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North Dakota, Minnesota senators take different stances on federal gun restrictions

After 50 people were killed early Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla., in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, some are calling for stricter gun restrictions, particularly for those suspected of being terrorists. Recent measures in Congress t...

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AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

  After 50 people were killed early Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla., in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, some are calling for stricter gun restrictions, particularly for those suspected of being terrorists. Recent measures in Congress to restrict access to guns, including an amendment in December to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, have failed. Both North Dakota senators, John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, voted against that legislation. The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 and injuring 53 more before being killed by police. Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI twice - in 2013 and 2014 - after he made comments to co-workers about possible terrorist ties and the following year after he contacted a Florida man who carried out a suicide car bomb in Syria. Neither of those interviews led to evidence of criminal activity, the FBI told Reuters News. It is unknown if Mateen was on the FBI's watch list. In December, the Senate rejected two pieces of legislation that targeted access to guns. The first was a bill that would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to purchase guns, which, was defeated 45-54. The second would have enacted universal background checks for those purchasing guns. That measure failed 48-50. Hoeven and Heitkamp voted against both pieces of legislation. In casting her votes, Heitkamp was the lone Democratic senator to vote in opposition to the proposals, which were tied to a bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and strip federal funding to Planned Parenthood. In a statement to the Herald on Sunday, Heitkamp said she would wait to hear more details about the shooting.
 "My heart goes out to the victims, their loved ones and the city of Orlando in the wake of this unspeakable act of hatred and terror against the LGBT community," Heitkamp said. "In the coming days and weeks, I'll be closely monitoring information that unfolds to make sure the U.S. Congress and our federal law enforcement agencies are doing everything in their power to support the city of Orlando, and to keep all our communities - from Florida to North Dakota - strong and safe." Heitkamp's vote in December was consistent with her 2013 vote against expanding background checks. That same year, she supported an amendment to criminalize straw purchasing and gun trafficking, as well as to improve the availability of records to the criminal background check. In December, Hoeven told the Herald the measure to block gun sales to suspected terrorists lacked "judicial oversight or due process." He supported an amendment to provide "an expedited process so that law enforcement can prevent a suspected terrorist from getting a weapon" but also protects constitutional rights of those who may have been wrongly put on a watch list, he said. Don Canton, a spokesman for Hoeven, reiterated that stance after Sunday's mass shooting. "Sen. Hoeven supports preventing terrorists from obtaining guns," Canton said in a statement to the Herald. "He voted for an alternative proposal, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), which would have allowed the federal government to stop the sale of a firearm and give the government time to bring the case before a judge to determine whether or not the sale should be denied. That approach allows judges to review the case and preserves due process for law-abiding citizens." That vote back in December came a day after 14 people were killed in a massacre in San Bernadino, Calif. The two Democratic senators from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, voted in favor of the federal legislation back in December. "This is a sad day for Orlando and a sad day for America," Klobuchar said in a statement. "Innocent people were slaughtered by a man who was motivated by hate and terror and extremism. I stand with the LGBT community today, and my prayers are with the victims. We must root out terrorism abroad and at home." Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., said he would announce a bill Monday that would ban anyone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from owning a firearm. Current law only prohibits those with felony convictions from buying or possessing a gun, but those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes are not. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers shared responsibility and that the "epidemic" of gun violence would continue if Congress continues to do nothing, according to Reuters News. "Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence," he said in a statement. "This doesn't have to happen but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing - again." Sunday's killings were the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 attack at Virginia Tech, where 32 people died. Reuters News contributed to this report. After 50 people were killed early Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla., in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, some are calling for stricter gun restrictions, particularly for those suspected of being terrorists.Recent measures in Congress to restrict access to guns, including an amendment in December to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, have failed. Both North Dakota senators, John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, voted against that legislation.The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 and injuring 53 more before being killed by police.Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI twice - in 2013 and 2014 - after he made comments to co-workers about possible terrorist ties and the following year after he contacted a Florida man who carried out a suicide car bomb in Syria. Neither of those interviews led to evidence of criminal activity, the FBI told Reuters News.It is unknown if Mateen was on the FBI's watch list.In December, the Senate rejected two pieces of legislation that targeted access to guns. The first was a bill that would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to purchase guns, which, was defeated 45-54.The second would have enacted universal background checks for those purchasing guns. That measure failed 48-50.Hoeven and Heitkamp voted against both pieces of legislation.In casting her votes, Heitkamp was the lone Democratic senator to vote in opposition to the proposals, which were tied to a bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and strip federal funding to Planned Parenthood.In a statement to the Herald on Sunday, Heitkamp said she would wait to hear more details about the shooting.
 "My heart goes out to the victims, their loved ones and the city of Orlando in the wake of this unspeakable act of hatred and terror against the LGBT community," Heitkamp said. "In the coming days and weeks, I'll be closely monitoring information that unfolds to make sure the U.S. Congress and our federal law enforcement agencies are doing everything in their power to support the city of Orlando, and to keep all our communities - from Florida to North Dakota - strong and safe."Heitkamp's vote in December was consistent with her 2013 vote against expanding background checks. That same year, she supported an amendment to criminalize straw purchasing and gun trafficking, as well as to improve the availability of records to the criminal background check.In December, Hoeven told the Herald the measure to block gun sales to suspected terrorists lacked "judicial oversight or due process." He supported an amendment to provide "an expedited process so that law enforcement can prevent a suspected terrorist from getting a weapon" but also protects constitutional rights of those who may have been wrongly put on a watch list, he said.Don Canton, a spokesman for Hoeven, reiterated that stance after Sunday's mass shooting."Sen. Hoeven supports preventing terrorists from obtaining guns," Canton said in a statement to the Herald. "He voted for an alternative proposal, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), which would have allowed the federal government to stop the sale of a firearm and give the government time to bring the case before a judge to determine whether or not the sale should be denied. That approach allows judges to review the case and preserves due process for law-abiding citizens."That vote back in December came a day after 14 people were killed in a massacre in San Bernadino, Calif.The two Democratic senators from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, voted in favor of the federal legislation back in December."This is a sad day for Orlando and a sad day for America," Klobuchar said in a statement. "Innocent people were slaughtered by a man who was motivated by hate and terror and extremism. I stand with the LGBT community today, and my prayers are with the victims. We must root out terrorism abroad and at home."Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., said he would announce a bill Monday that would ban anyone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from owning a firearm. Current law only prohibits those with felony convictions from buying or possessing a gun, but those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes are not.Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers shared responsibility and that the "epidemic" of gun violence would continue if Congress continues to do nothing, according to Reuters News."Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence," he said in a statement. "This doesn't have to happen but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing - again."Sunday's killings were the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 attack at Virginia Tech, where 32 people died.Reuters News contributed to this report.

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMPKEVIN CRAMER
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