Fired up by the largest mass killings in American history, both of New Jersey’s United States senators joined the filibuster aimed at putting gun safety legislation to a vote, principally a “No Fly, No Buy” provision to prevent those on a terror watch list from buying a gun. The state’s Junior Sen. Cory Booker joined NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams from Washington.
Williams: Thank you for being with us senator. Anytime there is a mass shooting, the political will seems to galvanize around how to prevent gun violence. This time the focus is the terrorist loophole?
Booker: Yes, exactly. Well, it’s actually a two part. It’s how do we shut down the access of terrorist, ISIS inspired terrorists, lone wolf terrorists? How do we shut down their access to things like assault rifles and guns? Right now we have these gaping loopholes that literally al-Qaida and others have given instructions to American incited individuals have given instructions on how to exploit these loopholes to get these weapons to do such events like we saw in Orlando.
Williams: Right and that’s through the internet. How do you close off the internet? Can you shut these sites down?
Booker: No. Look, first of all, I don’t want to stop this, is not the attempt to stop the access of law abiding citizens to weapons. We just want to make sure that whatever portal you go to there’s a way of doing a background check to making sure that you’re not a criminal or a terrorist.
Williams: The bill to prevent people on the watch list from buying a gun is scheduled for Tuesday because of the filibusterer. It’s similar to Feinstein bill introduced after 14 people died in San Bernardino in December. That was rejected by Republicans in a party line vote. What makes you think that it has a chance to pass this time?
Booker: Well, again there’s been a mood and the country is changing. A lot more people are angry, who are worried, who are concerned. Our hope is that more Republicans are beginning to understand they’ve got to do something. Business as usual, not doing anything is unacceptable. So we’re —
Williams: Why does this issue not transcend partisan politics?
Booker: Well it does outside of Washington it does. You poll Republicans, you poll gun owners, you poll NRA members and 70 percent or more think for God’s sake let’s close these loopholes. But here in Washington it doesn’t. And so what we’ve got to do is start connecting people to the constituencies they represent and so they understand if they don’t do anything and we see another terrorist attack, perhaps in their state, in their district, in their schools, their churches, their ball parks that there’s going to be consequences for people who did nothing when they had the chance to do something. What other nation is there on the globe where your enemy that you’re at war with is saying, ‘We’re going to exploit these ways to get weapons’? In other words we’re creating or practically giving them weapons to do these things.
Williams: You talked about consequences. There were no consequences after Sandy Hook when 26 little ones and their teachers were killed.
Booker: Yeah, look, that was the eloquence of Chris Murphy last night talking about his maiden speech. He came here as a senator and talks of that issue. Nothing has changed and that’s why when he and I talked about doing this, sort of plotting, we said we had to shut down the Senate floor, had to find a way for it not to be business as usual.
Williams: Congress allowed a ban on assault weapons to expire back in 2004. What’s been the impact of that?
Booker: Well we see the data now. It shows with the assault weapons ban in place you saw a dip in violent crime. We saw it in Newark. Talk to any cop and these weapons weren’t showing up in the hands of criminals so easily and they weren’t being used in the same way they were. There’s so much data now that when states have been able to put in place common sense gun safety legislation whether it’s domestic violence with weapons goes down, crime with weapons goes down, murders with these weapons as well. So, we know we need to have a way of keeping bad people from getting guns that doesn’t have to infringe on the ability for good people to get guns. When I was mayor —
Williams: Now Sen. [John] Cornyn’s bill is supported by the NRA. It would let the government delay gun sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Is that enough?
Booker: No. I mean that’s the problem, that number one doesn’t put the FBI in a position where they can really challenge it effectively where they’re often going to have to signal to a terrorist that they are going to challenge it before hand. Which means the terrorist can say, ‘Oops, I got caught. I’m not going to a brick and mortar store. I am just going to go to the internet’ so they don’t have to go through a background check. So, we want a comprehensive way to shut down access to terrorists while still for those very rare times where you’ve seen this no fly list somebody gets on that list erroneously there’s a way to grieve that and get you due process back.
Williams: What will it take to get common sense gun control reform?
Booker: Well I think it’s going to take people getting engaged and letting them know — in New Jersey for example — let their Congress people know that this is what you demand because we are vulnerable in our state to this kind of terrorist activity. We see around the globe what’s happening now is more and more is these lone wolves doing things like this and New Jersey and our nation are vulnerable as long as a person — who can’t even get on a plane — is blocked by the FBI and other agencies from flying are considered dangerous are able to go to the internet or to a gun show and buy a trunk load full of weapons and come after our families.
Williams: Thank you very much Sen. Booker.
Booker: Thank you and I’ll keep fighting. Thank you.