CAPITOL HILL - Outside the U.S. Capitol, House Democrats ended their 26-hour sit-in demanding a gun control vote with hundreds of hopeful supporters singing “We shall pass the bill.” A day later, a bipartisan group of House members announced what that bill might look like.
“Some of our colleagues say this is all about terrorism, and others say this is all about guns. We are coming together to say that this about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous terrorists,” Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, said Friday at a Capitol Hill news conference.
The Terrorism Firearms Prevention Act is identical to a proposal offered in the Senate by Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. She welcomed the effort on the House side, tweeting Friday, “Delighted Rep. Curbelo and others have introduced House companion bill to help keep guns from terrorists, make America safer. Momentum!”
The legislation appears to address some of the concerns raised by Republicans about the gun proposals championed by House Democrats during their sit-in.
Curbelo said if the legislation had been in place, the Orlando shooting would not have happened. He said the effort by Democrats and Republicans sought a way to protect Second Amendment rights while providing opportunity for a judicial review if an individual believes he has been wrongly placed on a watch list and denied purchase of a firearm.
Curbelo said he met with the House Speaker Paul Ryan's chief of staff to make him aware of the effort, and there was no objection.
Pegged to terror list
“I am a strong and principled defender of the Second Amendment,” said Congressman Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican who co-sponsored the bill and is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. He said the legislation was very narrowly defined to affect about 3,000 Americans.
“They can’t buy a gun, and they shouldn’t be able to," Rigell said. "And they can’t get on a plane and shouldn’t be able to. This represents common sense, and we should be able to advance it.”
Finding ways to combat terrorism while instituting new gun laws will be a key part of advancing the gun control debate.
In a news conference Thursday morning, Ryan cited FBI concerns about ways gun control legislation could compromise terrorism investigations. Curbelo said the legislation addressed those concerns by giving the attorney general the discretion to allow a sale to proceed if blocking it would compromise an ongoing terrorism probe.
But it’s unlikely partisan battles over the issue will end, even as members return to their districts for a weeklong holiday break.
“It’s pretty unlikely we’ll see a vote in the House after the break on any gun proposal,” said Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington public policy research group.
The Collins proposal failed a test vote in the Senate on Thursday, with only 52 senators going on record in support of it.
“Ryan has very little incentive to schedule a vote on it in the House,” said Reynolds. “Or, at the very least, he can keep justifying his decision not to hold vote with his 'we’re waiting to see what the Senate does' argument.”
She said Ryan would want to avoid any appearance of giving in to the Democrats' sit-in. "He doesn’t want the precedent set that if you take over the well of the House, you will get what you want,” she said.
Rep. Robert Dold, an Illinois Republican, is another co-sponsor and has worked on this issue since 2011. He said he has had conversations with House leadership about moving forward with the effort.
“We’ve had enough of the partisan dysfunction, and we’ve had enough of the political games,” Dold said. “It’s time for action.”