WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the wake of Orlando terrorist attack, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and their Senate Democratic colleagues on the Senate Floor today to demand action to reduce gun violence. Senator Heinrich highlighted commonsense measures he supports to prevent individuals on the terror watch list and other suspected terrorists from purchasing guns and explosives, and to require universal background checks.
Senator Heinrich is a cosponsor of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would prevent individuals on the terror watch list and other suspected terrorists from purchasing guns and explosives. Senate Republicans previously blocked a similar bill in the wake of the San Bernardino attack.
Updated data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that between February 2004 and December 2015, known or suspected terrorists passed background checks to purchase a firearm or explosives 91 percent of the time.
Senator Heinrich in 2013 voted to expand background checks to all commercial firearms sales and crack down on illegal gun transactions by explicitly making straw purchasing and gun trafficking federal crimes. That legislation ultimately failed a procedural vote.
Below are excerpts of Senator Heinrich's remarks:
"I was really proud to see my constituents fill Morningside Park in Albuquerque, Pioneer Women's Park in Las Cruces, the Plaza in Santa Fe, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Roswell, and Orchard Park in Farmington, all to remember the victims in Orlando and to say to their families, we are not going to forget them and to say to that entire community that when the LGBT community is attacked, really all of us are attacked."
"I'm here because I know that we can take tangible steps to make our country safer, again, steps that are not a burden to gun owners, to gun owners like me. This is not about creating a burden for law-abiding gun owners. It's not about a threat to the second amendment. What has become clear is that there are simply critical junctures where we have to be able to identify those who would do us harm."
"It is no secret that I have always believed that law-abiding citizens should be able to own firearms for sport, for self-defense. A lot of New Mexicans do just that and do it with incredible responsibility, but I simply can't stand by and let this pass with just another moment of silence. It's personal. As a parent of a 13-year-old, as the parent of a 9-year-old and watching what happened at Sandy Hook in Senator Murphy's home state, without believing there must be something more that we can do...So I think we owe it to the American people to take real action to reduce the violence in our communities, and I truly believe that keeping guns out of the hands of people who are frankly legally prohibited from having them is just such common sense."
"If the F.B.I. or the intelligence community believes that someone is such an imminent threat, that they are so dangerous that we cannot allow them to board a commercial airliner, shouldn't they also be prohibited from buying a gun or shouldn't we at least let the Attorney General flag that sale and do something about it?"
"Why is this so hard? I stand here as a gun owner. I have looked at each of these amendments through the lens of what it means to be a law-abiding gun owner in this country with both rights and responsibilities. That's why we have hunter safety before we ever go out into the field as a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old. And I just don't see anything in these two amendments that is an unreasonable burden to someone like myself. So why is it so hard to even have this conversation on the floor of the Senate? Why is it so hard to get a vote and more importantly, why is it so hard to change these policies and these laws, to try to make our country just a little bit safer?"