Omar Mateen’s two inter-views by the FBI would likely not even be known by authorities who performed a firearms background check on him if the contacts did not result in court action, a former ATF agent said. But one New York lawmaker wants to change that, and ban anyone who is on the no-fly list from obtaining firearms.
The FBI investigated Mateen for 11 months for telling co-workers in 2013 that he had relatives with al-Qaeda — a Sunni terrorist group — while also claiming he was a member of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, the FBI said. Both groups oppose each other and the Islamic State — to which Mateen claimed allegiance during Sunday’s attack.
The FBI also briefly investigated Mateen in 2014 on suspicion of watching videos by al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and for attending a mosque in Florida with a man who later became a suicide bomber for the al-Nusra Front in Syria, which also opposes Islamic State. Both investigations were closed without an arrest.
James McNally, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, said background checks trigger denials only due to criminal convictions, non-citizenship and court-ordered mental illness designations.
“The long and the short of it is, the guy wasn’t court-ordered as mental(ly) defective and he wasn’t a felon,” McNally said. “He was a citizen, he had no criminal record, and he wasn’t convicted of any crime. The fact that he was interviewed, without any sort of follow-up, wouldn’t show up.”
Senate Democrats yesterday renewed a push to pass a measure that would ban people on the terror watchlist and anyone suspected by federal authorities of having terror ties from purchasing guns.
“In the wake of Orlando, we have to think about what kind of country and what kind of Senate we are going to be,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday.
“Are we going to bow down to the NRA so that suspected terrorists can get their hands on guns? Or are we going to take the painfully obvious, common-sense step and make sure that suspected terrorists can’t get guns?”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Hate Crime Prevention Act, which would prohibit anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun.
“If you have proven you will commit criminal acts based on hate, you absolutely should not have access to a gun,” Casey said.
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