Under existing federal law, legal firearms purchases are checked with the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which runs record checks through the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Part of the NCIC database checks the FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File for individuals with gang or terrorism records.
The FBI unit responsible for background checks on gun purchases does provide leads to the FBI about some high priority terrorism suspects; but that watch list is not inclusive of everyone the government may have concerns about.
Although an FBI background check was run on Carlos Bledsoe, the FBI counterterrorism investigators working his case were apparently unaware and never informed of his purchase.
At a June 2009 Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III explained the current notification system. "We are notified when there is a -- appears to be a purchase of somebody who is affiliated with a terrorist group," said Mueller. "But that is different than barring that individual from the outset from purchasing a weapon. But again, I have to defer to the Department of Justice in terms of the policy position that it is going to take on that issue."
Asked about Sen. Lautenberg's proposed legislation, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "The Department is committed to doing everything within its power to keep firearms out of the hands of persons who may intend to use those weapons to commit terrorist acts. To the extent Congress wishes to provide the Department with additional tools that would improve the status quo, we remain committed to working with them to achieve that goal."