Congress fails on gun buy restrictions

The Senate took four tries last week at toughening laws to restrict terror suspects from buying guns. It failed.

Both Democratic and Republican proposals would prohibit sales of a gun to someone who is or has been on a no-fly list or a terror watch list; those who the government has good reason to suspect may be associated with terrorists. Under current law, those on no-fly lists can still legally buy a gun.

The Democratic proposal would simply allow the government to restrict the gun sale to the person on the terror watch list. A person who felt wrongly accused would have an appeal process. The Republican plan would put a 72-hour hold on the sale and require the government to go before a judge and argue that person should not be allowed to buy the gun.

Democrats and Republicans also differ on whether background checks would be required by those who buy guns online or at a gun show. Republicans generally favor making online sales and gun show sales exempt from background checks. Democrats want the checks to include guns sold both places.

While a few from each party crossed party lines in voting for the proposals, neither proposal had the required 60 votes in the Senate to move the bill forward for further consideration.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, offered a compromise proposal last week that would limit the prohibition to buy guns to people on the no-fly list and another smaller list. The total would be about 100,000 people. Nearly 1 million people are on the so-called “terror watch list.”

Her plan, which had the support of at least four Democrats and an independent, would allow those denied a gun purchase a chance to appeal to federal courts. It would also call for the FBI to be notified when anyone on the larger list bought a gun. Senate leaders allowed the measure a test vote, certain that it would fail to muster the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Still, if Congress has to take little steps, so be it. We should all be against suspected terrorists being able to buy a gun with impunity. Background checks should be background checks, no matter where the gun is sold by a licensed dealer.

That’s very little progress, however, on a big issue that impacts everyone’s safety. Congress must not throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect.


This editorial was originally published by the Mankato Free Press.