MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There is no law that currently prevents people on terror watch lists from buying firearms.
Gun advocates argue a law like that would deny due process to people who may be wrongly placed on the terror list.
A government report says that nearly 2,500 people on terror watch lists tried to buy guns between 2004 and 2015.
Ninety-one percent of those sales happened.
Experts say current background checks keep guns out of the hands of some violent offenders, but not all.
When you try and purchase a gun from a licensed gun dealer, your name is run through the “NICS,” or the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is part of the FBI.
NICS checks to see if the gun buyer has a criminal record before any sale can be made. The FBI has done more than 100 million checks in the past decade, denying 700,000 potential purchases. That is less than 1 percent.
Reasons for denial range from domestic violence, to drug abuse, to mental health issues.
“I’ve got 30 days to check backgrounds for felony convictions, domestic abuse convictions, things like that,” said Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie.
While the FBI tracks gun purchasers, he has to OK or deny someone seeking a permit to carry.
“For example in Dakota last year, we issued 3,400 permits to carry and we denied 34. Just right at the 1-percent mark,” Leslie said.
That is consistent with the FBI’s denial rate. And like the FBI, Sheriff Leslie worries about what he cannot control.
“A straw purchaser for example. I’m ineligible to purchase, I ask someone to purchase a gun for me and they do that,” Leslie said. “Sometimes there’s some sales of guns illegally on the dark net.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Eitan Feldman of St. Paul pled guilty in April to illegally selling firearms. He bought them from an online dealer and then sold them on another website. At least three of his guns were connected to crimes.
“I think by and large the people who want to get a permit to carry are good citizens, and they abide by the law,” Leslie said. “I think there is a whole underground of people that maybe ignore the law, and those are the ones we worry about.”
Dakota County is now number two in the state when it comes to permits to carry, just behind Hennepin County.
You need to complete a certified gun training course to gain a permit to carry, but you do not need to take a course if you want to purchase gun.