Moderate Republican offers compromise on gun control

Greg Nash

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a prominent Senate Republican moderate who has helped put together major bipartisan deals in the past, has proposed compromise legislation to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. 

She is working with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), one of the chamber’s most endangered Senate GOP incumbents, as well as Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

{mosads}The proposal would prohibit the sale of guns to terror suspects whose names appear on either the federal no-fly list or the so-called “selectee” list, which requires them to under go additional screening at airports.

Omar Mateen, the shooter who killed 49 people at a popular nightclub in Orlando last weekend, was on the selectee list for 10 months, according to federal officials.

And her legislation includes a five-year “look-back” provision to raise a red flag if someone who has recently been removed from either list buys a gun. 

“If an individual who had been on either the no-fly list or the selectee list within the last five years purchases a gun, the FBI would be immediately notified,” said Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins.

Once alerted, the FBI could begin surveillance of that person.

Collins told reporters this week that her legislation is more narrowly tailored than a competing measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) that would prohibit a broader class of suspected terrorists from buying guns and explosives. 

Collins argues Feinstein’s proposal would cover people whose names have been submitted to authorities by tipsters but who have not necessarily been investigated to determine the validity of alleged suspicious behavior. 

“If you look at their language, they are using the terrorist screening database that is maintained by the FBI that has more than 1 million records and tens of thousands of Americans,” she said.

She noted that to be entered into the screening database “all you need is for someone to report some derogatory information” and that “it is not necessarily investigated or verified or confirmed.”

To put someone on the no-fly or selectee list, federal authorities must find credible evidence that he or she is somehow involved in terrorist activity.

Collins’s plan would allow those blocked from buying a firearm a route to appeal the decision. Successful appeals would require the government to pay for attorney’s fees, according to her spokeswoman.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled votes on four other gun proposals for Monday, including the Feinstein bill and an alternative sponsored by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas.

The Cornyn measure would empower the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from obtaining a gun for up to 72 hours to give the Justice Department time to investigate the prospective buyers and secure a court order stopping the transfer.

Any person investigated for possible terrorist ties within the past five years could be delayed from acquiring a firearm.

Also on Monday’s schedule are a Democratic proposal to expand background checks and an amendment sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would increase funding for the National Instant Background Check system and provide incentives to increase sharing of mental health records.

It’s not clear any of the four amendments, which have been offered to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, will be able to clear the 60-vote threshold to pass.

Collins said she wants to avoid a replay of what happened in December, when proposals sponsored by Feinstein and Cornyn to block suspected terrorists from acquiring guns failed.

“I don’t want Groundhog Day here,” she said. “I don’t want us to go through the same thing we went through last year with no result.”

Jordain Carney contributed. 

Tags Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein Gun control Jeff Flake John Cornyn Kelly Ayotte Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Susan Collins

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