Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Friday June 17th, 2016, 5:42pm

Durbin Pushes For Stricter Federal Gun Control Laws As Senate Preps To Vote On Amendments (VIDEO)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Friday echoed his support for pending federal legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and expand gun background checks to include gun shows and online purchases.

He was one of 39 Senate Democrats to stage a nearly 15-hour filibuster into the early morning hours Thursday in a call for Republican legislators to allow votes on the proposed gun control amendments. 

"We can only hope that what's happened in Orlando, what happened in Newton, Connecticut, what is happening literally across America almost on a daily or weekly basis, will convince more (Republicans) to cross and join us and put together a bipartisan effort to keep our streets safe," Durbin said during Friday's press conference at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Ave., on the city's South Side.

The Senate is expected to vote on the two amendments as soon as Monday.

One amendment would allow the attorney general to block a gun sale if there is a "reasonable belief" the buyer will use the weapon for terrorist activities. Introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and co-sponsored by at least 26 Democrats, the "amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill would give the Justice Department additional discretion on how it uses appropriated funds to conduct background checks to keep guns out of the hands of known or suspected terrorists," according to a statement from Feinstein's office.

As it stands, the FBI is notified when individuals on the terrorist watch list apply for a background check, but the agency does not have the authority to stop the individual from purchasing a gun. 

The other amendment, introduced by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who led this week's gun control filibuster, would close the "gun show loophole" and expand background checks to individuals buying firearms from unlicensed sellers at gun shows and over the Internet. Current federal law mandates that only licensed gun dealers have to conduct background checks.

As of January 2016, eight states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington State -- and Washington D.C. require universal background checks for all gun sales, including transactions with unlicensed sellers. Four states -- Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- require anyone who wants to buy a gun to first obtain a state-issued permit. Illinois also requires background checks for gun show transactions.

"We have to address both (amendments), if we said we're going to keep guns out of the hands of would-be terrorists, but if we don't close the loopholes on background checks, it's pointless," Durbin said. "They're not that stupid. If they know they're on a terrorist watch list, they're not going to go to a gun dealer if that disqualifies them, they're going to go to a northern Indiana gun show where no questions are asked."

Durbin and other legislators said expanding background checks at the federal level would help address gun violence in Chicago.

As of June 17, the city has recorded more than 1,700 shooting victims, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2015, nearly 3,000 people were shot. 

According to Durbin's office, roughly 40 percent of the guns confiscated by the Chicago Police Department in 2015 came from gun shows in Indiana, where no background check is required.

"What happened in Orlando this last week was indeed tragic, but we have incidents of terrorism in our communities in Chicago every day," said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). "Anything that can be done to tighten up the gun laws, to require background checks, to get the weapons off our streets, is important."

The amendments, however, are not guaranteed to pass.

"At best, four of the 54 Republicans have supported our efforts to do these things in the past," Durbin said, adding that  members of the GOP withhold support for such legislation because "they're afraid" of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

"They're afraid they'll beat them in a primary, that they'll put in millions of dollars to run against them... (NRA lobbyists) organize their people and they make a lot of noise and they contribute money and run against candidates who take on the gun lobby," Durbin said.

Republicans and gun lobbyists have expressed concern that Feinstein's amendment does not account for people who are on the FBI's terrorist watch list erroneously. 

"If there is a mistake, which side do we err on? Do we err on the side of saying the suspected terrorist should buy a firearm and then we check it out, or do we check it out and then decide whether or not they're entitled to a firearm," Durbin said.

The NRA supports an alternate bill proposed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would give authorities who would like to block a gun sale 72 hours to prove to a judge that the buyer is involved in terrorist activities.

"If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist," the NRA said in a statement. "At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watch list to be removed."

Durbin called a 72-hour window too short. 

"It's totally unrealistic to believe that our system of justice could be up and running in 72 hours to adjudicate whether or not my name is properly on the terrorist watch list... I want to have a viable due process approach, but what we're hearing form Senator Cornyn--the Republican approach on this is totally unrealistic," he said.

Here's more from Durbin during Friday's press conference:



Democrats' calls for stricter gun control laws come on the heels of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Using an assault rifle, a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53 more. The shooter, Oman Mateen, swore his allegiance to ISIS and was first put on the FBI's terrorist watch list in 2013. He was questioned by the agency in both 2013 and 2014, but was reportedly removed from the database when the investigations closed.

Patrick Korellis, 30, who suffered two gunshot wounds in the February 2008 mass shooting at Northern Illinois University, said he supports the two amendments. In that incident, five people were killed and 21 were injured before the gunman, Steven Kazmierczak, turned the gun on himself.

"Every time a mass shooting happens, it just rips open the wounds," Korellis said.

He said he has struggled with sleeping and being near fireworks in the wake of the shooting, adding that he doesn't want to see that happen to anyone else.

"I just think about all those poor people, and I think about what happened to me, and I think, 'not again,'" he said. "Enough is enough, another mass shooting, and the death counts keep getting higher and higher. I just can't deal with it anymore."


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