A new bipartisan proposal to thwart terror suspects from buying guns might not be perfect, but a leading Democratic voice on gun issues says it already signals a change in course.
“I think you are seeing in real time the vise grip of the NRA loosening on this place. I think this is a watershed moment regardless of whether this gets to the finish line or not,” said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., of the proposal unveiled Tuesday afternoon by a bipartisan cadre of senators led by Republican Susan Collins of Maine.
Later in the day, the National Rifle Association weighed in, saying the senators “are focusing their efforts on unconstitutional proposals that would not have prevented the Orlando terrorist attack.”
“The American people want Congress to stop playing politics and pass policies that will keep them safe from terrorists,” NRA executive director Chris W. Cox said in a statement.
The White House and Justice Department are studying the proposal and have raised some concerns, but Murphy said it was his understanding those concerns were rather “technical.”
“You want to make sure that the FBI has the discretion, you know, to assure that individuals aren’t notified that they’re on the list if the FBI has an ongoing investigation,” said Murphy, the leader of last week’s filibuster on gun control. Murphy added that he viewed the Collins talk as a positive step.
A senior Democratic aide added that it appeared that Collins was working in good faith, and the question — if concerns with the Obama administration can be resolved — would be the extent to which members of the Republican conference come along.
But it was far too early to know if the talks would yield a product that could pass the Senate.
New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the no. 3 Democratic leader, said the Justice Department has raised concerns about the appeals process.
Schumer said Collins’ proposal would have the Court of Appeals decide in 14 days whether someone should be granted a gun, which Schumer argued was “virtually impossible if you know how Courts of Appeals work.”
Schumer said Senate Democrats have an additional concern that the proposal does not give the Justice Department the authority to deny sales to nearly 900,000 foreigners in the terrorist screening database.
Officially, the Obama administration is withholding support for the Collins-led bipartisan compromise gun control measure, saying White House and Justice Department lawyers are still studying it.
“If the assessment is that this would enhance the ability of our law enforcement professionals to keep us safe and prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing a gun, then that’s likely something that we’ll be able to support,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.