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Senator pushes bill for reporting gun buys

Purchase by someone on terror watch list would alert police

From Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey introduced legislation Tuesday that would require the Justice Department to tell law enforcement officials when someone on a terrorism watch list buys a gun.

The Justice Department says the Brady gun control law prevents it from sharing information about successful transactions by suspects on its watch list -- or anyone else. The department says the law allows it to report attempted purchases only.

Government sources said 13 people named on the terrorism watch list have tried to buy guns, but the sources would not say how many of those attempts were successful.

Law enforcement officials point out that not everyone on the watch list is a terrorist and that any purchases the officials would be informed of would be legal.

What's more, they said, they are bound to work within the framework of the background-check system.

Some critics suggest the Justice Department is being overly strict in its interpretation of the Brady gun control law, which mandates background checks for those buying handguns.

Justice officials said the law does not allow personal information about gun buyers to be shared with law enforcement agencies.

"It flies in the face of everything John Ashcroft has said about fighting the war on terrorism," one law enforcement official said.

Lautenberg, a longtime gun control advocate, said he was perplexed by the Justice Department's position.

"I know the Bush administration has an extremist view of gun rights, but I never would have imagined that the attorney general would be taking specific steps to protect the rights of terrorists to obtain guns," Lautenberg said in a statement.

He wants the Justice Department to tell law enforcement agencies when and where each gun is bought.

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