Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared today that a potential bipartisan compromise on no-fly list gun denials should be called the “Buck the NRA” bill.
“Republicans are going to have to make a choice, are they with the NRA or are they with the American people,” he said. “You can’t avoid it.”
Gun-related amendments to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act were rejected on cloture votes with a 60-vote threshold Monday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) measure to authorize the attorney general to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists failed 47-53. Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) compromise language failed 53-47. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) measure “to address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System” was rejected 53-47.
That prompted Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to take another stab at a compromise.
At a press conference today, the moderate Republican unveiled the measure with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Their Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016 would give the attorney general the authority to deny weapons to people on the no-fly list, but if the FBI fears a counterterrorism investigation could be ruined by the gun buyer’s discovery that they’re on a watch list the DOJ could allow the weapon sale to go forward.
It gives U.S. citizens and green-card holders a process by which to appeal denial of a gun sale in the U.S. Court of Appeals, with recovery of attorney fees if they prevail. It includes a “look-back” provision under which the FBI is notified if a person who has been on the broader Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) within the past five years purchases a firearm.
Outside of a closed policy luncheon for Senate Dems today, Schumer said there “may be a glimmer of hope” as Collins “seems to be making some steps to bring it closer to Senator Feinstein’s version.”
Schumer said he believed the bill would not just cover the no-fly and selectee lists, but “those who meet the standards of inclusions to the lists, giving the FBI more latitude to exclude those who might become terrorists and use guns in their dastardly acts.”
“We’ve just really gotten the language of Senator Collins’ bill and there is some potentially serious problems, fixable problems, but problems …Collins doesn’t give the Justice Department the authority to deny sales to nearly 900,000 foreigners in the terrorist screening database,” he said, adding that Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “has amendment to deal with that.”
“I’m sorry, many of these people would be get here by visa waiver, no check,” Schumer said. “Eight of the nine terrorists in Paris could have gotten here on visa waiver. They were from Belgium and France, what about that? …And to say that all that the court of appeals has to decide this in 14 days or the person gets a gun, virtually impossible if you know how court of appeals works.”
Schumer said it’s not surprising Collins took up the task because “in the past, she’s managed to break the — the only one to break with the Republicans.”
“She’s doing this in good faith, I salute her trying… Here’s the big question: How many Republicans will be willing to join her and buck the NRA and vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists? Will enough Republicans buck the NRA to pass it in the Senate? You need a whole lot, not four or five. Where are they going to be?”
Schumer added that “if we can accomplish this, this bill, the bipartisan bill that emerges could be called the Buck the NRA bill.”
“It’ll be the first time that in a bipartisan way with significant Republican support, the NRA was told ‘you’re way off-base,'” the top Dem said.
At his own presser, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Collins’ compromise: “We’re going to give her an opportunity to have a vote on that and see if that’s something people want to support.”
“The Democrats want to talk about anything but defeating ISIS,”said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “And want to take something which clearly was a terrorist attack in this country and make it a debate about something entirely different.”