A group of moderate senators from both parties came together Tuesday to introduce a measure to bring increased scrutiny to those on certain watch lists when buying guns.
The plan comes the day after four gun control amendments were swatted away in party-line votes on the Senate floor. These included a no fly/no buy proposal from California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed by Democrats and a GOP measure by Texas Sen. John Cornyn to increase delay times for those on watch lists to buy firearms.
The compromise aims to find a middle ground that at least 60 senators can agree on for passage and is backed by Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona as well as North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp among others.
Flake took the Senate floor Tuesday morning to herald the legislation and argue nearly a dozen lists used to bring extra surveillance on potential terrorists, when applied to the possible denial of a Second Amendment protection, cover too wide a spectrum.
“The problem is with the broader watch list — that there was an amendment on last night — this is a broad watch list with more than a million people with bits and pieces of information from many of our intelligence agencies. It isn’t really designed for this purpose,” Flake said. “So what we’ve done with this compromise piece of legislation is taken the No Fly List as well as what’s called the Selectee List, which is a slightly broader list of those who are allowed to fly but are retained for additional screening.”
Flake holds that these lists are much smaller and more focused and, under the new bipartisan proposal, gun purchasers who find themselves so enumerated could have their firearms transfers blocked by the Attorney General but would be given “robust due-process protections as well” to challenge the denial with an assumption of innocence.
The lists the proposal would draw from currently comprise 109,000 total persons, of which 2,700 are Americans.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, gun control advocates said they were open to working with any lawmaker who wanted to take action, including those across the aisle. While they didn’t take an official position on the new compromise, they were receptive to the efforts of Collins.
“We value Sen. Collins’ leadership on the efforts this week, she’s been tireless and also recognizing the ineffectiveness and unworkability of the Cornyn amendment and has been working very hard in an honorable fashion to try and find a solution to find bipartisan support,” Brina Milikowsky, Chief Strategy Officer for Everytown, told Guns.com.
Those in the gun rights camp urged due diligence on the proposal and cautioned about the use of any secretive no fly list when applied to civil rights.
“It appears to be a step in the right direction. However, the devil is always in the details,” Second Amendment Foundation Executive Director Alan Gottlieb told Guns.com. “In addition, the no fly list is such a mess that thousands of people are on it that should not be. My concern is that some people who have gone to court to get off the list have been stuck in the legal process, due to government obstruction, for eight to nine years. That is not acceptable.”
A vote could come in the Senate on the measure as early as this week.
House moves forward
Meanwhile, Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., introduced a separate no fly/no buy bill to the House on Tuesday. Under the framework of his proposal, a person on the FBI watch list would be prohibited from purchasing a firearm and notified of their status on the list. Jolly’s bill would mandate a private due process hearing before a federal judge within 30 days during which they would be shown all unclassified evidence against them.
“Past ‘no fly, no buy’ proposals in Congress have repeatedly failed because they have provided no Constitutional due process protections for American citizens denied their Second Amendment protections as a result of being wrongfully or mistakenly on the list,” said Jolly in a statement. “So let’s simply fix this flawed proposal and do right by the American people.”