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

Barack Obama

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.


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Comments (39)

  1. 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.

    1. @ 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.

    2. 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.

    3. @ 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. @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.

  5. 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.

  6. Obama is psychologically incapable of calling terrorism,TERRORISM. He has banned the use of the term around him. As each such heinous act involves a firearm, he would rather concentrate on gun control, rather than terrorist control. One of his comments, just after the shooting in California, was: “We must find a way to limit peoples access to guns”. Not, ‘We must find a way to stop terrorism in America’. He is obsessed with disarming the U.S., just as he is obsessed with letting in immigrants’ without any limits set on them. In his warped thinking, the only terrorist in the U.S., are legal gun owners.

  7. In light of the terrorist attack in California this week I have to say the following…

    The most important thing Obama never realized about his job was that America is the World leader whose strength is depended upon to help maintain balance and order beyond our borders. Instead of staying that necessary and historic course, Obama instead chose to lend credence to the tyrants and immature dictators throughout the World.

    I often wonder how Obama copes with the knowledge that his severe lack of leadership is THE reason Islamic terrorism has exploded out of control and spread with such global vigor. The same goes for the overwhelming Russian aggression which has reversed years of progress back to a Cold War era status.

    Obamas ideologies are so incredibly warped from the American way that he has no clue what he has allowed to be unleashed upon the World; or that it has emboldened our enemies to a level of brutality never seen in modern times.

    A real American President cognizant and faithful to their sworn duties would NEVER have allowed such things to pass. But most disgusting is that in light of all we’ve seen with our own eyes, Obama can stand before the American people and still claim he has terrorism under control and that everything we are experiencing could be resolved with more gun-control and background checks.

    So the next time you are forced to engage a liberal backing Obama in such idiotic lunacy, pose the following question and answer to them:


    Since when has a terrorist ever reported back with the excuse that they would have been more pro-active in their armed jihadi efforts, if it weren’t for that darned NICS background check getting in the way?



  8. On the San Bernardino incident, I think we should spread the news as far and wide as possible: like all California State buildings, this was a gun-free zone. Gun-free zones protect attackers, not victims. That is the message I am repeating to everyone who will listen to me.

    To put it more bluntly, gun-free zones deliver unarmed victims into the hands of their armed attackers. Gun-free zones take lives that could have been spared.

    In my opinion, fewer than 14 people would have died if there had been one or two or three people with legal concealed carry at the party. The gun-free zone prevented the self-defense that is guaranteed by the Constitution in what was clearly an emergency situation.

    Spread the word,

    1. “incident” is the wrong word. Travisty or, better yet, atrocity, is the right word.


    2. And added to that is the fact that we need to set the record straight that although the media is saying these weapons were purchased legally, they were in fact purchased by a third party for the terrorists. That is a “Straw Man” purchase, and is not legal in any way.

      “All of the guns were later determined to have been legally purchased, though not by the attackers. The assault rifles were bought by a third person who is not considered a suspect, according to a senior law enforcement official, The New York Times reports.”

    3. Mikial,
      Thank you for that info, I had not heard that yet. Having heard it I’m not the least bit surprised that gun-control fanatics are trying to spin this incident as having been caused by the lack of the “common sense gun control laws” they wish to see implemented.

      My first question is why not? Why is the person who made a straw-man purchase to aid the killers in circumventing the gun laws already on the books not being investigated as a suspect and an accomplice to this crime? Based upon the level of planning that must have went into this crime I suspect that there were more accomplices involved than is currently identified. I suspect that this was the work of an ISIS affiliated cell that sprang its attack prematurely in the heat of the moment. Only time will tell.

  9. Should there be a law banning individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms?
    NO, not unless that person has the right to appeal. God didn’t give people wings so the Constitution doesn’t give them rights to federal air space, but it did give people the right to guns.
    Even a felon gets a trial before there right to vote and have guns is stripped from them.

  10. In watching the San Bernadino incident live on CNN right now, with 1 dead bad guy laying in the street, my reactions to this topic are:

    1) If the Terror Watch List is going to do any good, we have the technology to jump all over these bad guys BEFORE they execute a massacre. I hope that the Obama administration has not inhibited that capability.

    2) Obama has already come out and made his usual gun control remark without even knowing who did this and why. Shame on him for jumping to conclusions and thinking his gun control measures are ever going to stop the real bad guys. As G-Man stated here, terrorists know where to get their guns.

    1. @ss1

      It’s pretty sad when any people can only expect their president to spout more foolish rhetoric that does nothing but demonstrate how completely useless he truly is.

