At the end of a week that began with the nation’s worst mass shooting and included a U.S. Senate filibuster that forced upcoming votes on gun control measures, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is floating a compromise that she says is gathering support.

Collins, considered the Senate’s leading moderate Republican, will propose banning sales of guns to people on the government’s “no fly” list as well as a “selectee” list of those who are subject to additional screening at airports before they can board planes, Collins said Friday. Federal officials said Omar Mateen, the man accused of killing 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub early Sunday, was listed on the “selectee” list for 10 months,

Collins said her bill includes a “look-back” provision: if someone who has been on either list in the past five years tries to buy a gun, the FBI would be notified, she said, and that could prompt officials to reopen investigations and possibly place those people back on one of the lists.

Observers expect two measures coming up for Senate votes on Monday – one to bar gun purchases from those on a large government database of possible terrorists and another that would give federal officials an opportunity to convince a court to bar a gun sale – will fail, as they did in December after a mass killing in San Bernardino, California.

‘I want to get something done. I don’t want this to be ‘Groundhog Day,’ where nothing gets done,” Collins said Friday, referring to the movie in which the characters live the same day over and over again.

Collins said she was “stunned” to learn that those who are barred from flying because of suspected terrorist ties can purchase a gun.


“If someone is too dangerous to board an airplane, they’re clearly too dangerous to buy a gun,” she said. Likewise, if someone is on the selectee list “with secondary screening and an interview (before they’re allowed to board a plane), you’re too suspect to buy a gun. I think that’s just common sense.”

Collins admitted her proposal wouldn’t have immediately prevented the sale of guns this month to Omar Mateen, who is accused of killing 49 people and wounding dozens more in an attack on a Florida nightclub early Sunday. But, she said because Mateen had been on the selectee list for 10 months in 2013 and 2014 because of suspected terrorist sympathies, his purchase of guns would have almost certainly attracted renewed attention from the FBI under her proposal.

“I can’t imagine they would not have reopened their investigation” and they might have put him back on the selectee list, Collins said.

Collins said that, combined, the no-fly and selectee lists contain the names of nearly 2,500 Americans among a total of roughly 109,000 suspected terrorists worldwide. She said the allegations against people on those lists have been investigated and, although they may not have committed a crime, the accusations are considered “credible.” Only U.S. citizens and immigrants granted permanent residency can purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer.

The measure would allow Americans who feel they are on the lists incorrectly to challenge the allegations in court. If a judge agrees that they shouldn’t be on either list, they can go ahead with a purchase of a gun and recover attorney’s fees, Collins said.

Collins said she opposes a measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, that would bar gun purchases by those on a large federal database of suspected terrorists. Collins said the proposal is too broad because the list has more than 1.1 million names on it and many of the allegations haven’t been investigated. Simple reports of suspicions about terrorist activities can land someone on the list, she said.


Another proposal coming up for a vote Monday by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would allow federal officials to bar a gun purchase if they can demonstrate that there’s probable cause that the potential buyer would use the gun for an illegal act.

Collins said she voted for that measure, which like Feinstein’s was defeated in December, but felt the standard for denying a gun purchase was too high.

“I wasn’t happy with either of them,” said Collins, whose proposal is gaining traction.

She said four other Republican senators are signing on as co-sponsors and one Democrat, Heidi Heitkamp, plans to attend a Collins news conference to unveil the measure on Monday. Although Heitkamp hasn’t committed to co-sponsoring the bill, Collins said, the fact that she plans to attend indicates that she probably supports it.

Other senators are interested in the legislation, and Collins said she will be working her phone this weekend to reach out to other potential co-sponsors.

That’s key to convincing Senate leaders to allow a vote, she said.


“I think what discourages the American people is when we have these votes and nothing gets done,” Collins said.

If, as expected, the Feinstein and Cornyn proposals are defeated Monday, Collins said, “I don’t want it to end there. I want to get something done and make it less likely that a terrorist suspect can purchase a firearm.”

Calls to independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, the National Rifle Association and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine seeking comment were not returned Friday night.


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