A proposed piece of gun legislation labeled a bipartisan compromise by supporters, including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D, drew a cool reception by other members of the North Dakota delegation as lawmakers attempt to break the partisan gridlock in Congress on the issue.
Heitkamp was one of eight senators to gather inside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to urge action on proposed legislation to prevent those on no-fly lists from buying guns. The legislation was introduced by Maine Republican Susan Collins, one of the chamber’s more moderate GOP members.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement he’s not sure the proposed bill is the right approach to addressing the issue.
“I supported and voted for the SHIELD Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, which would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists while preserving the constitutional guarantee of due process for law-abiding citizens. It received 53 votes on a bipartisan basis in the Senate. I believe that is the right approach, and most likely to pass both chambers,” Hoeven said.
“We’ll review the Collins bill carefully but believe they would need to move the due process review up front in order to get broad-based support for the bill," he said.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he believes the recent spate of proposed gun legislation is missing the mark.
“The problem isn’t the U.S. Constitution. The problem is Islamic terrorism,” Cramer said. “We can’t just compromise the Constitution.”
Cramer said Congress should look closely at the watch lists but also make sure that people’s rights aren’t eroded by any kind of slippery slope being created legislatively.
“What tools can we give law enforcement while at the same time protecting freedoms?” Cramer said. “I just think you can’t haphazardly remove people’s constitutional rights without due process.”
The House has passed several pieces of legislation aimed at protecting against extremists but they have been rejected in the Senate, according to Cramer. Among them was the SAFE Act passed in November, aimed at expanding background checks on Iraqi and Syrian refugees attempting to enter the country.
Heitkamp said the legislation is common sense and something both parties can get on board with. A bill introduced without a bipartisan approach is doomed to fail, she said, as has been the case whenever the contentious issue of gun control has come before lawmakers.
“I think my colleagues in the Democratic caucus are ready to get something accomplished,” Heitkamp said.