  11. May have mentioned this before, if I did, I apologize. When you get old, you tend to repeat your stories, occasionally. Few years back, wrote a booklet about resisting an invasion of the U.S. by terrorist or a takeover by the government. FBI took exception to it. Confiscated all copies, then in what I considered total over reaction, placed me on a Subversive Watch List. For almost 5 years, had a dickens of a time purchasing firearms. I lived in a state with ‘instant’ background check, but mine would be stalled for the 5 day limit set on background checks. After which, they were required to let you purchase the firearm. I suppose the FBI thought it was TCB. Do they allow those on terrorist watch list purchase weapons. Personally, I think that it should be situational, ie; does the suspect have terrorist ties, has he/she ever been found to make threats against people of certain ethnic backgrounds or the government, etc.

  12. Ah, a topic right up my alley (for those that know my profession). The exact formula for the criteria which would place you in the Terrorist Screening Center or TSC’s database is classified. Therefore the public will never be allowed to know precisely how one finds themselves on such a Watchlist.

    That alone should raise considerable alarm upon hearing that a politician is pushing to connect gun control, in any form, based on a secretive government blacklist. It would create a black hole from which there is no escape. Anyone assisting in advocating such a notion is just plum stupid.

    Given that all information derived from the government’s consolidated Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) is classified, the government is authorized to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act laws which would prevent you or an attorney from mounting a defense. In fact this has already happened just from travel bans alone.

    Besides, the Watchlist is only in use by authorized law enforcement agencies at major transportation hubs and on people applying for visas. With literally thousands of illegals pouring over our borders daily, where do you think the real terrorists plan on entering?

    Add to this the knowledge that the entire Watchlist system is based on a Presidential Directive at the hands of his Attorney General and one could see how easily a President could control or reconstruct the “formula” for nomination into the Wachlist.

    The list would suddenly begin to include the average Joe-American gun owner for the most trivial of activities. Anyone trying to have simple legal fun at the range with Tannerite exploding targets would now be added to the Watchlist.

    So just like criminals, terrorist know where to get their guns – and it’s not from Walmart using the NICS check system. So as usual, the only people this will affect are the law abiding citizens.

    1. @ G-Man

      Be careful there, you’re speaking common sense and that never goes over well with certain groups. 😉

  13. In principle yes. People who are being watched by law enforcement ostensibly because they are suspected of plotting acts of terror should not be allowed to legally purchase firearms in order to carry out whatever acts of terror they may be planning, for the exact same reason they are being denied access to commercial aircraft.

    In practice however, it has already been demonstrated that being placed upon this list is totally arbitrary and can happen simply for arguing with a TSA agent or having a name similar to someone else already on the list. Getting oneself removed from this list once placed on it for whatever reason has also proven to be near impossible.

    The real question that needs to be asked is why gun-control activists are trying to use the list as an instrument for furthering their agenda. It is all to easy to see just how easy it would be to abuse this power for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.

    The fact that gun-control activists are telegraphing their intentions to use this list for their own purposes should make every American gun owner nervous. This is just another angle on the latest tactic of gun-control activists; to disqualify as many otherwise law-abiding Americans as possible from being able to purchase or possess firearms. This is the real purpose for so called universal background checks. If and when such checks are instituted it will only be a short time before no one will be able to pass such a check.

  14. The list is not accurate. A lot of innocent people were on it including a congressman once. I carry faithfully and rely on my wits to survive. I say no more laws.

  15. A few years ago the O’Bummer administration considered anyone who was former military, Bible reading, gun owning, or a member of the N.R.A. a potential terrorist. I’d bet they have a list.

    1. I am sure I am more gov’t watch lists than I can count; started with purchasing Anarchist Cookbook in junior high, through Unintended Consequences; up to multiple gun purchases at a time for 30 years.

  16. The terrorists in France and Belgium were on ‘watch lists’ in countries with very restrictive gun laws. Didn’t seem to help (except to know where to find them after the fact).

    “Watch lists’ are secret lists that the People have no control over.

    Stalin, Hitler, Castro; they all kept lists.

    We the People do have control, through our vote. Any informed Voter better take care what Rights he sacrifices for a [false] sense of security.

    Denying any US Citizen, or any person protected by our constitution, of an enumerated Constitutional Right without due process of law is tyranny.

