US House may vote on gun control next week to curb ‘terrorists’ access to arms

  • AFP, Washington
  • Updated: Jul 01, 2016 09:50 IST
Restricting terror suspects’ access to guns has been a point of convergence for many Republicans and Democrats, with the US House speaker Paul Ryan calling it “common sense”. (Reuters file photo)

The US House of Representatives will vote next week on a measure aimed at blocking terror suspects from purchasing guns, house speaker Paul Ryan told lawmakers on a conference call on Thursday.

Ryan said that following the July 4th holiday on Monday, the chamber will take up an anti-terrorism package that will include “a provision to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns,” according to a source who participated in the call.

The announcement comes one week after congressional Democrats staged a dramatic, 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to demand action on reducing gun violence in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, the deadliest mass shooting on record in US history.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led Congress have faced criticism for inaction in the face of US mass shootings.

Democrats introduced legislation that would bar anyone on the FBI’s no-fly list from purchasing a firearm, and that would expand gun-sale background checks to gun shows and the Internet.

Both measures, and two others introduced by Republicans, failed in the Senate last week.

But a bipartisan compromise authored by Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine emerged that would prohibit gun sales to people on two terror watch lists including the no-fly list, and would allow US citizens to appeal if their purchase is rejected.

Collins said Senate leadership will allow a vote on her measure soon.

It was not immediately clear if the legislation Ryan mentioned would be similar to the Collins bill.

Restricting terror suspects’ access to guns has been a point of convergence for many Republicans and Democrats, with Ryan calling it “common sense.”

But he has expressed concern that a blanket restriction on people on the watch lists could violate their right to due process, something he reiterated on the call with lawmakers.

“He wanted to look at this deliberatively to protect due process and make sure we get this right,” the source on the call said.

In addition, “he reminded members that the FBI has told people that if we get it wrong, we will undermine terrorism investigations.”

Guns are responsible for some 90 deaths each day in the United States, but serious legislative efforts to enact gun control are only raised after particularly horrific shootings.

Opponents have argued that gun control measures would infringe on the constitutional rights of gun owners.

Ryan also said the House will consider legislation that would address gun violence by overhauling the mental health system.

After their historic sit-in, several Democrats including minority leader Nancy Pelosi held events around the country demanding action to address gun violence.

Many have threatened to again seize control of the House floor if there is no vote on gun legislation.

Ryan has dismissed the sit-in as a “publicity stunt,” and on Thursday he signalled he would take action to prevent a repeat.

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