Franken, Klobuchar join push for new gun laws

Published 10:22 am Friday, June 17, 2016

By Brandt Williams FM

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken joined dozens of senate Democrats in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night in calling for votes on two gun control measures. The 15-hour filibuster ended with a reported Republican promise to take a vote on the bills, possibly as soon as next week.

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The first, authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., seeks to prevent people on the FBI’s terror watch list from being able to legally buy firearms. Feinstein first introduced the bill in December 2015, after two people described by law enforcement officials as being inspired by a terrorist group, shot and killed 14 people in San Bernadino, Calif.

Between 2004 and 2014, more than 90 percent of people on the watch list passed background checks required to buy firearms, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Feinstein amendment seeks to do several different things. It would give the Attorney General the discretion to deny someone known or suspected to be a terrorist from buying a gun. It also directs authorities to set up a way to alert the Attorney General when someone who was under investigation for a federal crime of terrorism over the past five years tries to purchase a firearm.

The FBI had twice investigated Omar Mateen, the man who shot and killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando last Sunday. However, law enforcement officials said he was able to legally purchase two of the guns he used in the attack.

Opponents of the measure have said while they want to prevent terrorists from acquiring guns, they want to make sure anyone on the watch list has their day in court before being denied a Constitutional right.

In her speech on the Senate floor, Klobuchar said that concern is unfounded.

“When I look at these types of common sense measures, I always think of my Uncle Dick. He loved to hunt and he always would hunt deer,” said Klobuchar. “And I have to think to myself, would closing off the loophole in the terrorist watch list hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand? Not at all.”

The second measure the senators want a vote on would require background checks for gun purchases which occur online and at gun shows. A previous attempt to pass universal background checks for gun sales which followed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 failed.

A similar push by state legislators for extended background checks in Minnesota was also unsuccessful. A bill proposing to require background checks for nearly all private gun sales — not just those at gun shows — was introduced in the Senate this session, but stalled.

Kevin Vick, owner of Crucible Arms gun store in Lakeville, said requiring people to get background checks before they can buy a gun from a friend or neighbor is an infringement on their 2nd Amendment rights. States like California require a private seller to take the gun to a Federal Firearms Licensee, like Vick, who will facilitate the background check on the buyer.

“There are 64 licensed dealers in the state of Minnesota,” said Vick. “In order to be able to find those dealers who are willing to do private transfers, may require someone who’s living in outstate Minnesota — along with his buddy — to drive over an hour to find an FFL that’s going to do the transfer for them.”

Vick says the FFL will charge a fee for conducting the transfer. And he says if, for some reason, the background check is put on hold and can’t be completed right away, the buyer and seller may have to come back the next day. Vick says that’s more time and expense for people who want to exercise their rights.

A spokesperson for Klobuchar said the vote on the two amendments could come early next week. Amendments supporters say they’re not optimistic the measures will pass anytime soon. The Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, executive director of Protect Minnesota, which advocates for stricter gun laws, said in a statement that the push initiated by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., was successful in that it educated the public and forced the Senate to address gun violence prevention.