Please contact your US Senators today!
FULL LIST AT SENATE.GOV HERE
Senate Democrats ended a filibuster that ran for more than 14 hours as word spreads that key Republican senators agreed to consider new gun-control legislation as amendments to the upcoming spending bill. The use of mental health records as part of background checks are expected to be voted on as well as a “no-fly, no-buy” policy for people on terrorist watch lists.
Legislators have been calling for increased gun control for several years especially in the wake of prominent shootings, however, it’s not likely that these additions to existing gun control law would have had any effect on them. Still, they are perceived as easy fixes and have bipartisan support. Other legislators and the president are still calling for “assault weapons” bans as well as magazine capacity limits.
The vote on new national gun control could take place as early as today, limiting the amount of time for voters to engage with their representatives on the matter. Politico reports that that the currently-proposed package is “doomed” although they also said that some Republican senators may agree to lesser gun control changes and are in favor of linking mental health records to federal NICS background checks. The mental health concession was proposed by Ted Cruz of Texas, said Politico.
Two Republican-sponsored bills have been proposed by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Cornyn’s proposal may have the support of the NRA. Toomey’s proposal is supposed to be all-new, not to be confused with his previously-unsuccessful gun control package. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Toomey is working with anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety.
“It’s time to get something done here,” said Toomey. “Everybody ought to be in agreement in principle: we don’t want terrorists to be able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, and we don’t want an innocent, law-abiding citizen to be denied second amendment rights because he’s wrongly on the list with a bunch of terrorists. This is not rocket science to figure this out.”
Toomey’s proposal is aimed at the so-called “terror gap,” and is expected to ban people flagged on federal watch lists from purchasing firearms legally. However, legislators on both sides of the aisle have criticized watch list restrictions, pointing out that they circumvent due process. The no-fly list has been put down over false-positive cases and the overall secret nature of the program. Gun rights and civil rights groups have knocked the list over its spotty track record and difficult appeals process.
The NRA-ILA has questioned the use of watch lists as a way to restrict gun sales. “The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period,” said executive director Chris W. Cox. “Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist,” said the National Rifle Association in a statement.
“At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed,” explains Cox.
Even Slate Magazine has come out against tying gun ownership to the no-fly list. “If the government can revoke your right to access firearms simply because it has decided to place you on a secret, notoriously inaccurate list, it could presumably restrict your other rights in a similar manner,” writes Mark Joseph Stern. “You could be forbidden from advocating for causes you believe in, or associating with like-minded activists; your right against intrusive, unreasonable searches could be suspended.”
Still, legislators are desperate to increase national gun control following years of failed attempts. “I can’t tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook, and tell them that—almost four years later—we’ve done nothing. Nothing at all,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who lead the filibuster.
Murphy ended the filibuster after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to come forward with votes for the two proposed bills.