Donald Trump and Senate Democrats may have something in common in the terrorism debate: they both want to block suspected terrorists from acquiring guns.
The idea was considered by the Senate in December when a Democratic amendment to let the attorney general block a person from buying a gun if there's a “reasonable belief” the firearm will be used in connection with terrorism was rejected by 54 out of 55 Republicans. On Monday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democrats reignited the push to approve that measure after a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Asked in November on ABC's "This Week" if people on an FBI terror watch list should be allowed to buy a gun, Trump responded, “If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it's an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.”
Reached by phone on Monday, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee still holds that position. “I don't think it's changed,” he said. “I haven't seen anything contrary to it.”
However, Trump does not back the legislative solution offered by the Senate Democrats' amendment, saying that such cases were already covered by the law. In the same November interview, Trump said he's a “big, big, really big proponent of the Second Amendment” and “if people are on a watch list or people are sick, you have already—this is already covered in the legislation that we already have.” In fact, current federal law allows people on the FBI watch list to buy a gun.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, was not on any list when he purchased the weapons for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured at a gay nightclub. But he was on a list in 2013, until the FBI completed an investigation into his potential ties to terrorists, according to director James Comey. No alerts were triggered when Mateen purchased the weapons, Comey added.
Trump's hesitation to support gun rights for those flagged for potential terror links appears contrary to Senate Republicans, who cited due-process concerns in rejecting the measure in December. Forty-four Democrats and Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois voted for it; the only Democrat who opposed it was Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
If the measure were to pass, “the government, without due process, can take away from you valuable constitutional rights,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican, said at the time. “And they happen to be Second Amendment rights without notice and the opportunity to be heard.”
On Monday, Democrats made the case for bringing up that proposal again.
“Mass shootings are the status quo,” Schumer said, lamenting that “Congress has voted against sensible gun legislation” on numerous occasions. “We are going to make a renewed effort to close the terror gap.”
“We believe that closing this loophole is just common sense and it's the least we could do to reduce the risk of terror attacks in our country,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and author of the amendment.
In a speech Monday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for restricting the ability of suspected terrorists to buy a gun.
“If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn't be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked,” she said. “If you're too dangerous to get on a plane, you're too dangerous to buy a gun.”
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