Days after America’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11, lawmakers in Washington are clashing over Democrat demands for more gun control.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a vocal gun control supporter, is leading a Senate filibuster in hopes of ending what he calls the “terror gap.” Murphy blocked consideration of a Senate spending bill in an effort to add language that would “prevent individuals on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List from purchasing guns—and to expand background checks,” according to a Wednesday press release.
I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can. I've had #Enough
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 15, 2016
Murphy was joined by more than a dozen Senate Democrats to filibuster the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. The hashtag “filibuster” was Wednesday’s No. 2 trending hashtag.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to file an amendment to the appropriations bill that would prevent anyone currently or previously on a terrorist watch list from purchasing a firearm.
Republicans objected to the Democrats’ demands, although some GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., were reportedly seeking a compromise.
Others rejected the Democrats’ demands as an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
“There isn’t one legislative proposal out there that would have stopped this killer from getting a gun,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “The Feinstein proposal relies on a government list known for inaccuracies. The no-fly list relies on unilateral decisions by the executive branch to put people on the list without notice or opportunity to be heard. It alone is not an acceptable basis on which to infringe on someone’s Second Amendment rights.”
Grassley agrees with Senate Democrats that something needs to change, but he argues stricter gun laws will not fix the issue because “the terrorist attacks in France have proven that even the toughest gun laws don’t stop terrorists.”
On Monday, Grassley wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, urging them to release specific information on Islamist terrorist Omar Mateen, who carried out the murder of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub Sunday.
In the letter, the Senate Judiciary chairman notes that “Mateen had been a ‘person of interest’ after making statements supporting several terrorist organizations before, was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013 and 2014, and was additionally on the radar of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Grassley has requested the Department of Homeland Security release information including Mateen’s criminal record (if any), watch lists he may have been placed on, the possible refugee status of Mateen’s family members, travel records to the Middle East, and if Mateen served as a government contractor for either the Department of Homeland Security or State Department.
“These are the kinds of reasonable questions and information that policymakers ought to have to determine if there is a role for Congress in strengthening the counterterrorism effort and fulfilling the role of Congress in providing oversight of government activities,” said James Carafano, vice president for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.
“This fight is about freedom. It’s not about guns.” —@ChuckGrassley
Because reports “indicate that Mateen had been investigated by federal authorities twice previously after allegedly espousing support for terrorist organizations,” according to Grassley, some question whether the Orlando massacre could have been prevented had law enforcement taken previous investigations of Mateen more seriously.
“When making judgments about whether U.S. law enforcement could or should have stopped an attack beforehand, if everything had been right, it really requires getting all the facts—knowing who exactly knew what and was done by law enforcement at the local, state, and federal level,” Carafano told The Daily Signal.
Grassley requested Johnson and Kerry reply no later than Friday.
While Democrats continue to press for action on guns, Grassley blames Islamist ideology.
“We need to make sure our law enforcement, military and intelligence communities have the tools to identify and apprehend terrorists before they commit their heinous acts. We must help by keeping our own eyes and ears open and reporting questionable activity to the authorities,” Grassley said.
“This fight is about freedom. It’s not about guns,” he added. “This fight is about our freedoms and ridding the world of an ideology of hate.”