By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday pledged to build support in the U.S. House of Representatives for legislation keeping firearms from people on terrorism watch lists, despite repeated gun control failures this week in Congress.
The “Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act” was introduced by nine House members representing diverse states stretching from Hawaii to Delaware, including some who have led the gun control fight for years.
“If you can’t get on a plane because of the danger that may pose, there is no reason you should be able to purchase a dangerous weapon,” said Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, in a refrain that has ricocheted through the U.S. Capitol since the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando.
The legislation, identical to a bill by Senator Susan Collins of Maine that was debated on the Senate floor on Thursday, would halt sales of weapons to people on a “no-fly” list barring them from boarding airplanes, or a “Selectee” list in which they are subjected to special airport screenings.
Over the past two weeks, the Senate failed to advance this or several other proposals placing new constraints on gun sales, as the U.S. mourned the deaths of 49 people killed at an Orlando nightclub with 53 others injured.
Curbelo said he met with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s top aide to inform him of the bill. The lawmaker left that meeting with no assurances it would advance, but simply “no objection from the speaker’s office” to the legislation being introduced, Curbelo said.
He added that the bill’s sponsors now must build support “amongst our colleagues” in a House that has a concentration of conservative Republicans opposed to most gun control ideas.
Many Republicans have argued that travelers can mistakenly be placed on terrorism watch lists and denying them the ability to buy weapons would stomp on their constitutional rights.
“We cannot let that argument stop, into perpetuity, our ability to advance wise legislation in this matter,” countered Republican Representative Scott Rigell of Virginia.
Rigell, a co-sponsor of the bill, introduced himself to reporters at a press conference as a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, which lobbies against gun controls, and an owner of 10 firearms, including an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that is similar to the weapon used by Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter.
(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by David Gregorio)