- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, launched a nearly 15-hour 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 Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, could have been kept from buying the firearms he used in his rampage.

And Mr. Trump, Republicans’ likely presidential nominee, posted a Twitter message saying he would meet with the National Rifle Association to talk with them about the issue.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump: I’m meeting with the NRA about blocking terror suspects from buying guns

“I’m going to be looking at it very, very seriously,” Mr. Trump said in an interview that aired Wednesday 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 Wednesday 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 “blow” terrorism investigations.

Mr. Comey, testifying to the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2015, said right now his agents are flagged if someone on a watchlist 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’ve dubbed the “no-fly, no-buy” proposal. And across the Capitol, Mr. Murphy led Senate Democrats in holding the floor, delaying action on the Justice Department spending bill to insist the chamber vote on the plan.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump set for chilly reception on visit to Scotland, Ireland

Mr. Murphy was joined on the floor by Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, as well as Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who helped lead a high-profile push to tighten gun-purchase background checks in 2013.

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

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

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

If he’d still been 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 who had previously been listed still spark 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, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, announced Wednesday 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.”

The NRA said they would be happy to meet with Mr. Trump, but said its 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 was finally rejected.

“Anyone on a terror watchlist 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 it imposes too high a standard 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.

Mr. Trump’s statement that he plans to meet with the NRA on the issue roiled the debate — though it’s unclear exactly what the presumed Republican presidential candidate has in mind.

“I want to meet with the NRA — we’re going to be discussing it,” he said. “[A] number of people have brought this to my attention, and I understand why we should be discussing it.”

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said that while he could be open to a three-day waiting period for terror suspects, “the devil will be in the details.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it’s “unclear” what Mr. Trump’s intentions are, but that they would welcome support from anyone on new gun restrictions.

But Doug Deeken with the group Ohioans for Concealed Carry said people cannot be denied constitutionally-protected rights without due process of law, and he figures Mr. Trump will back off.

“I think once he meets with the folks at the NRA, he will discover just how unfeasible it is,” Mr. Deeken said. “I have a feeling the NRA’s going to help straighten him out on this point.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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