FBI Director James Comey previously warned lawmakers last year that Democratic supported gun control measures to block individuals on the terror watch list from buying a firearm could blow domestic terror probes, according to Roll Call.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that Democrats will use the 2017 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations spending bill to force a vote on an amendment that would keep terror-watch list individuals from purchasing firearms.
“So I hope Republicans will find the courage to help us pass meaningful legislation to protect the American people. They’re certainly doing a good job in protecting Donald Trump,” Reid said.
The push to pass gun control legislation comes in the wake of nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead and dozens wounded.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that members would meet Wednesday with both Comey and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on the issue, saying:
“If we want to engage in a serious legislative effort, we’re going to talk to the experts about what we could do to be helpful. Our suspicion is this is basically a politically motivated effort that we’re likely to see on Commerce, Justice, and State, but we’re open,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “Nobody wants terrorists to have firearms. We’re open to serious suggestions from the experts as to what we might be able to do to be helpful.”
Democrats previously attempted to pass the same measure put forth by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein following last December’s San Bernardino shooting, but the amendment failed on a procedural vote 45 to 54.
An FBI spokeswoman told Roll Call that while Director Comey does not take a stance on any particular proposed gun legislation, he will enforce whatever the law is and that Comey does not take a position on any proposed gun amendment but will follow whatever the law is. Comey himself has told lawmakers he is focused on the operational side and the FBI does not endorse legislation.
However, the FBI noted 2015 testimony at a Senate Appropriation subcommittee hearing when Comey discussed what would happen if Feinstein’s amendment became law.
Feinstein mentioned to Comey the Government Accountability Office found 2,233 cases between 2004 and 2014, 91 percent of the time the known or suspected terrorist passed the background check.
“What can be done about this?” Feinstein asked.
Comey apologetically responded that it would “blow our investigation” to interfere with the purchase.
“Well, senator, what we do now is if someone on the watch list purchases or attempts to purchase a firearm, an immediate alert is sent to the agents who are the source of the suspicion about that individual, so they can incorporate that information into their investigation,” Comey said.
“It’s a little bit challenging for us because known or suspected means it hasn’t been adjudicated in every case that somebody is a terrorist,” Comey said. “It’s somebody we’re investigating, so we don’t want to, obviously, blow our investigation. Sorry.”