WASHINGTON – One day after several partisan gun control bills failed in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., on Tuesday joined with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to offer another proposal: denying those on the federal no-fly list the right to buy firearms.
“If you’re too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun,” Collins told reporters Tuesday.
Heinrich called it a “straightforward, common-sense” proposal.
“It’s time to start putting progress in front of politics,” Heinrich said. “I think we’re all heartsick at the kind of terrible ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling we have as we’ve seen shooting after shooting in this country. It should not be complicated. If you are on the no-fly list, you really shouldn’t be buying a gun. I say that as a gun owner myself.”
Collins said she and Heinrich worked feverishly over the weekend to fine-tune the legislation, adding that they exchanged at least 30 phone calls and text messages about the bill between Maine and New Mexico.
Unlike Monday’s failed votes on legislation to close the gun show loophole and prevent those on the federal terror watch list from purchasing guns, the Collins-Heinrich legislation introduced Tuesday – dubbed “No Fly, No Buy” – could get some traction on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a conservative South Carolina Republican, said Tuesday that he supports the bill, and Collins said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised a floor vote as soon as next week.
Democrats in Congress are pressing hard for additional gun control measures in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando this month in which a man who claimed allegiance to Islamic State killed 49 people at a nightclub and injured dozens. Most Republicans and the powerful National Rifle Association have opposed the Democratic efforts, citing the Second Amendment right to own guns. They’ve also accused Democrats of trying to shift the blame for the massacre from an ineffective strategy against terrorism to firearms.
Democrats supporting the Collins-Heinrich bill include Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he is still considering the legislation, and other Democrats have suggested the bill may not go far enough. But some Republicans, including Collins, Graham and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, are joining the Democrats’ call for at least limited action by Congress.
“Surely the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando that took so many lives are a call for compromise, a plea for bipartisan action,” Collins told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
The Collins-Heinrich bill targets those on the “no-fly” list. It also would flag potential gun buyers who are on a secondary security screening list that prompts extra scrutiny when those people try to fly. Those two lists of people – totaling about 110,000 names – make up a much smaller group of potentially dangerous individuals than those targeted in the failed Democratic-backed legislation, which could have prohibited approximately 1 million people on the government’s full terror watch list from buying guns.
The Collins-Heinrich bill also would provide an appeals process for those denied a gun purchase. They could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals and recover attorneys’ fees if they prevailed.
Graham – a longtime supporter of the NRA – said he supports the bipartisan bill “because it makes sense.”
The NRA told the Journal on Tuesday that it will oppose the legislation.
“No one wants terrorists to have legal or illegal access to firearms,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s legislative lobbying group. ” Keeping guns from terrorists while protecting the due process rights of law-abiding citizens are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, Sen. Collins and others are focusing their efforts on unconstitutional proposals that would not have prevented the Orlando terrorist attack.”