Should Being on a Terror Watch List Prohibit you from Buying a Gun?

By Dave Dolbee published on in News

You have to admit—the White House never misses an opportunity to make every situation about politics by taking a swipe at Republicans, gun control, or anyone they deem a threat or opposition to their political beliefs. This time, the White House took issue with the Second Amendment and used Thanksgiving dinner as the excuse.

Barack Obama

One more gun law or a good idea? Obama continues his gun control push.

Josh Earnest, White House press secretary and spokesman for President Obama, said Americans should use the holiday’s family gatherings around the Thanksgiving table to talk about serious gun-control measures. Earnest drifted off topic while discussing the Republican push to vet Syrian refugees better or refuse them entry into the U.S. On that, Earnest said bolstering the border control vetting process won’t automatically improve national security. (However, somehow barring you and me from legally owning firearms would?)

“If Congress were actually interested in doing that, they’d pass a law that would prevent somebody who’s on the terror watch list from being able to buy a gun. That’s what Congress should do,” he said, in widely reported remarks.

I am sorry; is he saying people on terror watch lists cannot board a plane, but we are selling them firearms? Hmm… perhaps that is worthy of a bit of thought. On one hand, they have not been convicted of a crime, but on the other, they are presumably on the watch list for a reason. Currently, federal law prohibits nine categories of dangerous people from purchasing or owning firearms. However, suspected or known terrorists are not one of them.

Earnest then returned to speaking about Thanksgiving.

“As people are sitting around the table, talking about these issues, as they should, and as I’m sure they will all across the country, I hope that’s a question that will be raised and asked by members around the table – that if we’re going to have a serious discussion in this country about national security, let’s talk about some pretty obvious things that Congress can do,” Earnest said.

05 itshouldnotbecalledguncontrol

He went on to scold Republicans and blame the gun lobby blah, blah, blah

So, at my house, we took the Obama spokesman’s suggestion to heart. My wife chastised me for leaving my Sig 228 on the counter next to the ham (it was in the cooking zone). My dad raided my holster drawer (at least twice) for a new OWB holster for his Glock. My sister asked to go to the range; she has a new purse with a concealed carry pocket that she wants try out. My brother is in love with a new Springfield M1 Loaded model I recently picked up, so he is up for a range trip as well, and mom just threatened to shoot everyone if we don’t quit stealing the deviled eggs.

A couple of uncles are rehashing the great caliber debate. Apparently, one of them decided to stash a .25 Auto in the medicine cabinet with the cold remedies. A .25 Auto caliber pistol with the cold remedies? Personally, I think the whole debate is just silly; a .25 Auto is hardly sufficient to clear your sinus—he should have went with at least a good .380. The kids are fighting over who gets the blue guns next and who knocked over which can—good thing the LaserLyte targets all have fresh batteries that last for thousands of shots!

Well, I suppose that adequately covers how I feel about using Thanksgiving dinner to discuss Obama’s gun control polices, but it does not answer the more serious question. Should being on the terrorist watch list prevent you from purchasing a firearm?

I mean, no one wants to make it easier for a known or suspected terrorist to buy a gun. On the other hand, if they were so dangerous, why aren’t they already in custody? Of course, we have all heard of people having a similar name being wrongly listed on the terror watch list and only realizing it once they try to board a plane. We certainly do not want to bar them from the right of self-protection.

Innocent until proven guilty, or is the government’s concern enough in this case? What about lone wolves, or domestic militia groups? Could the government use a law such as this against them? Could safeguards be put in place? What are the potential downsides or backlash if the argument is only posed as terrorists buying guns due to a “loophole?” Let’s not forget, Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D-IL) attempt to link the Paris attacks to U.S. gun laws.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and Steven Jett hold up a sign reading "This is Not a Gun-Free Zone"

Would a sign such as this may more of a chance of preventing a terror shooting than another gun control law?

“And one obvious thing that Congress can do is pass a law that prevents somebody who is on the terror watch list from… being able to buy a weapon,” Earnest said. “I’m not sure why that’s even controversial. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been done so far. I suspect, however, that it has a lot to do with the fear that Republicans have of the NRA.”

It is never as simple as a politician will try to boil it down to, but that does not mean that a serious discussion is unwarranted. Should we be defending the Second Amendment from yet another gun law? After all, Paris had strict gun laws, but that did not stop the terrorists from acquiring firearms or explosives—laws are for the law abiding not terrorists. Would this be anything more than just feel good politics?

On the other hand, law-abiding gun owners suffer in the public’s eye every time there is a high profile shooting—regardless of whether the guns were purchased legally or acquired through other means.

What’s your call? Should there be a law banning individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms? Weigh in on the discussion in the comment section.


Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business,, and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (39)

  • Roy Holbert


    Being on a ‘No Fly’ list should not automatically ban you from purchasing firearms. It has been shown, on numerous occasions that people with similar names to those of people on a ‘watch list’ have been put on ‘no fly’ lists. People have even been put on these list for voicing their satisfaction with the boarding and baggage handling process at various airports. What about these people? Should they be denied the right of self defense just because some officious twit of a TSA agent doesn’t like what is said about him or her? Who that has ever traveled on an airplane not expressed, sometimes profanely, their ire at some glorified security guard, pulling him/her out of line for additional inspection, just because the TSA agent needed to look like he/she was earning their pay. Are these travelers not allowed to express their opinions and should the be banned from purchasing a firearm because they do so? Each case of both ‘no fly’ lists and firearms purchases should be on a case-by-case evaluation, not because you have a similar name of a terrorist suspect, or because you used your 1st Amendment Right to voice you displeasure about a situation you found disturbing, annoying, or such.


