On Monday, the Senate voted down four proposed pieces of gun legislation from both Republican and Democratic senators, which sought to achieve two main goals: expanding background checks and placing restrictions on people's ability to purchase firearms if they are or have been on the terrorist watch list. On Thursday, the Senate is expected to vote on another proposal that makes it harder for terrorist suspects to buy guns. This gun control compromise bill seeks to address criticisms of previous proposals from both the left and right.
Though both Republicans and Democrats support the broader idea of putting barriers in place for people on the terror watch list, they disagree on how to go about it. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein put forth a proposal to empower the Justice Department to prevent anyone on the terrorism watch list from purchasing a gun. The bill was voted down, roughly along party lines. Republican opponents, reported the Los Angeles Times, believe the legislation failed to provide protections for people who were wrongly placed on the watch list.
That concern was reflected in the bill proposed by Republican Sen. John Cornyn, which would have given investigators 72 hours to prove that someone on the watch list is connected to terrorist activities; if investigators could not prove that, then the individual would be allowed to purchase a gun. The Washington Post reported that Democrats were concerned that the time limit outlined in Cornyn's proposal doesn't allow enough time for a thorough investigation.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins is hoping to break through the gridlock on keeping guns out of the hands of terrorist suspects — a goal both parties share, though they differ in their approaches. Collins' compromise bill would limit the number of people barred outright from buying guns to those on the "No Fly" list, and those flagged for extra scrutiny by security officials.
The proposal includes an appeals process that individuals could go through if they believe they have wrongly been placed on these lists. Concerning those on the broader watch list, and anyone who's been on that list over the past five years: they would be able to purchase guns, but the FBI would be alerted to the purchase.
By reducing the number of people subjected to outright denial of gun purchases and incorporating an appeals process, Collins hopes to assuage some of her Republican colleagues' concerns. And by including the outright denial of purchases to at least some people suspected of terrorist activities, she aims to appeal to Democrats' eagerness to pass legislation making it harder for guns to get in the wrong hands.
In order for Collins' compromise bill to pass, it will need 60 senators behind it. Whether it addresses concerns on the right and left to garner sufficient bipartisan support is something to look out for on Thursday.