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PolitiFact Fl: Buying Guns while on the Terror Watch List; Trump's Moroccan Border Problem

Is it Mexico... or Morrocco?

Can people on the FBI's terror watch list buy guns with impunity? And what's up with Donald Trump's first TV ad showing a border that's not what it appears to be? WUSF's Steve Newborn checks on the facts with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

Gun control is back in the news, with President Obama's recent move to bypass a reluctant Congress and try to tighten restrictions on buying weapons. There's a bill in the House that would keep people on the FBI terror watch list from buying guns, but the Republican majority isn't buying it.

Congressman Patrick Murphy, who's running for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, is joining other Democrats in pushing for tighter restrictions.

He recently tweeted a graphic, claiming that "91 percent of suspected terrorists who attempted to buy guns in America walked away with the weapon they wanted."


Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Watching the watch list The FBI maintains what is informally known as the terrorist watch list through its Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains a consolidated file of "those known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity." As you can imagine, some critics are uneasy about the government maintaining any sort of list designating people potential enemies of the state, but it’s generally considered a valuable tool for national security. The Democrats’ bill allows for cross-referencing the list while conducting a background check for a firearm purchase. The actual size of the list and who is on it is not public information, but we have estimates: In 2011, an FBI fact sheet said there were 420,000 people on the list. Current estimates have put the list at around 700,000. Since the database pulls information from U.S. and global agencies, only a relative handful — about 8,400 in 2011 and likely around 10,000 now — are American citizens or legal residents. Murphy’s stat comes from a March 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which examined how many people applying for gun purchases were run through the FBI’s instant background checks and also were on the watch list. Between February 2004 (when the FBI started keeping tabs on people on the list trying to buy guns) and December 2014, there were 2,233 people on the list who applied to buy a weapon. Of those, 2,043 were allowed to proceed, including three applications to buy explosives. That’s a bit more than 91 percent. There also have been some issues with the terror watchlist database in the past. A 2009 U.S. Justice Department audit showed that 35 percent of the people on the list were "associated with FBI cases that did not contain current international terrorist of domestic terrorism designations" and should have been removed from the list. There also are multiple entries for slight variations of the same name, which has previously led to people with the same name as a person on the watch list being stopped at airports, a problem that experts say has largely been resolved. Our ruling Murphy said, "91 percent of suspected terrorists who attempted to buy guns in America walked away with the weapon they wanted." His figure comes from a GAO report that showed a bit more than 91 percent of gun store weapons applications by people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list were approved. There are some caveats to the watch list, including past issues with who is included and why. The report also didn’t distinguish how many individuals are making these applications, or how many people on the watch list potentially buy firearms at gun shows. But experts have told us the report is both plausible and not altogether unsurprising, given how many guns Americans purchase. We rate Murphy’s statement Mostly True.

Next up, coming off his coronation for PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year," Donald Trump is back in the crosshairs of the fact-checkers.  Now the Donald has rocketed into first place in most polls from all that free media attention after one of his frequently outrageous statements, so he hasn't had much of a need for advertising. But check out his first TV ad:

But the image that's shown while the announcer's talking about that wall on the "southern border" isn't in Mexico - it's about 5,000 miles to the east.

Here's PolitiFact's ruling:


In a new television ad -- his campaign’s first -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shows footage of dozens of people swarming over a border fence. But the footage isn’t as it seems. About halfway through the ad, a narrator says of Trump, "He'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for." Video footage shows dozens of people streaming across the border, as if they were ants fleeing an anthill. The clear suggestion is that the footage is of the "southern border" between the United States and Mexico. But it’s not -- it’s 5,000 miles away, in a small Spanish enclave on the mainland of Morocco. PolitiFact was able to trace the footage back to the Italian television network RepubblicaTV. On May 3, 2014, the network posted footage of migrants crossing the border into Melilla, one of two enclaves on the Moroccan coast that are held by Spain. Migrants who cross the border there are essentially entering territory held by a European Union nation, even though they are still on the African continent. (It can also be seen posted by a YouTube user here.) Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said she did not know the source of the video included in the ad and that she doesn't speak for the video production company.  Our ruling Trump’s television ad purports to show Mexicans swarming over "our southern border." However, the footage used to support this point actually shows African migrants streaming over a border fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, more than 5,000 miles away. We rate the claim Pants on Fire. Trump's response:The Trump campaign released a statement to the media: "The use of this footage was intentional and selected to demonstrate the severe impact of an open border and the very real threat Americans face if we do not immediately build a wall and stop illegal immigration. The biased mainstream media doesn't understand, but Americans who want to protect their jobs and families do." NBC News reported that Trump campaign manager put it more colorfully: "Asked about the video, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC News, ‘No sh-- it's not the Mexican border, but that's what our country is going to look like. This was 1,000 percent on purpose.’ " The ad makes no such clarification, and we believe that most viewers -- in the context of the ad and Trump's past statements -- would conclude that it shows the U.S.-Mexico border, not a border in Africa. Our rating of Pants on Fire stands.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.