Bipartisan Proposal to Ban Suspected Terrorists From Buying Guns Survives Test Vote

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, on Capitol Hill on June 21. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

The draft of a bipartisan proposal designed to ban suspected terrorists from buying guns survived a test vote in the Senate Thursday afternoon because it received a majority of support.

The measure, introduced Tuesday by Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance but lives on after getting 52 votes. The future of the proposal remains unclear, but the measure stays alive since there were only 46 votes to table, or kill, it during the procedural vote.

Collins's measure is the first to get a majority in the Senate since the country's worst-ever mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, on June 12. Forty-nine individuals were killed early that morning at gay nightclub Pulse. Gun reform measures were drafted after it was learned that the gunman, Omar Mateen, previously had been on the FBI terror watch list and during his attack had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militants.

Collins's proposal would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to prohibit the sale of guns to those on the no-fly list or "selectee" list, which requires additional screening at airports. Americans could appeal the refusal of sale if an individual was wrongly included on one of the lists.

"This is common sense. It does not infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of Americans," Collins said Thursday before the vote. "All it does is say that if you're too dangerous to board an airplane, you're too dangerous to buy a gun."

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, also a Republican, created a competing measure in an attempt to appeal to his GOP peers. But the Senate on Thursday voted to table his proposal with 31 in favor and 67 in opposition.

The debate about gun laws has taken dramatic turns since the Orlando rampage, with a nearly 15-hour filibuster launched last week by Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and an almost-26-hour sit-in staged by Democrats in the House on Wednesday.

Democrats said Collins's proposal was flawed, but agreed to consider it, especially after the Senate's rejection of four gun measures on Monday. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has said its objective is to ensure that Americans wrongly placed on the no-fly list are given their legal rights to due process.

Supporters of the measure joined Collins during a press briefing to announce it Tuesday. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, spoke directly to his "friends at the NRA": "I understand your concern about denying somebody the right to buy a gun. That's a constitutional right. But every right, whether speech or buying a weapon or any other constitutional right, has boundaries on it."