With New Gun-Control Proposal, GOP Senators Clash With NRA

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Senators Unveil Bipartisan Gun Proposal
Republican Susan Collins announced the measure on Tuesday.Photo: Mark Wilson/2016 Getty Images

When lawmakers rejected four partisan gun-control measures on Monday, Senator Chris Murphy, who led a 15-hour filibuster to force a vote on the measures in the first place, called the Senate’s failure to agree on legislation proof of the NRA’s “vice-like grip.” But a new bipartisan effort, spearheaded by GOP senator Susan Collins, is reportedly gaining traction, and a handful of Republicans have expressed their support for the proposal despite the NRA’s vocal objections.

Collins’s bill, which is more restrictive than those proposed by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy and more sweeping than either proposed by Republican senators John Cornyn and Charles Grassley, would allow the attorney general to ban sales of guns to people who appear either on the government’s no-fly list or on a “selectee” list, members of which require additional screening at airports. 

Federal authorities would be notified if anyone on either list going back five years purchased a gun, and the FBI would then put that individual under surveillance — the measure would’ve assured authorities were at least alerted to the fact that the Orlando gunman had purchased a weapon. In an appeal to Republicans, it would also give people who are wrongfully put on the list a chance to appeal the attorney general’s ruling.

If you are too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun,” Collins said Tuesday as she revealed the terms of the bill. “Surely the terrorists attacks in San Bernardino and in Orlando that took so many lives are a call for compromise,” she added.

Although many remain skeptical, her measure — which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday — is gaining traction among some Republicans. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire all co-sponsored the bill, and sponsors reportedly estimate that at least seven more GOP senators will support it. Senator David Purdue of Georgia said he was “hopeful” he’d be able to back the bill, and its co-sponsors are reportedly trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to joint the cause. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to schedule a vote for the measure, and one lawmaker said McConnell will “not be dictated to” by the NRA.

Graham spoke directly to the NRA as he expressed his support for the bill:

To my friends at the NRA, I understand your concern about denying somebody the right to buy a gun … but every right has boundaries on it,” he said. “The likelihood of someone being on this list and buying a gun to use it in a terrorist act to me is far greater than the likelihood of an innocent person being on this list. We can fix the problem with the innocent person. Once the gun’s bought, you don’t fix that.”

The NRA, however, was not swayed. “No one wants terrorists to have legal or illegal access to firearms,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, Senator Collins and others are focusing their efforts on unconstitutional proposals that would not have prevented the Orlando terrorist attack.”