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Republicans Reject Proposals To Bar People On No-Fly List From Buying Guns
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Republicans Reject Proposals To Bar People On No-Fly List From Buying Guns

National Security

Republicans Reject Proposals To Bar People On No-Fly List From Buying Guns

Republicans Reject Proposals To Bar People On No-Fly List From Buying Guns
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Republicans in Congress have rejected proposals to bar Americans on the terror "no-fly" list from buying guns. They say Democrats are trying to score political points and have thrown their weight behind a GOP alternative that requires a judge to block such gun sales.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Since San Bernardino, President Obama has argued against what he thinks is an anomaly in a well-known anti-terrorism measure.

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BARACK OBAMA: Right now, people on the no-fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That's insane.

CORNISH: A measure in the Senate to prevent known or suspected terrorists on that no-fly list from buying guns was blocked by Republicans in a near party-line vote. NPR's David Welna examines why.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The no-fly list is in fact a legacy of the George W. Bush Justice Department. And while President Obama has embraced keeping people from flying whose names appear on that list, in his televised address to the nation Sunday night, he again hammered at revising that policy to no fly, no buy.

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OBAMA: What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? It is a matter of national security.

WELNA: Last week, every Republican in the Senate but one voted to block a Democratic measure that would have barred those on the no-fly list from buying guns. Kansas Republican Pat Roberts gives a simple explanation for his vote.

PAT ROBERTS: Second Amendment.

WELNA: North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis says a lot of people may be on the no-fly list by mistake.

THOM TILLIS: A paperwork error can get you on the fly list. A name similar to someone else can get you on the fly list, so there's any number of opportunities where mistakes or abuses could probably put somebody in that horrible position of a government agency really clawing back your rights.

WELNA: And Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander says people cannot simply be stripped of their Second Amendment right to bear arms because their name is on a list.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: People who are terrorists shouldn't have guns, but that should be decided by a due process determination.

WELNA: Democrats find it strange to hear such high-minded talk coming from Republicans. New York's Chuck Schumer is the Senate's No. 3 Democrat.

CHARLES SCHUMER: Our Republican colleagues have a newfound love for civil liberties when it comes to guns, but nowhere else.

WELNA: Inevitably, it's become a political fight over banning gun sales to those on the no-fly list. John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, says the Democrat strategy is clear.

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JOHN CORNYN: Distract the American people from the fact that the president of the United States and commander-in-chief has absolutely no strategy to deal with the threat of ISIS here in the United States.

WELNA: Beyond that, Cornyn says, Democrats are calculating this will help them in next year's elections.

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CORNYN: This is just to create a gotcha moment for senators and candidates that are running in 2016.

WELNA: Indeed, one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans seeking re-election is also the only one who voted with Democrats to restrict gun sales.

MARK KIRK: I am supportive of no fly, no buy.

WELNA: Illinois' Mark Kirk says he's sure people in his state agree with him.

KIRK: You know, if you're so dangerous that you shouldn't fly, you shouldn't be able to buy a firearm.

WELNA: Democrats say they'll keep bringing up the ban on gun sales for the no-fly list. The more Americans learn about Senate Republicans refusal to adopt the measure, says Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the more aghast they'll be.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I think that this vote will come home to haunt many of the Republicans who voted that way, and they will be seeking an opportunity to reconsider at some point.

WELNA: For now, though, Republicans are pushing their own measure, one requiring that a judge block gun sales to those on the no-fly list. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

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