Top New York officials demanded that the federal government share classified watch-list information on suspected terrorists so the state can block such people from buying guns legally.
Sen. Charles Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that keeping the information secret creates a dangerous “terror gap.”
“This loophole does nothing more than help radical people kill innocent Americans, and it must be closed,” said Cuomo. “The fact that reform continues to languish illustrates the stranglehold the NRA has over Washington, and it’s time for our elected leaders to show the political courage to vote for the safety of the American people.”
The two Democrats held a news conference at a lower Manhattan spot with a view of a powerful national symbol: the Statue of Liberty.
Schumer has co-sponsored the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015,” which would give the U.S. Department of Justice authority to prevent a suspected terrorist from buying such materials.
But the measure failed in the U.S. Senate last week.
“We will continue to push again and again at the national level to put into practice this common sense provision that would do so much to protect the American public, but until we do, today’s push with Gov. Cuomo will add momentum to this larger effort,” said Schumer.
The senator said a faster solution to the “federal paralysis” would be for the Department of Justice to help establish a protocol for states to access the lists.
“At least let the states use the information to defend themselves,” Cuomo added.
The Department of Justice and National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
The federal government does not currently share classified background information about suspects on its terror and no-fly watch lists with states. Schumer and Cuomo said such information would keep suspected terrorists from passing a gun background check and legally obtaining a firearm -- now allowed under federal law.
Last week, in response to the Dec. 2 San Bernardino massacre where 14 people were killed, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed to use an executive order to ban gun sales to those on federal no-fly lists. Ideally, Congress should approve such a measure, but in the absence of congressional action, Malloy said, “we intend to prevent ... those on government watch lists from obtaining a permit to purchase a firearm in Connecticut.”
The couple that officials said was responsible for the attack was not on any security list. And they apparently purchased their weapons legally.
Schumer and Cuomo also said that social media posts should be included in tracking possible terrorists. Tashfeen Malik, the California woman who staged the attack in San Bernardino with her husband, had written hate-filled Facebook comments well before the attack -- but they went unnoticed by security officials.