While Senate Democrats may have wowed many with their support of a sudden 15-hour filibuster, prospects of gun control legislation being passed by the Senate remain dim.
After Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) ended his surprising filibuster and called for Congress “to end its silence on gun violence,” senators began to work on crafting a compromise bill. Moderate Republicans such as Pat Toomey (R-PA) talked with Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety organization about crafting a gun-control bill, though those talks collapsed on Wednesday night.
However, there remains a significant gap between the impositions which Democrats would like put on guns and what Republicans are willing to accept. Much of the current debate around gun control is now focusing on what some are calling a “terror gap.”
The Terrorist Watch List
The “terror gap,” as The Guardian notes, is the problematic idea that individuals can purchase firearms even while they are under investigation for potential terrorist ties. Omar Mateen, the shooter behind Saturday’s massacre in Orlando, was under investigation by the FBI for terrorist leanings. However, the investigation was eventually closed and he purchased a gun afterwards.
Gun control advocates are indignant about the idea that suspected terrorists could be allowed to purchase firearms. Hillary Clinton tweeted a few days that “If you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun in America.” Donald Trump even talked with the NRA about supporting legislation banning terrorist watch list members about buying legislation, and the Republican presidential candidate has indicated that he supports such measures.
But while some Republicans support such legislation, other conservatives decry it as an assault on civil rights. The argument against closing the terror gap is that anyone can be placed on the terrorist watch list if federal agencies agree. This has led to embarrassing incidents such as singer Cat Stevens and former Senator Ted Kennedy being placed under questioning for potential links to terrorism.
Conservatives believe that closing the terror gap would allow the federal bureaucracy to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to guns without a trial, something which they hold to be unconstitutional. The National Review claimed that a no buy list “would allow the government to silently infringe on the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens based on clandestine proceedings before a secret court.”
But while Republicans may be opposed to broad gun control legislation, this has not stopped members from proposing legislation. Politico reports that Republicans and Democrats have proposed gun-related measures and the senate intends to vote on them Monday. However, all four measures are likely to fail.
Two of the measures are related to expanding background checks. One is supported by Senator Murphy, while the other is supported by Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
But the more controversial measures relate to handling the terror gap. Democrats are backing a measure by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which would let the attorney general block a gun sale if they have a suspicion the buyer could participate in a terrorist attack.
The Republican proposal will be introduced by John Cornyn (R-TX). Cornyn’s proposal would allow the attorney general to delay terrorist watch list members or individuals who have been investigated for terrorism in the past five years from getting a gun for 72 hours.
While those two bills will be discussed on the senate floor, other senators are working on their proposals. Senator Toomey is proposing a compromise which would let the attorney block watch list members from buying a gun and delay anyone not on the list for three days. However, Toomey’s bill is unlikely to make it into the senate floor as both sides of the aisle have stated their disagreements with the legislation.
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