Democrats press on for more gun con­trol

Trump sug­gests he sees their point Trump shat­ters po­lit­i­cal taboos in wake of Or­lando tragedy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI AND SETH MCLAUGH­LIN BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Brush­ing aside warn­ings that they will tip off ter­ror­ists to se­cret in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Democrats pressed ahead last Wed­nes­day with plans for new gun con­trols af­ter the Or­lando mass shoot­ing, and even en­listed an un­likely po­ten­tial ally — Don­ald Trump, who said he is open to a dis­cus­sion about ban­ning firearm sales to those on the gov­ern­ment’s no-fly list.

Sen. Christo­pher Mur­phy, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, launched a quasi-fil­i­buster on the Se­nate floor to draw at­ten­tion to the is­sue, say­ing Congress should stop its busi­ness un­til it votes to im­pose tighter gun con­trols.

“I’m pre­pared to stand on this floor and talk about the need for this body to come to­gether on keep­ing ter­ror­ists away from get­ting guns … for, frankly, as long as I can,” Mr. Mur­phy said. “I know that we can come to­gether on this is­sue.”

Af­ter an Is­lamist ter­ror­ist killed 49 peo­ple and wounded more than 50 in a gay Or­lando night­club over the week­end, both Democrats and Repub­li­cans are look­ing to “do some­thing” — and guns have be­come an ex­pe­di­ent tar­get.

Democrats have re­vived their leg­is­la­tion to use ter­ror­ist watch lists to vet would-be gun buy­ers, im­ply­ing that Omar Ma­teen, the Or­lando shooter, could have been kept from buy­ing the firearms he used in his ram­page.

Mr. Trump, the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, posted a Twit­ter mes­sage say­ing he would meet with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion to talk about the is­sue.

“I’m go­ing to be look­ing at it very, very se­ri­ously,” Mr. Trump said in an in­ter­view that aired evening on Fox News Chan­nel. “The ter­ror watch list and the no-fly list — I’m go­ing to be talk­ing to the NRA about that and start­ing a real dia­logue.”

But Repub­li­cans, who have said the lists are rid­dled with er­rors, got backup af­ter they re-re­leased com­ments from FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey, who told Congress last year that deny­ing guns based on the se­cret lists could ruin ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Mr. Comey, tes­ti­fy­ing to the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee last year, said his agents are flagged if some­one on a watch list buys a gun.

“It’s a lit­tle bit chal­leng­ing for us be­cause ‘known’ or ‘sus­pected’ means it hasn’t been ad­ju­di­cated in ev­ery case that some­body is a ter­ror­ist,” Mr. Comey told Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and the chief spon­sor of the watch-list gun con­trol pro­posal. “It’s some­body we’re in­ves­ti­gat­ing, so we don’t want to, ob­vi­ously, blow our in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Sorry.” Democrats were not im­pressed. In the House, they tried to or­ches­trate yet an­other vote on what they dubbed the “no-fly, no-buy” pro­posal. Across the Capi­tol, Mr. Mur­phy led Se­nate Democrats in hold­ing the floor, de­lay­ing ac­tion on the

Break­ing all of the usual taboos for a na­tional tragedy, pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump said last week that the shoot­ing mas­sacre in Or­lando, Florida, should be a re­defin­ing mo­ment for Amer­ica’s re­la­tion­ship with Mus­lims over­seas and at home, where he said they must do more to in­form on po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists.

In less than 24 hours, Mr. Trump called for Pres­i­dent Obama to re­sign for mis­han­dling the threat from rad­i­cal Is­lam, con­grat­u­lated him­self for pre­dict­ing an­other at­tack and re­vamped his own call for a tem­po­rary ban on Mus­lims from be­ing ad­mit­ted to the U.S.

Mr. Trump broke from his usual prac­tice by de­liv­er­ing a speech from a teleprompter — but the tone was clas­sic Trump, fir­ing at both Repub­li­cans and Democrats for botch­ing the war on ter­ror­ism.

