Donald Trump hints on guns, Congress eyes post-Orlando debate

US Democrats demanding action Wednesday to reduce violence following the Orlando massacre, Republican Donald Trump signaled openness to legislation preventing terror suspects from purchasing firearms.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 16, 2016, 03:21 AM IST

Columbia: With US Democrats demanding action Wednesday to reduce violence following the Orlando massacre, Republican Donald Trump signaled openness to legislation preventing terror suspects from purchasing firearms, a flicker of bipartisanship in a toxic presidential campaign.
The presumptive Republican nominee, who regularly touts his support for the constitutionally enshrined right to bear arms, said he could support banning people on terror watchlists from buying guns.
Following attacks including the mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday that killed 49 at a gay nightclub, Trump has argued that deaths could have been prevented if private citizens had been armed and able to shoot back.
But when it was learned that the Orlando shooter legally purchased guns in Florida after he had been investigated for terrorism connections and reportedly placed on a watchlist, Trump spoke out about the prospect of closing the so-called "terror gap."
"I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns," Trump tweeted Wednesday.
That may place him on a collision course with the National Rifle Association, which said a day earlier that "restrictions like bans on gun purchases by people on `watchlists` are ineffective, unconstitutional or both."
But the group acknowledged Wednesday they would be "happy to meet" with the Republican flagbearer.
"The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period," NRA spokesman Chris Cox said in a carefully worded statement. 
"Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing."Even as Trump`s position would place him in direct opposition to many congressional Republicans, there were signs of potential movement that could ultimately break a years-long log jam on Capitol Hill.
Republican lawmakers and the NRA have so far refused to support legislation that would deny weapons to people on such lists, arguing that such a bill would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of everyday Americans, including those who may have been placed unfairly on watch lists or no-fly lists.
Frustrated Democrats took to the Senate floor Wednesday to launch a filibuster -- a procedural obstruction -- and pressure Republicans to accept so-called "no-fly no buy" legislation that would bar those on watchlists or no-fly lists from purchasing firearms.
"I`m at my wits` end," said Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where a 2012 school shooting left 20 children dead, as he began his hours-long takeover with other Democrats.
"I`m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together."
A Senate measure that would have prevented FBI terror suspects from purchasing firearms and explosives failed last December, with every Senate Republican but one voting in opposition.Some Republicans have broken ranks to express interest in moving forward, including congressman Bob Dold, who is locked in a tough re-election fight in Illinois.
"Thoughts and prayers are not enough," Dold said Tuesday on the House floor. "It`s time for action."
Senate Republican Kelly Ayotte, also facing re-election, tweeted back to Trump: "We need to work together to solve this & ensure terrorists can`t buy guns."
Number two Senate Republican John Cornyn huddled with Democrat Dianne Feinstein about how to resolve differences over the due process for people who feel they have been wrongly put on a watch list.
"This is a lot more nuanced than some people appreciate," Cornyn told Politico. "We`re trying."
Trump`s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton weighed in Wednesday.
"Surely we can agree, if the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you should not be able to buy a gun with no questions asked," she said.
"And yes, if you are too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun."
A US government report shows that known or suspected terrorists have passed background checks for gun sales more than 90 percent of the time since 2004.