- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Senators announced a bipartisan plan Tuesday to deny gun sales to those on the FBI’s heightened screening lists, trying to carve a middle path between the extremes that have dominated the debate so far.

Those who are on either the no-fly list or the heightened screening list would be prevented from buying firearms, though they would have a chance to go to court to challenge their listing. Some 109,000 names appear on the combined no-fly and heightened screening lists, of which only about 2,700 are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

“All of us are united in our desire to getting something significant done on this vital issue,” said Sen. Susan Collins, who led the group of nine lawmakers — four Republicans, four Democrats and one independent — in reaching the consensus.

They’ll have to convince colleagues on both sides.

Democratic leaders want the banned list to include some million names on the Terrorist Screening Database, an FBI-maintained list of people for whom they’ve obtained some derogatory information.

Republicans leaders say that list is riddled with errors, and wanted a much smaller list. They also wanted to force the FBI to have three days to make a case against a gun purchase or else the sale would go through.

The Collins compromise is more limited than Democrats want. But it bucks the GOP by putting the judicial burden on the purchaser to make the case for buying a gun, rather than the FBI to make a case rejecting it.

The coalition included Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Bill Nelson of Florida and Tim Kaine of Virginia; Maine independent Sen. Angus King; and Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

On Monday the Senate stalemated on competing proposals, with none of them reaching the 60 votes needed to advance.

Democratic leaders were vicious in their denunciations after the votes, saying the GOP supported putting guns in the hands of Islamic State terrorists. Republicans called for a cooler approach, saying the Democratic proposals would have been struck down by courts because they denied Americans their Second Amendment rights without due process.

Mr. Graham said the new compromise puts the burden where it should be, and said inconveniencing the 2,700 U.S. persons who might see their Second Amendment rights delayed is a small price to pay for stopping another attack.

“If we can’t pass this, it truly is a broken system up here,” he said.

The Democrats who were part of the compromise said they would still support broader background checks, but said they were willing to accept this interim step now.

Mr. Nelson, who represents Florida, where this month’s terrorist shooting took place, said Ms. Collins’ bill and Democrats’ proposal were similar: The Democratic proposal would cover some 2,500 more American persons than the Collins plan.

He also praised Mrs. Collins for including a look-back provision that would alert the FBI if someone who was once on the list tries to buy a firearm. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, had been on FBI lists in 2013 and 2014 but was removed after the FBI was unable to make a case against him.

Ms. Collins said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to give her proposal a vote on the chamber floor, but she will struggle to win GOP leaders’ backing. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Ms. Collins’ plan would still put an unconstitutional burden on Americans’ rights.

The White House was noncommittal on the Collins proposal, but press secretary Josh Earnest said the only reason Ms. Collins was working on a compromise in the first place is because Democrats took a stand against GOP leaders’ plans.

He said Mrs. Collins’ proposal “would water down” the Democrats’ solution, but said administration officials are still studying it.

“If we concluded it would have a positive impact and at least prevent some suspected terrorist from being able to buy a gun then it seems likely something that the administration would be able to support, but you know we’re going to take a look at the details of this,” Mr. Earnest said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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