He went a step fur­ther by ar­gu­ing that gay rights sup­port­ers should with­hold sup­port for Democrats and their likely pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Hil­lary Clin­ton, be­cause the high lev­els of im­mi­gra­tion that she sup­ports is what al­lowed the par­ents of the at­tacker into the U.S. in the first place.

“Ask your­self, who is re­ally the friend of women and the LGBT com­mu­nity: Don­ald Trump with his ac­tions, or Hil­lary Clin­ton with her words?” Mr. Trump said af­ter call­ing for a tem­po­rary im­mi­gra­tion freeze from coun­tries with ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity. “Clin­ton wants to al­low rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ists to pour into our coun­try. They en­slave women and mur­der gays. I don’t want them in our coun­try.”

The White House an­nounced that Mr. Obama will take the more cus­tom­ary pres­i­den­tial route, trav­el­ing to Or­lando to ex­press sol­i­dar­ity with the com­mu­nity there. Press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest pro­vided no fur­ther de­tails. Justice De­part­ment spend­ing bill to in­sist the cham­ber vote on the plan.

Mr. Mur­phy was joined on the floor by Demo­cratic sen­a­tors in­clud­ing El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts and Richard Blu­men­thal of Con­necti­cut, as well as Repub­li­can Sen. Pa­trick J. Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia, who in 2013 helped lead a high­pro­file push to tighten back­ground checks for gun pur­chases.

“I’m of the view that it’s time to get some­thing done here,” said Mr. Toomey, who plans to an­nounce leg­is­la­tion this week to bar ter­ror­ist sus­pects from get­ting guns.

The White House weighed in, say­ing Repub­li­cans are re­spon­si­ble if such mea­sures to pre­vent ter­ror­ist sus­pects from buy­ing guns aren’t put into place.

Ma­teen, though, had been flagged by the FBI on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions but was ul­ti­mately re­moved from a watch list.

Mrs. Clin­ton also took a more tra­di­tional ap­proach dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Ohio by say­ing “today is not a day for pol­i­tics” and “Amer­i­cans woke up to a night­mare that’s be­come mind-numb­ingly fa­mil­iar.”

The for­mer top diplo­mat ex­pressed op­ti­mism in the na­tion’s abil­ity to come to­gether in the af­ter­math to deal with threats and voiced her sup­port for stricter gun con­trol laws and beef­ing up on­line sur­veil­lance.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, Mrs. Clin­ton’s ap­proach has been the one pre­ferred by politi­cians. On Capi­tol Hill, the House and Se­nate held mo­ments of si­lence, and staffers be­hind the scenes bick­ered over how best to honor the mem­o­ries of those killed.

Ex­pres­sions of unity, vows of re­solve and in­sis­tence that the U.S. will emerge proud and strong were stan­dard fare.

But not for Mr. Trump, whose brash style has helped him as­cend the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial dog pile this year and who shows no sign of chang­ing tac­tics.

“Nor­mally, politi­cians do not make the con­trast as strong as he did so soon af­ter a tragedy,” said Neil Levesque, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the New Hamp­shire In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics and Po­lit­i­cal Li­brary at St. Anselm Col­lege, which hosted Mr. Trump’s speech. “But it is 2016, and pol­i­tics is dif­fer­ent and it had changed and peo­ple want that.

“Trump doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily stick with the stan­dard rules of po­lit­i­cal pro­ce­dure,” Mr. Levesque said.

Jim Manley, a Demo­cratic strate­gist, said Mr. Trump is “trolling at the bot­tom­most depths of the po­lit­i­cal dis­course in this coun­try” and that the ty­coon was “try­ing to di­vide the coun­try to score po­lit­i­cal points.”

“Any nor­mal politi­cian would ex­press sym­pa­thy while en­cour­ag­ing the coun­try to rally around each other at such a dif­fi­cult time,” Mr. Manley said.

