The FBI ought to establish a separate “no-gun” list to keep track of individuals who shouldn’t be allowed to own firearms, the former director of the bureau’s Terrorist Screening Center said Saturday.
Timothy Healy, a 27-year veteran of the FBI who oversaw the screening center during President Obama’s first term in office, proposed the creation of the no-gun list while addressing concerns raised by law enforcement’s current practices during an interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.
Lists currently maintained by the U.S. government contain the names of more than a million people with potential ties to terrorism, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Earlier this year, however, a watchdog report revealed that individuals on those lists were able to successfully purchase firearms nine out of ten times.
Responding to that report Saturday morning, Mr. Healy said authorities should consider creating a new list that would only be used to restrict access to weapons, separate from other similar databases, such as the “no-fly” list that contains the names of people banned from commercial air travel.
“I would even offer a solution that you create a separate list and have the no-gun list,” Mr. Healy said. “And on the no-gun list of the watchlist you require the agent to provide a probable cause statement and take it to a judge and say ‘This is why I don’t think this individual should have a gun or be able to buy a gun.’ That way i think you have a balanced approach.”
“Not everyone on the no-fly list is going to be on the no gun list because they’re not going to have enough information,” he added. “But there were situations of subjects on the no-fly list that I believe, based on what I knew about them, I could provide enough information to a judge and say ‘This is why i don’t think this individual should purchase a gun.’”
Currently, federal investigators need to have reasonable suspicion in order to nominate a person for placement on a watchlist, Mr. Healy said. Counterterrorism officials then conduct an investigation before deciding whether or not to include the person by weighing whether or not there’s reasonable suspicion that warrants action.
“When someone on the list attempts to purchase a gun, when they run the gun check, they run the gun check against the terrorist watchlist,” Mr. Healy explained. A case agent is then notified and in turn conducts a check to see if there is anything that would prohibit that person from purchasing a firearm, such as felony arrests or citizenship status. Nevertheless, the Government Accountability Office determined in 2015 that individuals on the FBI’s radar were able to acquire guns with routine success.
“How do you balance it?” Mr. Healy asked. “My position would be: if you want to tie a purchase of a weapon to the terrorist watchlist, then create a separate list, and create a separate criteria for that.”
Of particular concern, he added, was precluding persons with potential ties to terrorism from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Purchasing a gun or protecting your house against unreasonable search and seizure is a constitutional right. Flying on an plane is not a constitutional right. So one is lower than the other. I don’t want to lose — my concern would be to lose the effectiveness of the no-fly list because it works. It works and we have been able to keep people off planes,” Mr. Healy said.
Mr. Healy served as director of TSC from 2009 through 2013, and is currently the president of Ikun, a private company that provides services to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, among other agencies.
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