Amy Paulin Introduces Bill to Prevent Those on Terror Watch List from Purchasing Guns in New York

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) is pleased to announce that she has introduced a bill that would prevent individuals on the Terror Watch List (TWL) from purchasing a gun, rifle or shotgun in New York.

There is currently no law in New York State that prevents a person on the TWL from buying a gun, rifle or shotgun. Discussions with FBI personnel at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Section indicate that New York can take action to close this dangerous gap by providing the FBI additional time to conduct and complete a background check of a prospective buyer.

Paulin’s bill would extend the time for a background check for purchases of guns, rifles and shotguns from three to 10 business days.

Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to obtain a NICS background check before selling a firearm, the results of which – deny or proceed -- must be reported to the dealer within three business days. There are currently nine categories prohibiting someone from purchasing a firearm. Being on the TWL, however, is not one of the nine categories.

When it conducts a NICS background check, the FBI checks the TWL. However, the FBI cannot prevent someone in New York from buying a gun on the sole basis that the buyer is on the TWL. The FBI is also not authorized, without a change at the federal level, to reveal that a proposed buyer is on the TWL. They must use the three business days to find a reason to deny the sale based on one of the aforementioned nine prohibited categories.

NICS Section personnel have made it clear that the FBI needs more time than three business days to investigate a prospective buyer. The NICS databases may reveal information that may indicate a buyer may be prohibited from buying a firearm but additional follow up is required to ascertain definitively whether the buyer is prohibited.

“Considering the homeland security issues we face today, providing an additional seven days for the FBI to vet someone wishing to buy a gun, rifle or shotgun is just common sense,” Paulin said. “More than 2,000 guns have already been purchased by individuals on the Terror Watch List. And between 2010 and 2014, more than 15,000 gun sales went forward to individuals who should have been prohibited from buying a gun because the FBI could not determine whether to deny or proceed within three business days.”

State law and legislation or other action to ban individuals on the TWL from buying a gun on that basis alone would violate the prohibition on the FBI from revealing who is on the TWL. Accordingly, those measures may be unenforceable without authorization or a waiver on the federal level.

“Extending the amount of time allowed for a background check to provide the FBI critical additional time to conduct its investigation is a most effective and practical means to ensure that both legally prohibited persons and known and suspected terrorists cannot buy a firearm, rifle or shotgun in New York without impinging on the right of law-abiding individuals to do so,” Paulin said.