A bill that Rep. Peter King first proposed in 2007 to bar anyone on the federal terrorist no-fly list from buying guns has become the center of a partisan battle in Congress after the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last week.
The measure introduced by King (R-Seaford) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would prohibit those on a terrorist watch list, including people barred from boarding commercial airliners, from buying weapons. The ACLU estimates 10,000 Americans would be affected.
In the past week, Senate Republicans twice have rebuffed Democrats’ efforts to pass the bill — by blocking a floor vote on it Tuesday and voting it down as an amendment last week.
In an attempt to bring the bill to a vote Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “As we learn more about the suspects, it’s becoming clear that San Bernardino is a sad but shocking reminder of what needs to be done to address what’s becoming known as the terror gap.”
Schumer urged lawmakers to pass “the most commonsense proposal to bar individuals on the terrorist watch list from being able to legally get a gun.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) blocked the vote. He called the bill “an outrageous proposition” that would strip Americans of their constitutional right to own a gun without due process, based on secret government lists that erroneously include people without ties to terrorism.
“If these people truly are dangerous, why isn’t the Obama administration taking them to court?” Cornyn asked.
In the House, Republican leaders will not allow King’s bill to come to the floor, so Democrats this week began pursuing a rarely successful maneuver to force a vote.
”This is a glaring lapse in our national security,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington). “It should be simple — if you’re on the terror watch list, you just shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”
King said his bill is being used as a political football. He said he has introduced it in every House session since 2007 but neither party paid much attention to it — until last week.
He said he would vote for his bill but won’t join Democrats’ efforts to bring it to the floor and doubts they’ll succeed.
King said the San Bernardino terrorists would not have been stopped — they weren’t on a watch list. He takes the Republican view that Democrats are trying to distract from President Barack Obama’s ISIS strategy.
King also pointed out the irony of Democrats suddenly backing a bill that originated with President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, and of Cornyn bolstering his arguments by quoting The New York Times and the ACLU, which has a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the watch lists.
“I’m not even paying attention to this confrontation,” King said.