“The ques­tion is whether it is go­ing

If he was still on the list, un­der cur­rent law, the FBI would have been alerted to his pur­chase — though he wouldn’t have been de­nied it.

Sen. Bill Nel­son of Florida filed leg­is­la­tion this week to re­quire that those pre­vi­ously listed trig­ger an alert, the same as those still on the lists.

“It is com­mon sense,” Mr. Nel­son said of his plan on the Se­nate floor, sug­gest­ing that it could be hard for the NRA to ob­ject to the pro­posal be­cause it doesn’t pre­vent the pur­chase of a gun.

Mr. Trump said via Twit­ter that he plans to meet with the NRA about “not al­low­ing peo­ple on the ter­ror­ist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.”

“I want to re­ally hear what they have to say,” Mr. Trump said in the Fox News in­ter­view. “They’ve en­dorsed me. They’re ter­rific peo­ple — they love this coun­try.”

NRA of­fi­cials said they would be happy to work,” Mr. Manley said. “If you look at so­cial me­dia, a lot of peo­ple are ap­plaud­ing this tough-guy rhetoric, but I think most Amer­i­cans are ab­so­lutely ap­palled at what he is say­ing the last few hours.”

Mrs. Clin­ton didn’t name Mr. Trump once in her speech. He, how­ever, namechecked her 18 times and wrapped in Mr. Obama with those at­tacks.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, with the sup­port of Hil­lary Clin­ton and oth­ers, has also dam­aged our se­cu­rity by re­strain­ing our in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing and fail­ing to sup­port law en­force­ment. They have put po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness above com­mon sense, above your safety and above all else,” Mr. Trump said. “I refuse to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.”

Mr. Trump de­manded that Mr. Obama name “rad­i­cal Is­lam” as the root of the prob­lem. When the pres­i­dent de­liv­ered a state­ment with­out fol­low­ing Mr. Trump’s ad­vice, the can­di­date said it was time for Mr. Obama to re­sign.

The White House waved off the Trump com­ments. Mr. Earnest said ear­lier last Mon­day that they were be­neath a pres­i­dent fo­cused “on some­thing as big as help­ing the coun­try re­spond to the worst mass shoot­ing in our na­tion’s his­tory.”

Asked what he him­self thought, Mr. Earnest took a pass. “I took my own ad­vice, and I’ve been fo­cused on not be­ing dis­tracted by some­thing so small,” he said.

Be­yond the usual po­lit­i­cal barbs, Mr. Trump did open an at­tack on Mrs. Clin­ton, say­ing she can­not be a sup­porter of high im­mi­gra­tion from ter­ror­ist-con­nected coun­tries and claim to cel­e­brate di­ver­sity in the U.S.

Mr. Trump said many im­mi­grants from those coun­tries hold “op­pres­sive views and val­ues,” in­clud­ing an­tipa­thy to­ward gay rights.

“She can’t have it both ways,” he said. “She can’t claim to be sup­port­ive of these com­mu­ni­ties while try­ing to in­crease the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing in who want to op­press them.” to meet with Mr. Trump but said the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s stance is clear. The gun rights group sup­ports leg­is­la­tion of­fered by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Se­nate’s No. 2-rank­ing Repub­li­can, who wrote a pro­vi­sion that would al­low for a pe­riod of ju­di­cial review be­fore a sale to a known or sus­pected ter­ror­ist is re­jected.

“Any­one on a ter­ror watch list who tries to buy a gun should be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated by the FBI and the sale de­layed while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing,” said Chris Cox, who heads the NRA’s lob­by­ing arm.

But Democrats have re­jected Mr. Cornyn’s ap­proach. John Fein­blatt, pres­i­dent of Every­town for Gun Safety, said the stan­dard it im­poses is to high and would ap­ply only to peo­ple about to com­mit a ter­ror­ist act.

“At that point, we shouldn’t be de­bat­ing about ter­ror­ists’ gun rights — just about the quick­est way to in­ca­pac­i­tate them,” he said.

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