Reacting to the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, allegedly by a self-proclaimed ISIS sympathizer, Senate Democrats plan to push legislation once again to keep people on the federal government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democratic senators said the Orlando attack had motivated Democrats to bring back the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015,” a bill Democrats had tried and failed to pass in December after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.
“We will find a way to bring this to a vote,” Schumer said Monday. “This is the first thing we are going to attempt because it is the most relevant.”
According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the legislation would allow the attorney general to block individuals suspected of having terrorist ties from buying a gun. The legislation also includes an appeals process for those individuals who may argue they were wrongly targeted.
“Our priority this week should be this terrorist gap measure because it is linked so directly to the issue of terrorism and extremist violence in this nation and abroad,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said during the call.
According to reports, the alleged gunman in Orlando, Omar Mateen, purchased an AR-type rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol legally despite the fact he had been questioned twice by the FBI. There was no open investigation at the time he bought the guns. Mateen was not on the watch list at the time and it is not clear that this bill would have prevented him from purchasing guns.
Short of re-instituting an assault weapons ban, which Republican have repeatedly rebuffed, Democrats view this legislation as the most straightforward way to stop terrorism-related gun violence. Democrats also point out that the bill was written and supported by the George W. Bush administration in 2007, a fact they hope will convince Republicans to join them on the vote. And, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has also shown an openness to the law. In an interview on ABC’s This Week in November,Trump said “if somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state, and we know it’s an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.”
Schumer pointed out that he believed the bill “has the greatest chance of passing” and “we want to get something done.”
In December, the last time it came up for a vote, the legislation failed on a party-line vote, with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voting against it and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) voting for it.
“I would like to try again. I hope we will try again as an amendment,” Feinstein said during an appearance on MSNBC Monday. “We need the American people to support his.”