Congress should pass gun-control legislation to bar felons, people with mental illness and those on the government no-fly list from purchasing firearms, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said Monday.
The Indiana Democrat has been a strong supporter of gun rights during nearly a decade in the House and Senate, and has previously been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. But he said at a news conference that he also believes in "common sense."
"I have felt that if you are on a no-fly list that you shouldn't be able to purchase a weapon," said Donnelly, who is up for re-election in 2018. "I've thought that if you are facing significant mental illness challenges or someone who is a felon, that you shouldn't be able to go to a gun show or to be able to go online and purchase a weapon."
Republicans who control Congress have had little appetite in recent years for imposing limits on gun purchases, though some have said in the aftermath of this month's deadly Orlando nightclub shooting that they're open to legislation focused on preventing suspected terrorists from buying guns.
Opponents of banning those on the no-fly list cite constitutional issues with the list itself, because it is secretly and routinely updated without due process given to those who are put on it. Critics also say the list frequently lists innocent people in error, including individuals with the same or similar names to others who deserve to be on the list.
Four different gun-control bills failed to advance in the Senate last week that would have strengthened required background checks for gun buyers while banning many suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. The measures were opposed by the NRA. That came after Senate Democrats held a 15-hour filibuster, while their counterparts in the House held a 25-hour sit-in that ground proceedings nearly to a halt.
Donnelly said he voted for all four gun-control bills and credited Republicans with putting forth their own proposals.
"The Democrat (bills) went further, but the Republican votes moved the ball as well," he said.
Donnelly noted that public opinion polls suggest a majority of Indiana residents support similar gun-control proposals.