Jun 23, 2016 11:15 PM
Bipartisan gun measure co-sponsored by Ayotte passes initial Senate hurdle
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – A bipartisan compromise measure to keep terrorists from purchasing weapons passed an initial test vote in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
The legislation’s spearheaded by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Fellow GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire’s a co-sponsor and one of the ringleaders of the bipartisan group of nine lawmakers backing the measure.
The amendment would prohibit weapons sales to people on two terrorist watch lists, including the well-known No Fly List. The legislation would also allow American citizens and green-card holders to appeal if their purchase is restricted, and they would get their legal fees recouped if they win. The measure would include a “look-back provision” that requires FBI notification if someone who’s recently appeared on a broader terrorism database purchases a weapon.
Fifty-two senators voted for the plan, with 46 opposed. While the measure passed the test vote, it fell far short of the 60 votes needed advance the legislation in the Senate.
Forty-four of the Senate’s 46 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation. Two Democratic lawmakers who back the measure, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Diane Feinstein of California, didn’t vote.
Collins, Ayotte, and the two other GOP co-sponsors of the plan, Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were joined by four fellow Republicans: Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Forty-six GOP senators voted against the measure.
In a statement after the vote, Ayotte said “This issue is too serious to keep playing politics, so we know this fight isn’t done.”
“Our bipartisan, common sense proposal garnered majority support in the Senate with 52 votes from both sides of the aisle today - an encouraging sign for moving forward on this important issue. Our amendment is a measured approach. It only would apply to approximately 2,700 Americans on the No Fly and Selectee Lists who pose a heightened risk to our national security and have met criteria above and beyond the broader terrorism watchlist because credible information indicates that they pose a heightened threat of committing an act of terrorism or may be operationally capable of doing so,” Ayotte said.
But Ayotte added that the measure “allows Americans who are denied their right to purchase a firearm to challenge it in court and receive an expedited ruling in a district court, where the burden of proof to uphold the denial of a sale is on the government. If the government can’t provide credible evidence that an individual needs to be on one of those lists, then the government pays the person’s attorney’s fees and provides a prompt review process so that an individual can be removed from either list. These are strong due process protections.”
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen supported the measure.
“This bipartisan proposal would make a small, but necessary, change to our gun laws,” Shaheen said in a statement.
“It’s appalling that there are not enough votes in the Senate to take this modest step to address gun violence. It’s long past time for Republican leadership to listen to the American people and reform our laws to keep dangerous weapons out of dangerous hands," she added.
As she runs for re-election this year, Ayotte’s being challenged by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in one of the most high profile, expensive and negative Senate showdowns in the country.
In an exclusive interview Wednesday with NH1 News, Hassan said “the compromise as I’ve heard about it is the very least that the Senate should be doing. But it is not nearly enough.”
“What the compromise won’t do is keep known or suspected terrorists from buying guns on-line or at gun shops. That requires that we expand our background checks and I am very disappointed that Sen. Ayotte, along with many other senators, keeps refusing to vote to expand background checks that would in fact keep terrorists, known or suspected, from buying guns not only from gun dealers but also on-line and at gun shows,” the governor added.
Hassan’s campaign later told NH1 News that if she were in the Senate right now, she would vote for the bipartisan measure.