News9: Oklahoma Lawmakers Weigh In On Gun Safety Bill
News9 - Alex Cameron
One day after a mass shooting took the lives of 14 people in San Bernardino, CA, a gun-control measure intended to help keep suspected terrorists from getting access to guns is defeated in Washington, D.C.
The measure, offered by Sen. Diane Feinstein, (D) California, Thursday afternoon as an amendment to a health care bill, is an exact duplicate of a House bill that was referenced by President Obama in his reaction to this latest shooting.
"We have a no-fly list where people can't get on planes," Obama said in an interview Wednesday afternoon, "but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm, and there's nothing that we can do to stop them -- that's a law that needs to be changed."
Some in Congress have been trying to change that law now for several years, but claim the powerful gun lobby has stood in the way.
The legislation has been around since 2007, but was re-introduced in February of this year, with both Democrat and Republican sponsors, as H.R. 1076, The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015.
The measure would give the U.S. Attorney General the discretion to deny the transfer or sale of a firearm to someone who is on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List.
Such a law, it appears, would not have helped prevent Wednesday's mass shooting, since it doesn't seem the shooters were on any watch list. But Obama and the bill's supporters feel, as the nation looks at ways to reduce gun violence, in general, this is a reasonable step Congress could take.
Two weeks ago, News 9 reached out to all seven members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation, requesting they give their respective position on the legislation.
Congressmen Russell and Cole, and Senator Lankford were the only ones to respond to the request.
Rep. Russell, (R) 5th District, says the measure could jeopardize the rights of law-abiding citizens
"That's a problem, because now, on suspicion, it would hand the government broad power to prohibit your ability to protect yourself under the second amendment," said Russell. "I have issues with that."
Rep. Tom Cole, (R) 4th District, provided this statement: "While well intentioned, this bill is a paper tiger. If the Attorney General is aware of individuals engaging in terrorist activities on American soil, those individuals should be in jail. They ought not be free to buy groceries, let alone guns."
A spokesperson for Lankford, Aly Beley, provided this statement today, at about the same time Sen. Feinstein was offering her amendment:
“Senator Lankford wants to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, but this legislation brings up a constitutional issue that has not been resolved. Our basic Constitutional rights can only be taken away through ‘due process,’ not through a federal bureaucrat list. As much as Senator Lankford wants to prevent gun violence, he also wants to protect Constitutional processes. To reduce gun violence, Lankford believes we must address our culture of violence, mental health issues and radicalization.”
Feinstein's amendment was defeated 45-54. It needed 60 votes to pass. Both Lankford and nhofe voted against the measure.
It's estimated there are more than a million people on the watch list right now. According to data from the General Accounting Office, since 2003, more than 2,000 people on the watch-list have been able to legally purchase guns in the United States.