Attorney General Loretta Lynch overruled FBI Director James B. Comey this week, saying the Obama administration does support denying firearms sales to those on terrorist watch lists and that it can be done without harming investigations.
Mr. Comey last year had told Congress that denying sales could “blow” his agents’ investigations into potential terrorists. But his superiors at the Justice Department issued a statement Thursday saying they want to see Congress approve the “no-fly, no-buy” plan Democrats are pursuing.
“The amendment gives the Justice Department an important additional tool to prevent the sale of guns to suspected terrorists by licensed firearms dealers while ensuring protection of the department’s operational and investigative sensitivities,” department spokesman Dena Iverson said in a statement.
In the wake of the weekend’s terror-related shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Democrats have zeroed in on guns, arguing that Omar Mateen’s rampage could have been avoided had Congress enacted a ban on gun sales to those on the government’s watch lists, which are supposed to detail those known or suspected to have ties to terrorism.
The FBI has poked holes in that theory, saying that while Mateen had been listed while under investigation a few years ago, he had been removed after the agency was unable to make a case against him.
Under the current system, if someone on the list attempts to buy a firearm, the sale isn’t automatically stopped — but agents are alerted and use that information to help their investigation.