Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has proposed legislation that goes a long way to securing firearms from suspected terrorists and adding a measure of safety to the people of the United States. The bill has barely survived a vote, but hasn’t received enough support to break the assured filibuster that would await any legislation that would any restrictions to firearm purchases.
In a procedural vote, the Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to scrap the plan by Republican Senator Susan Collins to prevent guns getting into the hands of people on two U.S. government terrorism watch lists.
Susan Collins’ bill received 52 votes, but it would take 60 to overcome a filibuster. This indicates that either 8 more Republican Senators would need to join the Democrats in support of this bill, or the bill won’t be able to move forward as it is.
What is the bill about?
On her Senate website, Susan Collins has a white paper (pdf, 1 page) that has the bill’s overview:
1. Gives the AG the authority to deny firearms sales to individuals who appear on the No Fly List or the Selectee List.
The problem with thee No Fly List and the Selectee List is that we don’t know who is on them. We also have no way of removing ourselves if we should happen to find ourselves placed on the list erroneously.
2. Provides a process for Americans and green card holders to appeal a denial in U.S. Court of Appeals and to recover their reasonable attorneys fees if they prevail.
You would have to go to the US courts of appeals (Wikipedia link)? Are you serious? How could the average person ever be able defend themselves against a mistaken claim before a US court of appeals. Even the United States district courts (Wikipedia link) seem an unlikely possibility for the average person.
3. Sets forth a procedure for protecting classified information during the appeal.
No real problem here as long as either the judge gets to evaluate the information or it isn’t admitted as evidence against you.
4. Protects ongoing FBI counter-terrorism investigations by giving the AG the discretion to allow gun sales to go forward to individuals covered by this Act.
Again, no problem here; though I doubt that this would ever be used. Discretion is one of the problems (as I understand it) with the No Fly List. Once a name is on the list, various people have the discretion to remove the name, but no one will do it. They seem to fear that if they remove a name it will be held against them, but if they don’t then they have nothing to worry about. If those dynamics are the case, the discretion to remove a name is worthless.
5. Includes a “look-back” provision that ensures prompt notification to the FBI if a person who has been on the broader Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) within the past five years purchases a firearm.
That seems only sensible.
Why can’t bill, or a repaired version of this bill, go forward?
We can’t lay all the blame on Republicans. While it is true that many of the Republican politicians receive support from the NRA – a group that hasn’t supported any gun control measures in recent decades – the Democratic legislators haven’t been willing to stand behind even the mildest forms of gun control that are supported by the vast majority of the American people.
From the above linked Reuters article, John Lewis (Wikipedia link) stated:
“It’s not a struggle that lasts for one day, or one week, or one month, or one year,” said Representative John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and a key figure in the civil rights protests of the 1960s. “We’re going to win the struggle,” said Lewis, who led the House sit-in.
And while that is a commendable statement from an inspirational and legendary political leader, the Democratic party hasn’t been following through with the idea. Every time gun violence reaches the public consciousness, it is only a matter of time before the news media moves on to the next story. And without the constant focus of the news media, the Democratic party moves on to other priorities as well.
As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said (Wikipedia link):
“Eventually this problem will get addressed again one of two ways: We find a breakthrough, which I will seek, or there will be another terrorist attack which will bring us right back to this issue. I hope we can do it without another terrorist attack,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who supported Collins.
It is important that the politicians stay focused on this bill if this bill is to have a chance. But the politicians won’t stay focused on the bill if their constituents forget all about it until the next attack comes. The NRA doesn’t have that problem. The NRA is laser focused on preventing new legislation and repealing (at least some) of the legislation that is already on the books. Until there are enough people with the same kind of focus on the present problem, sensible gun legislation will either not be achievable or will soon be repealed.