  17. This dangerous talk from the gov’t mouthpiece….revolutions have been started on fewer words than that….

  18. Ok. This is simplistic. We live in a “open” society. If we have a list of people who are on a “Watch” list, Like people who are considered pedafile , Felons, or Mentally Ill, we should of course deny them weapons. But the DEFINITION of the person on the WATCH list has to be PUBLIC. With reasons stated. We are a Nation of Laws. Not a nation of prejudices. Or political issues. We have enemies lists out the ears, and all of them developed by well meaning people who do NOT want to identify their definitions.

    Secrecy is Tyranny in disguise. We need to first publish the Lists, and identify the WHY. That is as important as the Who.

    1. “…We are a Nation of Laws. Not a nation of prejudices. Or political issues. We have enemies lists out the ears, and all of them developed by well meaning people who do NOT want to identify their definitions. …”

      You state this right after announcing who will not allow to possess weapons regardless their right to self defense.

      And you’ll scream even louder when you’re denied your right to possess is taken away. Please, get off that band wagon of “only those with…” and let all men live free.

  19. I hate to add any more caveats to the laws pertaining to gun acquisition and ownership. However, I do believe we need to stop anyone on the Terrorist Suspect list from purchasing or owning a firearm…for two reasons. First – denying them access makes it much more difficult for them to arm themselves (the easiest & cheapest supply line is cut off!) Second – with this caveat inserted into the law, there is less bítching and moaning on the part of the anti-gun turds pointing out “anyone can get a gun” after the next barbaric assault.

  20. Just another excuse for another gun law. We’ve all seen that strict . . . read that Draconian, gun control laws do pretty much nothing to stop bad people from getting guns. They don’t work in LA, the don’t work in Chicago or DC, they don’t work in Europe, and they will never work anywhere. Terrorists have wide reaching support networks.

    What exactly do terror watch lists really accomplish? They keep you from getting on an airplane . . okay. Several of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have been committed by people who were watch lists and were still able to cross borders, acquire weapons in the virtual total gun control environment of Europe, and carry out attacks.

    How about instead on enacting more gun control laws that only inhibit legal gun owners, if there is enough evidence to put someone on a watch list, we bring them in and have a little chat with them? Or how about deportation if the are not a US citizen? Just thinking out loud here.

  21. For me, I always start with is this another loss of individual freedom. Being on a terrorist watch list means that someone put that specific name on the list. That someone had to be a government employee in a position to put the name on the list. Before addressing the specific question of whether or not the risk of a terrorist, or would be terrorist, getting a legal gun is greater than or the equivalent to the risk of a terrorist seizing and air liner, I would want to know more about the qualifications of the people naming the person as a terrorist.
    For a period of time, I was a government employee, working in a uniformed service but “lent out” to a quasi civilian law enforcement agency. Many of the people I worked with were exceptionally bright, dedicated and hardworking people. However, there was that 10 %, more or less, who scared the begibbers out of me. They had no business making any important decision, on any subject whatsoever. How do we prevent that? Isn’t it true that once in the government, you are pretty much there for life unless you choose to quit.
    Further, we worked with another government agency that seemed to be largely populated with overage, underintelligent and far underqualified individuals and yet they had positions of great power and equal access to data bases and posting to them that we had.
    Bottom line — do you trust all government employees to either be smart enough or competent enough to make unreviewed decisions on anyone’s future? Especially if no one is ever gong to investigate and “vet” that decision?

  22. The fact that the watch list is a list of potential suspects indicates that that person met some type of criteria set by the government. No control of what the criteria is. No acknowledgement for the individual to dispute the claims made. That would take away a person’s liberties without due process. Everyone in the country could be added to the list without justification.

    1. I could see the government suddenly putting anyone who ever wrote their Congressman to resist new gun control laws being put on the list just to disarm them.

    2. I see the gov’t trying to pass laws where we are all on a list restricting firearms ownership.

      Oops. Gosh- it’s already happening. Or are we just writing to hear our keyboards click?

  23. The idea that within the context of a free society that you could have your constitutional rights suspended without any formal charges filed, without a trial, and without a conviction for a specific crime is absolutely absurd.

    This iidea warrants no debate over Thanksgiving dinner or at any other time. It warrants only ridicule and mockery of those who propose it and political opposition of any who would support it.

  24. Practically speaking, yes, being on a terror watch list should be a disqualification from purchasing a firearm. However, the real concern for me is who gets on that list. If I write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper advocating that we throw out all gun grabbing politicians will I somehow be entered into the database. Who controls the database is the real issue.

  25. What’s a bit more ironic (ironic = stupid) about that suggestion is if one is on a watch list one isn’t told that one is on that watch list. So he’s saying then that they’d deny a gun purchase, but not have to tell the prospective buyer why it was denied?


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