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No fly, no buy should be common sense

By Staff | Jul 1, 2016

It’s just common sense — if someone is too dangerous to board an airplane, they’re too dangerous to buy a gun. But right now, our laws are permitting that to happen. That’s a serious problem.

The shooting in Orlando was a terrible tragedy for our country, for LGBT communities, and for the families and loved ones of those who didn’t come home that night. The American people want responsible action to make sure our communities are safe and free from terrorism.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and I, as well as other Republican and Democratic senators, came up with a compromise bipartisan solution that strikes a needed balance to accomplish that goal. It would both protect the Second Amendment – a critical right in our constitution and for North Dakotans – and help keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists.

Senator Collins and I have worked together on a variety of bipartisan bills over the past several years. We understand the importance of actually getting things done in the U.S. Senate. I greatly appreciate that she reached out to me to join in this effort and I’m proud to be part of it.

Our compromise legislation would prevent those on the government’s ‘No-Fly’ list or the so-called ‘selectee’ list, for people who are subject to heightened screening before boarding a plane, from purchasing firearms. There are just 2,700 American citizens or green card holders on these lists – making up just 2.5 percent of the lists.

The legislation would also require the government to immediately notify the U.S. Attorney General and federal, state, and local law enforcement if someone who appeared on either of the lists in the previous five years attempts to purchase a firearm. According to news reports, Omar Mateen, the shooter in Orlando, was on the selectee list for 10 months.

Our bipartisan legislation addresses concerns about placing restrictions on the rights of Americans incorrectly placed on the ‘No Fly’ and ‘selectee’ lists. The legislation gives those identified on the lists due process rights, as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, by allowing citizens or green card holders on the lists who are blocked from purchasing firearms to appeal and get an answer from the federal government within 14 days. If they are successful, they receive attorney’s fees. To make millions of American families safer, we developed a mechanism that both prohibits potential terrorists from purchasing weapons and secures the rights of a very small group of Americans improperly placed on the government’s lists.

In light of the very real concerns of North Dakotans about how the FBI compiles the ‘No Fly’ and ‘selectee’ lists, I met with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice to find out more about how people get put on these lists in the first place. I learned that the federal government uses much stronger information than it did 10 years ago to determine who is on the lists, which prevents far fewer incorrect names from appearing on them today.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted on a series of proposals that failed to strike this needed balance between public safety and Second Amendment rights, and which didn’t have any chance of actually passing. North Dakotans are tired of Congress’ lack of leadership, and so am I. Keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists deserves more than partisan bills – it deserves honest action.

We had an initial vote on our compromise proposal, where it received the support from a majority of U.S. senators – a good first step – and we’ll keep building bipartisan support for it. Our legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by group of Republican and Democratic members and received the strong backing from a group of retired top military and intelligence leaders.

But we need Congress to actually act and pass our legislation.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who helped introduce our compromise proposal, explained it this way: “We can fix the problem with the innocent person. Once the gun is bought, you don’t fix that.”

NOTE: Last week the Heitkamp-Collins legislation survived a 52-46 vote to table. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) was one of the senators who voted to table the bill, which still needs 60 votes to pass the U.S. Senate.

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