firearm and 49 innocent people would still be alive. By agreeing that a person once suspected of terrorism should not be allowed to purchase a firearm, we could prevent another mass shooting and save countless lives.