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“Prevent Terrorists from Purchasing Firearms or Explosives By Passing the Protect America Act”

June 27, 2016
Press Release
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

On June 11, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, a terrorist, who pledged allegiance to ISIS and radical Islam while violently targeting LGBT Americans, took the lives of 49 innocent people and severely wounded 53 others.

While we frequently hear and read about terrorist attacks abroad, we have a very real, ongoing homeland security threat here within our own borders. Radicalized Islamic terrorists want to strip away the freedoms and liberties we all cherish as Americans. There is a whole lot more going on here beyond a gun control debate and attempts by members of Congress to narrow this issue so glaringly is alienating the rest of our country who understand the bigger picture.

Radical Islam is at war with the United States, although our President and Congressional Democrats are not yet at war with radical Islam. Whether ISIS or other Islamic terrorists carry out their attacks with an explosive device, knife or firearm, the fact remains that they will not rest until they either destroy us or we destroy them. For many Americans, the Sig Sauer Rifle and handgun apparently walked itself into the Orlando night club and discharged itself without a jihadist behind the trigger yelling "Allahu Akbar" while slaughtering dozens of innocent Americans. 

As far as preventing terrorists from being able to acquire firearms and explosives, I completely agree with that mission and quite frankly I don't know one member of Congress who disagrees. In the pursuit of national security, Congress must make reforms to ensure the FBI, Department of Justice and other law enforcement officials have additional tools to prevent terrorists from gaining access to any firearm regardless of whether it's a small handgun or a firearm with even more capability to inflict injury and death. We must find common ground to pass legislation that keeps explosives and firearms out of the hands of suspected terrorists, while protecting the due process rights of Americans. 

That is why last December, I introduced the Protect America Act (H.R. 4237), which will prevent terrorists from being able to purchase firearms or explosives. By demonstrating probable cause that the purchaser is committing or will commit an act of terror, the transfer can be stopped. The transferee will have the right to notice, hearing and counsel. Additionally, my bill would require the Department of Justice to review and verify the Terrorist Watch-list and No-fly list to remove erroneous entries. 

In today’s world, it is so important that we do everything that we can to keep Americans safe. Preventing terrorists from gaining access to firearms and explosives must be a top priority for Congress. Instead of dividing America, my colleagues must confront the reality of radical Islam and take the necessary steps towards protecting our homeland by supporting my bill. Had my bill been enacted into law, and the federal government had listed the Orlando shooter as a terrorist threat, then the federal government would have been able to prevent any of the lawful firearm purchases that took place in this case.

I will continue to push for the passage of my Protect America Act, so that we can keep firearms and explosives out of the hands of terrorists. Protecting America’s security at home and abroad remains one of my highest priorities in Congress.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.