Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., returns to the chamber after leading Senate Democrats in offering a series of gun control amendments to the budget bill, which the GOP-controlled Senate voted against, Dec. 3, 2015. 
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

GOP blocks bill to stop terrorists from buying guns


Senate Republicans rejected a bill that aims to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, on Thursday.  The vote came a day after at least 14 people were killed during the San Bernardino massacre in California by two suspects, including a woman said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Forty-five senators voted for the bill and 54 voted against it. One Democrat, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, crossed party lines.

The measure would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to buy guns.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation, argued that former President George W. Bush initially proposed the legislation in 2007, and the Obama administration also supports it. 

“If you need proof that Congress is a hostage to the gun lobby, look no further than today’s vote blocking a bill to prevent known or suspected terrorists from buying guns and explosives,” she said. “Congress has been paralyzed by the gun lobby for years, while more and more Americans are killed in mass shootings. The carnage won’t stop until Congress finds the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and protect the nation.”

The NRA did not respond to a request on Friday for comment. But the gun rights lobby group told MSBC last month it wants to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the terrorist list are are afforded their constitutional right to due process.

However, the bill would allow people to legally challenge a denial by the Justice Department to purchase a firearm, if they believe they were mistakenly placed on the terrorist watchlist.

The GOP-controlled Senate refusal to pass new gun control measures came weeks after the Washington Post reported that suspected terrorists had successfully purchased more than 2,000 guns from American dealers between 2004 and 2014, even though law enforcement is notified whenever someone on the FBI’s watchlist attempts to purchase a firearm.

Also on Thursday, the Senate failed to pass another bill that would have expanded background checks to gun show and online firearms sales. The measure would also prevents convicted felons and the mentally ill from having access to weapons.

The four Republican senators who are running for president — Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham — all voted against both gun control measures. 

Jessica Mackler, president of the American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic group, blasted the presidential hopefuls, saying that Americans should “keep in mind how their representatives addressed gun violence: cowering in inaction in the face of repeated, senseless tragedies in our communities.”