Toomey to Introduce Legislation to Help Keep Guns from Terrorists and Protect Law-Abiding Americans
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced that he will introduce legislation tomorrow to help ensure that dangerous terrorists are denied a firearm, while providing sufficient due process to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Toomey's Fighting Terrorism and Upholding Due Process Act is the only measure that provides two layers of due process.
"Last December, the Senate considered two proposals dealing with preventing suspected terrorists from obtaining guns," Sen. Toomey said. "It's a goal that every Senator in both parties supports. And yet, the Senate was not able to come to agreement. As happens all too often, nothing got done.
"We have now come to a moment in which I am hopeful that the logjam can be broken, and we can move forward, for the safety of the American people.
"We must do everything we can to stop terrorists from obtaining guns. At the same time, we must not infringe on the rights of law-abiding Americans. In my view, neither of the proposals the Senate considered last year got that balance quite right. What's more, neither of them has sufficient support to gain passage today. Therefore, in order to both pursue the right policy and to actually make progress, a new approach is needed.
"I have drafted legislation that takes the best features from both of the previous proposals, effectively preventing terrorists from being able to purchase guns, while also safeguarding the rights of innocent Americans who are mistakenly put on the list.
"I have had many discussions with advocates on all sides of this issue and with several of my Senate colleagues. I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come together to make a difference on this vitally important issue."
The Fighting Terrorism and Upholding Due Process Act allows the Attorney General to create a list of likely terrorists. Unlike other measures, there is prior judicial review of the list. The Attorney General must submit her list to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which verifies whether each person is rightly included on the list. Specifically, the court asks whether there is probable cause to believe that each person has engaged in conduct supporting terrorism and reason to believe the person may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.
The court re-evaluates the list at least once a year, to delete names of innocent people inadvertently swept in. Thus, Sen. Toomey's bill is the only one with a check to prevent an Attorney General-whether through error or abuse of power-from denying an individual his Second Amendment rights and forcing him to go to court to regain those rights.
The Attorney General may block any person on the list from buying or selling a gun or holding a license for firearms or explosives. The Toomey bill also provides an emergency process whereby the Attorney General can-for three days-block a gun purchase by a likely terrorist who was recently discovered and thus not yet on the list.
Sen. Toomey's bill then provides a second level of due process. If a person is denied a gun by reason of being on the list, he is entitled to a swift court hearing where the Attorney General must turn over her evidence. Other measures allow the Attorney General to keep her evidence secret from the would-be gun owner and the court, so there is no meaningful judicial review. The court has a reasonable amount of time - more than 50 days instead of just three - to decide the case. Sen. Toomey's bill is also the only one that ensures that if the would-be gun owner prevails, the government has a duty to make him whole: It must pay his reasonable attorney's fees and court costs.