BY KAREN OCAMB | There was a flurry of excitement in Democratic circles Thursday, June 16, after Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to bend in the GOP’s rigid fealty to the National Rifle Association, the nation’s most powerful lobbying group.
Republican senators would be open to legislation banning the sale of guns to suspected terrorists, as long as due process protections for individuals on the federal government’s terrorist no-fly list were included. The NRA opposes any ban on the right to buy arms, including AR 15-style assault rifles like the one used by terrorist Omar Mateen, who wantonly slaughtered 49 innocent, mostly young Latino gay club goers in Orlando, Florida, injuring 53 others.
Mateen had briefly been on the no-fly list until an FBI investigation concluded he was not a threat.
McConnell’s nod came after Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy led a nearly 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor pushing for gun control legislation. Murphy represents Newton, Connecticut, the site of the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many of the grieving parents were in the gallery when the Senate failed to pass legislation calling for expanded background checks. Last December, after the terrorist mass shooting in San Bernardino, the Senate voted down legislation introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Her proposal closes the “terrorism gap” which would prevent someone deemed too dangerous to buy a plane ticket from legally purchasing a firearm.
A Government Accountability Office report found that suspected terrorists bought firearms and explosives from licensed dealers 1,300 times between 2004 and 2014. Additionally, radical Islamic terror leaders, ThinkProgress reported last year, “have urged American sympathizers to exploit the nation’s lax gun laws in order to perpetrate domestic terror.”
“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?” said American-born al-Qaeda spokesmen Adam Yahiye Gadahn in 2011.
#Enough, Murphy and others, including out Sen. Tammy Baldwin said after the Orlando shooting.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later, we’ve done nothing, nothing at all to reduce the likelihood that that will happen again to another family,” Murphy said.
Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump said he would meet with the NRA “about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.” An NRA spokesperson said they would be “happy” to meet with Trump, but it is unlikely the self-proclaimed huge deal-maker can get the NRA to budge. Nor is passage of even modest gun control legislation calling for closing the #NoFlyNoBuy terrorism gap and mandating universal background checks likely to pass either chamber of Congress as the NRA doles out contributions to GOP candidates during an election year.
But with 57% of American supporting commonsense gun control, Orlando may prove to be a watershed moment. And out actor/activist George Takei thinks that, given the LGBT community’s history of being targeted for hate crimes but organizing against the odds to win equality, it’s imperative that the community organize against the NRA.
“Like it or not, this history and this obligation have been thrust upon us, and we must now rise to its challenge,” Takei wrote in the Daily Beast. “For if there is one group in this country with more will, more experience, and more tenacity than the NRA, it is the LGBT community. You don’t want to mess with us.”
Shannon Watts, mother of a gay teen and founder of Moms Demand Action, says: “I am outraged that, despite 150 mass shootings since 2009, our federal lawmakers have done exactly nothing in response. If you too are outraged, join the movement to end gun violence: text ORLANDO to 64433.”