NSSF Responds to NY Times 'Government Watch List' Editorial

Last week's editorial in The New York Times prompted this response from the National Shooting Sports Foundation:

To the Editor:

After spending nearly a decade criticizing successive administrations for disregarding the rights of American citizens suspected of terrorism, the Times has now decided that some should be denied a Constitutional right without due process (“The Gun Lobby’s Long Shadow,” May 7, 2010). 

No one wants to see terrorists obtain firearms, period. Yet before the Times, or anyone else, considers denying American citizens their Constitutional rights, it’s important to first examine the law enforcement requirements currently in place that enable law enforcement to protect Americans from terrorism.

Anyone attempting to purchase a firearm from a retailer must first undergo an FBI background check. The prospective buyer's name is also cross-referenced against government watch lists. If there is a match, the law enforcement agency that placed the person on the list is immediately contacted and provided an opportunity to determine any legal basis to deny the transfer of the firearm and to take whatever law enforcement measures they deem appropriate.

This includes requesting that the firearms retailer decline to sell the firearm, or to delay the sale so law enforcement can monitor the person. These measures properly balance and respect both national security and the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans who might wrongly be on the list.   

If legislation moves forward denying any individual on the “watch” list the right to purchase a firearm, the FBI background check would also become a terrorist notification system. If the sale was denied and the customer was not otherwise disqualified, the terrorist would know instantly that the government was monitoring him.  

As it stands, most people have no idea if they are on such a government “watch” list, why they might be on it, or how to get off of it if they are wrongfully listed. This should ring alarm bells within any individual or institution which values Constitutional protections. 

Using terrorism as an excuse to deny Constitutional rights to law-abiding citizens is un-American.  The Times should agree. 


National Shooting Sports Foundation

Steve Sanetti

President & CEO