Senator Dan Coats

Coats Statement on Senate Gun Votes

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) issued the following statement regarding a series of votes the Senate will take on amendments related to guns and firearm ownership:

“In the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy, there is bipartisan support in Congress to ensure that known terrorists cannot legally purchase guns. Over the last week, I have spoken with both Republicans and Democrats on how we can best accomplish this goal while preserving the fundamental Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

“After thinking it through and speaking with all parties involved, it is clear to me that the Cornyn amendment is the best way to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and protect the constitutional due process rights guaranteed to all American citizens. The Feinstein amendment gives the federal government too much power to deny a gun sale without sufficient due process protections for innocent Americans.”

Coats further explained how he would vote on the various amendments:

1. Cornyn Amendment – Support.

This amendment would temporarily prevent a known or suspected terrorist from purchasing a gun while providing important protections to ensure appropriate regard for due process. Specifically, this amendment says that the Attorney General cannot not delay a gun purchase for more than three business days, and the Attorney General must file an emergency petition with a court within this time period requesting that a sale be permanently blocked. Under this proposal, the attempted purchaser must have notice of this action and an opportunity to participate in the hearing. This amendment puts the burden of proof on the federal government and ensures innocent law-abiding citizens are protected.

Last week, Senator Coats stated that he believes known or suspected terrorists should not be able to purchase firearms, but he also believes due process rights must be preserved in order to protect the fundamental Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. This proposal meets his criteria.

2. Feinstein Amendment – Oppose.

While this amendment would permit the Attorney General to deny the purchase of a firearm to anyone the federal government believes may be engaged in terrorist activity, the legal standard used in this approach gives the federal government unchecked authority to deny virtually any firearm sale. Under this proposal, the onus would be on the individual to appeal the decision in court, and the Attorney General could withhold relevant information as to why the denial decision was made.

Senator Coats opposes this amendment because it would suspend a fundamental constitutional right of American citizens, the vast majority of whom are not terrorists, without due process.

3. Grassley Amendment – Support.

This amendment would address flaws in the current firearms background check system known as the National Criminal Instant Background Check System, or “NICS.” Currently, the NICS system does not contain many of the records of individuals who are prohibited under federal law from acquiring or possessing a firearm. As a result, despite the running of a background check, these prohibited individuals often are still able to purchase firearms. In addition, this amendment would clarify definitions and issues surrounding the existing mental health prohibition on firearm acquisition and possession.

Senator Coats believes these changes are important and supports this amendment.

4. Murphy Amendment – Oppose.

This amendment would expand the background check requirement to nearly every firearm transfer, regardless of where a transfer occurs or whether it is a commercial transaction. The amendment would encompass not only gun shows or online sales, but also transfers between most family members and neighbors. Under current law, a court or other lawful authority can block a gun sale to a person who is determined to be dangerous, incapable of handling their affairs or insane for purposes of a criminal case. The Murphy amendment would extend this to anyone compelled to receive counseling services or medication by a lawful authority, which would encompass a wide variety of individuals who present no threat. Finally, the amendment would make it a federal offense if innocent crime victims fail to report a lost or stolen firearm.

Senator Coats believes the far-reaching changes this amendment would make to existing law infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

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