NEW YORK, When asked if people placed on the terror watch list should be allowed to purchase guns, GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina called the question a “red herring.”
Fiorina appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday to discuss Wednesday’smass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 dead and 17 injured.
Fiorina blamed chronic gun violence on the failure to enforce existing gun laws. She pointed to the shooting in June in Charleston, S.C., at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nine people were killed when 21-year-old Dylan Roof allegedly opened fire inside the church during a prayer service. The Washington Post reportedRoof was able to purchase a gun because of a lapse in the FBI background check system.
“We have lists and lists of people who shouldn’t own guns who have them,” Fiorina told hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. “Less than 1 percent of them are ever prosecuted.”
Fiorina also repeated a previous claim that states with more stringent gun laws have higher rates of mass shootings.
Factcheck.org debunked a similar claim in October, finding the states with the highest rates of gun violence and gun-related deaths were states that had more lax regulations.
The New York Times reported the guns used in 15 recent mass shootings, including the California shooting, were purchased legally.
Brzezinski and Scarborough pressed Fiorina on whether or not people named on the terror watch list should be allowed to purchase guns. The candidate called the question a “red herring.”
“If somebody is a suspected terrorist on a watch list, they can be indicted at any time, and once you’re indicted, you cannot own a firearm,” she said, following up with a call to indict suspected terrorists.
In November, the Government Accountability Office found between 2004 and 2014, that 2,043 people on the terror watch list were able to purchase guns. The list consists of about 700,000 people. The Washington Post reported bills have been filed in Congress to stop terror suspects from being able to purchase guns as far back as 2007. The bills rarely make it out of committee, and the National Rifle Association strongly opposes them.
Such a bill was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., earlier this year: The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015.
Scarborough pressed Fiorina: “If you’re on a terror watch list you can’t get on a plane but you can buy a .223?”
Fiorina cited problems with the terror watch list: “If I had utter faith in the competence of government, I might agree with that. But do you? I don’t.”
Earlier this year, the National Counterterrorism Center’s watchlisting guidance leaked, showing that people are implicated as terror suspects on “reasonable suspicion,” a standard that is not defined explicitly. The document showed nearly 300,000 people were nominated to the list that had no known affiliation with any terrorist group.
By Ann Marie Awad