WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats in favor of gun control are renewing their push after the Orlando nightclub attack for what Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls “in terms of terrorism… the most effective piece of legislation we can pass.”
“Those who create terrorism would want us to do nothing, and just paralyze ourselves and freeze. We don’t believe that. We believe we can stop. And in the wake of Orlando, we have to think of what kind of country and what kind of Senate are we going to be. Are we going to take the painfully obvious common steps, common- sense steps, and make sure that terrorists can’t get guns? Or are going to blow down to the NRA so that suspected terrorists can continue to get their hands son guns?” Schumer said on a conference call Monday with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
Schumer vowed “to finally close the terror gap once and for all” by resurrecting the post-San Bernardino attack bill to allow the attorney general “to deny the sale of a firearm to people on the terror watch list and people that DOJ suspected of being terrorists, who, if they had guns, could use them for terrorism.”
“Unfortunately, nearly every single member from the other side of the aisle sided with the NRA over the health and safety of the American people, and voted to block the bill. And now we’re living with the consequences of that vote,” the senator added. “Because Senator Feinstein’s carefully crafted legislation would have allowed the FBI to prevent Mr. Mateen from buying the — the guns he did. And, as we know, he bought them very recently, I believe, in the month of June.”
Omar Mateen was investigated twice by the FBI starting in 2013, and was on a terror watch list during that time but was removed after investigators deemed he wasn’t a risk.
The shooter had worked as a security guard since 2007 and had both a professional gun license for his job and a private-citizen gun license in the state of Florida. He bought a handgun and high-powered rifle a week apart shortly before Sunday’s attack, and the gun shop owner said he cleared the background checks and waiting period.
“If the FBI believes there’s a reasonable chance someone is going to use a gun in a terrorist attack, it should be able to make that determination and block the sale,” Schumer said. “…Mr. Mateen, it should have had the authority to act. It couldn’t. We’ll never know what could have been. Senate Republicans voted down Senator Feinstein’s bill that would allow the Department of Justice to deny the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists.”
Schumer said they may try adding the “terror gap” gun bill to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill on the Senate floor.
Feinstein said she spoke with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Monday and is “hopeful” he’ll back the bill.
“This bill that I’m proposing again was written by the Bush administration in 2007. And it would close a loophole. And one thing is that our laws are riddled with loopholes. There are currently nine categories of people who are prohibited from buying guns. And those categories include felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, among some others. But they do not include known or suspected terrorists,” Feinstein said.
She cited a Government Accountability Office study that found 2,265 people on the terror watch list bought guns between February 2004 and December 2015.
Schumer said in the bill there is “for those concerned with the rights of people, and we all are, a very quick and speedy appeals process.”
“We believe that our Republican colleagues are going to — unfortunately, circumstances are going to force them to see the light, and not just bow in obeisance to the NRA, who’s positions on this issue are just simply extreme,” he added.
Schumer said he believes in the constitutional right to bear arms, “but neither the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, any amendment is absolute.”
“And somehow the NRA thinks this one is absolute. And the great irony is many of our Republican colleagues who are hardline on rights or individual rights on this amendment, seem to blow those rights away on other amendments. Hardly consistent.”