WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill aimed at strengthening the country's firearms background check system will face at least one "no" vote in the U.S. Senate: Louisiana's John Kennedy.
Kennedy, announcing his opposition to the bill on Tuesday, said he suspected he might end up being the only dissenting vote on the proposed legislation, which hasn't yet been scheduled for a vote.
Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina are sponsoring the bill along with Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both of Connecticut. The bill's provisions are aimed at strengthening the National Instant Background Check System by offering bonuses to federal agencies that provide information to the system and grants for states to upload information.
The push came after a lone gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, killed 26 people in a Baptist church in rural Texas in November. Kelley previously had been court-martialed by the U.S. Air Force, sentenced to a year in jail and drummed out of the service for assaulting his wife and child, a conviction that should've prohibited Kelley from purchasing a weapon.
But the Air Force never passed information about Kelley's conviction to the background check system, which is administered by the FBI. Kennedy said Tuesday that Air Force officials are still investigating the incident and haven't yet provided any information to Congress about who was to blame for the failure.
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Kennedy touted his pro-gun rights bona fides in criticizing the bill but saved most of his fire for federal and state bureaucrats. The Louisiana Republican repeatedly called Kelley and other mass-shooters "idiots" and said the country doesn't "need more gun control — we need more idiot control."
Kennedy said uploading records and providing information to the background check system is already required by federal law and that the Cornyn-Murphy-Scott-Blumenthal bill amounted to asking government employees "pretty please with sugar on top" to simply do their jobs.
"Nobody ever seems to get fired for not doing their job," Kennedy said. "The law is settled. What we have here is an enforcement problem."
But Kennedy also said he plans to push an amendment to the bill, along with conservative Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, to provide "due process" to those currently prohibited from buying or owning a firearm under federal law.
Kennedy said he supports rules against convicted felons buying guns but said others — including those placed on the no-buy list because of mental health issues — deserved some sort of legal recourse before landing on the list.