    • G-Man


      @ Roy Holbert,

      While your sentiment is 100% correct, I must point out that one of the methods you describe causing a person to be placed on the “No Fly” list is incorrect. TSA has no control over how a person is placed on the Watch List. And while I can’t reveal the process that does place you on the list because it is classified, I can assure you that speaking your mind in front of a Transportation Security Officer in no way would lead to you being put on the list. Aside from this, the rest of your comment is a proper argument against mixing the Watch list with gun-control.


    • Roy Holbert


      G-Man, can only state what I see. Was on a international flight a while back. This woman, for no reason that I could see, was pulled out of line by a male TSA agent. As we wended our way through security and such, I could see he being patted-down by this agent, all-the-while, protesting loudly and requesting at least, a female agent. The agent said something very offensive to her and she responded in kind. Didn’t see what happened after, was preparing to board. I do know that she never made that flight. An inquiry of a flight attendant revealed that the lady had been escorted from the airport. Perhaps, not a no-fly list for confronting an abusive TSA agent, but she was forced from the air port.


    • G-Man


      @ Roy Holbert,

      In all fairness to me I was only addressing your false assertion that TSA could add citizens to the no fly Watch List. The simple fact is the TSA is merely one of several agencies with access to check the List against passenger names, but in no way do they have control over how a person gets added to the List.

      Even with the addition of the story in your second response, you still failed to establish a connection to the Watch List; of which, even you admitted to in your last sentence.

      My ultimate concern in addressing you was to spare other readers of your original assertion from feeling a false sense of oppression around TSA authorities which may inhibit them from making needed complaints of real abuses for fear of being added to a no fly Watch List based on your comments.

      As for your story about the woman pulled from the line, there is so much to the behind-the-scenes activity that you will never be made aware of, which more than likely led to the events you saw unfold.

      One of many scenarios which occur all the time is that an unauthorized item was found in her checked baggage that would have been scanned and discovered well after she was already in line. It is hard enough to find an individual loose in the airport after baggage check-in, even with the new facial recognition software. So when a camera does get a positive hit locating a subject, TSA has a tendency to maybe over-react in their diligence to protect other passengers by quickly isolating a subject by appearing to do a random body search. That may be what you were a witness to.

      Regarding the follow-up story based on the supposed inquiry of the flight attendant – it is unlikely because federal law enforcement is barred from releasing such information to third part airport employees and airlines. And even if it had somehow trickled down to the flight attendant level, an attendant would never risk their job by violating strict policy which prevents such disclosure to passengers regarding other passengers. All of that information is instead strictly controlled through specially trained public relations departments before it is even released to media news outlets.


  • JSW


    No, it should not. When you can show me where the Second Amendment disallows it, and where it is written that God has rescinded our right to self defense, then I will agree those persons should be excluded.


  • Robert


    My only comment to that wishful thinking is: this is California, the land of “Fruits and Nuts” and it is called that not just for their Agriculture. Don’t expect the Liberals to have a heart and give up on their moronic agenda. When they take that inch, it can not be taken back. Our only hope is if Trump and Cruz get in and keep the promise to have all states recognize ANY OTHER STATES CARRY PERMIT as should be.


  • Jim McDonald


    The California Situation is a tragic one that was brought about by 3 things:
    1. Over-regulation of firearms in California. Regardless of the elements of history, Californians are now not allowed to protect themselves in public. While this makes Law Enforcement easier, it increases drastically a feeling of invincibility among those who violate the law.
    2. Gun Free Zones = Target rich Environment.
    3. Feeling of Invincibility. We got our Cherry picked a LONG time ago, with 9/11/2001. And long before that, we have seen the effects of mentally ill and politically motivated terrorists going back to the early 1900s. We need to realize that these things CAN happen, and that we should have some level of mental preparation as to what Can happen again. These things don’t just happen in the Movies.


    • ss1


      @Jim McDonald:

      I hope that this incident will make Californians think hard about what their government has done to their safety, and then make drastic changes in the voting booth.


  • Steve H


    Many folks have already made comments that clearly raise the key problems with this idea. I would like to approach it from a slightly different angle.

    Ernest stated. “And one obvious thing that Congress can do is pass a law that prevents somebody who is on the terror watch list from… being able to buy a weapon … I’m not sure why that’s even controversial. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been done so far.”

    Ernest is not just some random guy, nor is he even a random government official. He is the spokesman of the President. In other words he speaks for the President. Clearly additions to the terrorism watch list do not meet the test of due process (as many folks have already commented on), yet Earnest expresses shock and lack of understanding as to why Congress has not already acted. This raises two possibilities. 1st, he is just unintelligent and/or uninformed, speaking off the cuff. I reject this notion off-hand. Whatever else one may be, a person does not get to be the President’s spokesman if they are unintelligent and uninformed….nor does the spokesman for the President speak off the cuff. 2nd possibility is that Ernest made the statement knowingly – understanding the constitutional problem and, as a representative of the White House, not caring that he was suggesting a law that would violate the Constitution.

    As I said option one I reject off-hand and option two is deeply concerning.

    In Federalist #37 James Madison wrote “It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good.”

    This is an issue that calls for the spirit of moderation and dispassionate investigation…while voices of predetermination and bias are to be expected it bothers me to hear them from the offices we as a nation most count on for reason, temperance, and leadership toward the public good.


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