Nearly 900 people on the FBI’s terror watch list applied for and received a certificate to buy a gun in the United States between 2004 and 2009, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday. In all, some 90 percent of the people on the watch list who applied passed the required background check, said the report, which was requested by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey.

Gun-control activists say the report demonstrates potentially lethal flaws in gun laws. But gun-rights advocates counter that the terror list is perhaps a greater menace in itself. They see it as ripe for manipulation – allowing the government to tar people as terrorists when it is politically expedient to do so.

The FBI can halt the purchase of a gun by someone with a criminal conviction, so the 900 people in the GAO report “are people who have no criminal conviction, but they’re on this mystery list,” says Gary Kleck, author of “Stopping Power: Why 70 million Americans own guns.”

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