WASHINGTON - People named on the government's terrorism watch list have purchased firearms hundreds of times since 2004, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday.

U.S. lawmakers requested the audit to show how people on the watch list can be stopped from boarding airplanes but not from buying guns.

Under federal law, licensed firearms dealers must request an FBI background check for each buyer but cannot legally stop a purchase solely because someone is on the watch list.

The study found that people on the list purchased firearms 865 times in 963 attempts over a five-year period ending in February.

Those who were denied gun purchases were disqualified for other reasons, such as a felony conviction or a drug violation.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) and Robert C. Scott (D., Va.) released the study. Citing a "terror gap," Lautenberg introduced legislation to give the U.S. attorney general authority to stop the sale of guns or explosives to terrorists.

"The special interest gun lobby has so twisted our nation's laws that the rights of terrorists are placed above the safety of everyday Americans," Lautenberg said in a statement.

Chris W. Cox, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist, said many people were placed on the watch list erroneously.