House Leaders Remain in Corners on Gun Control Fight

Ryan, Pelosi differ over guns for people on terror watch lists

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to ban people on terror watch lists from buying guns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to ban people on terror watch lists from buying guns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:09pm

While senators have reached a bipartisan agreement to hold votes on gun control proposals in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting , House leaders have not moved from their corners toward any such compromise.   

In the days since 49 people were killed and 53 injured after a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, House Democrats have been calling on Congress to take steps to ensure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands.   

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The Democrats have floated multiple gun control proposals but the one they are primarily pushing is a bill to prevent people who are on the no-fly terrorist watch list from being able to purchase guns.   

Asked about that Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan gave a long-winded answer that boiled down to this: “I would simply say, there are other factors in this that need to be dealt with.”  

The Wisconsin Republican said going after Second Amendment rights is not the solution. “We need to make sure we’re focusing on the real issue here, which is terrorism, the fact that people are becoming radicalized and committing these horrible acts of terrorism in our country,” he said.   

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the “no fly, no buy” bill does not infringe on people’s right to bear arms but just provides a necessary limit, like standards attached to several other constitutional rights.  

“That’s not curtailing the Second Amendment at all,” the California Democrat said.   

Regarding the no-fly list ban specifically, Ryan reiterated his long-held view that the proposal infringes on the constitutional right to due process because it doesn’t provide protections for people who may have ended up on the list mistakenly . He also argued that current law requires the authorities to be alerted when someone on the terrorist watch list attempts to purchase a firearm.   

“Take a look at what happens right now with the FBI,” he said. “If a person is on a terrorist watch list, law enforcement is supposed to be notified if they’re trying to buy a gun or not. That’s the way it’s supposed to work right now.”  

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One of the problems with the law at the moment, Pelosi said, is that the authorities are not alerted when someone who was on the terrorist watch list but later removed seeks to buy a gun. She said Democrats have been looking to change that even before the Orlando shooting, where the gunman had been previously questioned by the FBI but was not on its watch list when he purchased his weapons.   

Specifically, Pelosi’s proposal calls for the FBI to be alerted when anyone it has been watching buys a gun, but she’s not proposing that those sales be blocked.  

Ryan was asked if someone who had previously had been on the terrorist watch list should still have that information show up in their background check.  

“I think that’s a fair question,” he said. “We need to dig into the bottom of this particular case and to see if refinements on how they adjudicate these cases work with respect to terror watch lists … to make sure that if any mistakes were made, that they’re not to be repeated.”  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson
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