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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Terror Suspects’ Right to Bear Arms Defended

(CN) - With the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., fueling panic about weapons access, a Second Amendment attorney has filed a federal class action to prevent background checks from weeding out at least 2,000 people on the terror watch list who bought guns legally.

"Being a named person on a 'terrorist watch list' is not a federal statutory disqualifying factor, nor should it be," the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Rochester states. "Permanent deprivation of a fundamental civil right cannot and should not occur because something as small as an alleged, anonymous tip places an individual in a secret database managed by the attorney general, the FBI, and/or the TSC to which the individual has no right of access and no method of recourse."

Webster-based attorney Paloma Capanna filed the 25-page action on behalf of several gun advocates and militia groups in upstate New York, including the National Rifle Association and Oath Keepers.

Capanna, a policy analyst with the Shooters Committee on Political Education, has filed at least four federal lawsuits opposing gun regulation, according to the Courthouse News database.

Led by Gun Owners of America's executive director Larry Platt in the latest case, Capanna's 26 named clients rail against what they called government "tyranny."

They say the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has run more than 222 million searches through the National Instant Criminal Background Check system between Nov. 30, 1998, and Nov. 30, 2015.

Every search that the three agencies cross-checked against the Terrorist Screening Database after February 2004 lacked legal authority, according to the complaint.

The complaint points to a 2010 report by Government Accountability Office, which found in its first line: "Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law."

This loophole alarmed many in the United States after Islamic State jihadists launched a terrorist attack in Paris last month, and those anxieties increased again in the wake of massacres in Colorado Springs, Colo., and San Bernardino, Calif.

The Washington Post later reported that more than 2,000 terror suspects purchased guns between 2004 and 2014.

Various outlets also reported that the parents of Syed Rizwan Farook, the U.S. citizen behind the San Bernardino attacks, were placed on the terror watch lists.

President Barack Obama responded to the shootings with a call to use the "no-fly" list in background checks, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy endorsed an executive order banning any gun sales in his state to people on the terror watch list.

Still federal courts across the country remain inundated with claims from people who say they were put on the watch list unfairly, extorted to inform for the FBI on Muslim communities.

The gun owners echo these claims in calling this list an unreliable means of gun control.

"Among those believed to be on the 'no fly list,' a subset of the Terrorist Screening Database, are U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, U.S. Representative John Lewis, conservative journalist Stephen F. Hayes, and ACLU attorney David Fathi," the complaint states.

With prosecutors charging that with a "straw purchase" via Enrique Marquez armed the San Bernardino shooters, the lawsuit also argues that the regulation would not have prevented the violence on Dec. 2.

"There is no allegation in the 37-page federal criminal complaint [against Marquez] that either this individual or either of the two terrorists was on any terrorist watch list at the time the individual purchased the rifles in 2011 and 2012," the lawsuit states.

On Dec. 3, House Republicans blocked a bill with bipartisan sponsorship called the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015.

Though the bill failed, the class of gun enthusiasts seek an injunction blocking the use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check system in conjunction with the Terrorist Screening Database as unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice has not returned an email seeking comment. The complaint names Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and two other officials involved in the regulation of firearms as defendants.

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