Duckworth joins Durbin in legislative effort to close gun loophole in visa program
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said recently that she will introduce a House version of a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that would prohibit foreign nationals who have not been fully vetted by U.S. intelligence agencies from purchasing firearms by eliminating a loophole in the Visa Waiver Program.
Under current law, foreign nationals traveling in the U.S. on visas cannot buy or possess firearms, but visitors from 38 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program are excluded from this restriction. This issue has been the topic of much debate because 9/11 terrorist-attack conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
“For all the focus being placed on the refugee widows and children desperately seeking safety and respite from terrorism, we should be at least as concerned about issues outside of our rigorous refugee-resettlement process that terrorists have already exploited to gain easy access to our country,” Duckworth said. “While I support the Visa Waiver Program, there’s no reason to give unfettered access to deadly weapons to foreign nationals using the program. If we are truly concerned with protecting national security, we must close the loophole that enables foreign nationals to bypass the long-standing ban on international visitors purchasing firearms.
“If Congress fails to act, it will have also failed in its duty to protect our people and our national security," Duckworth said. "I can’t let that happen.”
Under the Visa Waiver Program, foreign nationals from 38 countries, including the U.K. and France, can enter the U.S. temporarily for business or pleasure, without securing a visa from a U.S. consulate. The program likewise allows U.S. citizens to travel to these 38 countries under similar guidelines. Supporters said the program benefits Americans, as it strengthens the freedom to travel abroad, bolstering local tourist economies, nurturing diplomatic relations and boosting direct investment from foreign countries.
Durbin, however, acknowledges the need for vigilance.
“The horrific terror attacks in Paris ... have given new urgency to protecting our own communities from similar terrorism,” Durbin said. “But let’s be absolutely clear about where the greatest threat lies. It is not in the refugee children, women and families who are the most carefully screened travelers to America. We know that dangerous people like Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid have used the relatively light screening of the Visa Waiver Program to seek entry into the U.S., and we know that current law does not block visitors from Visa Waiver countries from buying and possessing firearms. It’s time to close this loophole that terrorists could very easily exploit to get guns and use them to kill in this country.”
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