WASHINGTON – FBI Director Robert Mueller (search) is forming a study group to review the law that let suspected terrorists buy guns in the United States after they cleared background checks.
Mueller unveiled his plan to form the Justice Department working group, which will include the FBI, in a letter sent Wednesday to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (search), D-N.J. The group will also review the government report issued earlier this month that said more than 40 terror suspects were able to buy firearms in the United States last year because background checks showed they had no felony convictions and weren't illegal immigrants.
The day the Government Accountability Office report was released, Mueller told a House subcommittee that perhaps the law could be altered. In his letter to Lautenberg, Mueller said "I believe a review of the law regarding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is warranted given the findings of the GAO report."
The DOJ's Office of Legal Policy will spearhead the review, and will make recommendations to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Mueller wrote.
Lautenberg, who requested the GAO report, said Thursday that the "FBI knows that terrorist access to guns in our country is a real problem.
"Hopefully the FBI can talk some sense into the rest of the Bush administration and put the safety and security of the American people ahead of the interests of the gun lobby," Lautenberg said.
When the report was released, the National Rifle Association had said the law protects Americans from terrorists while allowing citizens the freedom to own guns. On Thursday, NRA (search) spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs said the NRA worked last year with the Justice Department to ensure that people on the FBI's internal terror watch lists are cross-checked.
"We will certainly work with the Department of Justice, the [Bush] administration, and congressional leaders to review the information and address terrorism concerns while remembering our core mission to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans," Hobbs said.
The GAO report said that from Feb. 3 through June 20 last year, 35 known or suspected terrorists bought guns in the United States. From July 1 to Oct. 31 last year, 12 more were allowed to buy firearms.