Following the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, some Florida Democrats want to make it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns. But critics are calling the measure politically motivated and ineffective.
The proposals are commonly called No Fly, No Buy legislation. Supporters call it ‘common sense’ gun control, saying suspected terrorists blocked from air travel shouldn’t be able to purchase firearms. Senator Darren Soto of Kissimmee wants to incorporate the federal terrorist watch list into the state’s background checks.
“The shooter in the Orlando shooting tragedy was on that watchlist, and then taken off. So it would give Florida added protections to address domestic terrorism here in the state,” he said.
In the aftermath of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, the No Fly, No Buy provision has become a rallying cry for lawmakers across the country. Democrats in the US Senate staged a 15 hour filibuster, and members in the House held a sit in on the chamber floor, calling for votes on the legislation. And while each party offered their own version, none could garner the necessary bipartisan support. Some critics say the measure simply isn’t effective. Susan MacManus is a political scientist at the University of South Florida.
“Many, many people can agree that it’s a good step to keep people on the terror list from purchasing guns. There are a lot of people who wonder how big a list is that, how effective will it be, how can you actually do that?” she asked.
According to federal data, suspected terrorists make up a small fraction of overall gun owners. Last year the FBI ran 23 million background checks, 244 of which were for people on the terror watch list. Senator Soto admits his measure is not the only answer.
“We get that there’s other things that need to be focused on as well. But first we want to put forward a proposal that has some chance at bipartisan support,” he said.
And even though the regulation seems like a small step, there is some pushback. Florida Republicans are criticizing the measure, calling it a political ploy for lawmakers seeking re-election. But Susan MacManus adds, tragedy fuels social action.
“On the other hand you do have this phenomenon in politics where if there is a catastrophe, things get done more quickly,” she said.
Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a special session to deliberate No Fly, No Buy. They have enough supporters to demand a poll of all state lawmakers on whether to hold the session. But Republican leaders have already said they won’t go.