New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday that states should have access to federal no-fly and other terror watch lists in order to screen potential gun buyers.
The lists are classified and not part of federal background checks for legal firearm sales.
“We are telling the Department of Justice to come up with a protocol that allows New York State to prohibit those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns,” Schumer said in lower Manhattan with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.
He and fellow Democrat Cuomo said their first preference is that the federal government add terror watch lists to the criteria used in background checks, but gun advocates have pushed back on recent efforts in Congress to mandate such cross-checks.
Schumer said at the Battery Park news conference that a faster solution to the “federal paralysis” would be access to the lists by state governments.
Cuomo said he does not believe the deadly Dec. 2 attack in San Bernadino, California, will be the last instance of terrorism.
“Time is not on our side,” the governor said. “At least let the states use the information to defend themselves.”
The access can be granted legislatively or with an executive order, he said.
U.S. Department of Justice representatives did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.
Jennifer Baker, of the National Rifle Association, said in a statement: “The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong. Both Governor Cuomo and Senator Schumer know full well that law-abiding Americans who pose no threat to national security are mistakenly on these lists.”
Cuomo and Schumer said civil liberties should still be protected and mistakes made by the federal government in compiling the terror watch lists do not mean they shouldn’t be used.
The senator also pledged to continue his legislative push to enable the Department of Justice to prevent those on the terror watch lists from purchasing firearms or explosives. The measure failed last week in the Senate.
Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy said last week he wants an executive order to ban gun sales in his state by suspected terrorists and is working with the Department of Justice on accessing the databases.
Schumer and Cuomo on Sunday also called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to study social media posts as part of their efforts to track terror suspects.
One of the alleged San Bernadino attackers, Tashfeen Malik, wrote on Facebook about violent jihad, but her posts had gone undetected by immigration officials.