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Senate Dems renew gun control push in wake of Orlando massacre

Senate Dems renew gun control push in wake of Orlando massacre
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Senate Democrats are making a new push for legislation that would bar suspected terrorists from buying guns, a proposal that 53 of 54 Senate Republicans opposed last year.

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Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (N.Y.), the Democrats’ chief political strategist, and several colleagues on Monday held a conference call with reporters, one day after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., to revive the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015.

“In terms of terrorism, this is the most effective piece of legislation we can pass,” Schumer told reporters. 

He added it has a greater chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate than a ban on assault-style, semi-automatic rifles or high-capacity ammunition clips.

“We want to get something done,” he added.

“In the wake of Orlando, we have to think about what kind of country and what kind of Senate we’re going to be,” Schumer told reporters on the call. “Are we going to bow down to the [National Rifle Association] NRA so that suspected terrorists can get their hands on guns? Or are we going to take the painfully obvious, common-sense step and make sure that suspected terrorists can’t get guns?”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (D-Calif.), would prohibit people on the terror watch list from purchasing guns or explosives anywhere in the United States. Such individuals are currently barred from boarding airplanes.

“We believe closing this loophole is just common sense, and it’s the least we could do to reduce the risk of terror attacks on our country,” she said.

The legislation came to the floor in December after last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 people dead. One of the shooters in that massacre, Syed Rizwan Farook, had communicated through social media with extremists under government surveillance, The Associated Press reported last year.

Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (Ill.), a moderate facing a tough reelection this year, was the only Republican to cross party lines to support it. Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE (N.D.) was the only Democrat to oppose it.

But it’s not clear that the legislation, had it become law, would have prevented Omar Mateen from killing 49 people over the weekend at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Mateen was on the terror watch list in 2013 and 2014 when the FBI was investigating him about possible terrorist ties but subsequently removed after the probe closed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Supporters of the bill acknowledge that Mateen would not have been stopped from buying an assault rifle because of the proposed ban covering suspects on the no-fly list, but argue other provisions of the Feinstein legislation might have prevented him from purchasing firearms.

A Senate Democratic aide pointed to a provision giving Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her successors broad discretion to deny the transfer of a firearm if they have “reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism."

The bill, which was first proposed by the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush in 2007, would allow a person who is barred from buying a gun to learn the reason for the decision and appeal it administratively and then through a lawsuit. The Justice Department, however, could withhold the rationale for denying a gun purchase if disclosing information might compromise national security.