Democrats press on for more gun control
Trump suggests he sees their point Trump shatters political taboos in wake of Orlando tragedy
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.