Rep. Deb Lesko justified her amendment to on the grounds that “you already got a background check when you went to TSA.” | Alex Wong/Getty Images
An Arizona Republican has offered a proposal to allow millions of people cleared by the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program — designed to make getting through airports easier for airline passengers — to buy a gun without additional investigation.
Rep. Deb Lesko offered the TSA Pre-Check amendment as part of the debate over the House Democratic-sponsored bill requiring background checks for all gun sales, including private transactions. Her amendment is set to be voted on Wednesday unless withdrawn.Story Continued Below
The bipartisan background checks legislation will likely be approved by the House, and is the most high-profile vote in Congress on gun control in decades. Top Senate Republicans have already said they will ignore the bill, while President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation if it ever reaches his desk.
Lesko — who is strongly opposed to the background checks bill, as are the vast majority of House Republicans — offered a series of amendments to the gun legislation when it was debated by the Rules Committee, including the TSA language.
“H.R. 8, the Democrats who sponsor it think it’s going to solve all the [gun violence] problems, and unfortunately it won’t,” Lesko said in an interview, referring to the background checks bill.
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The Arizona Republican justified her amendment on the grounds that “you already got a background check when you went to TSA.”
Lesko added: “If the goal of H.R. 8 is to prevent the bad people, or mentally ill people, or people who aren’t supposed to have guns from not having guns, you already OK’d a TSA Pre-Check person.”
To qualify for TSA Pre-Check, applicants can’t have ever committed a number of major felonies, including espionage, terrorism, treason, murder or other crimes.
However — unlike a federal criminal background check, which bars anyone found guilty of any felony from ever buying a gun — anyone who hasn’t been convicted of the most serious felonies, or has been out of prison for more than five years, may obtain a TSA Pre-Check clearance.
Crimes that don’t permanently preclude getting TSA Pre-Check clearance include unlawful use or possession of firearm, kidnapping, and rape or aggravated sexual abuse, among others.
“It’s crazy,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), lead sponsor of the background checks bill, of the Lesko amendment.
“TSA is on a seven-year block,” Thompson said. If she got her way, someone who is convicted of a crime that would make prohibited — specifically, domestic violence or rape — if they were convicted seven years ago, they could get a gun today.”
TSA also uses different databases than the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used by federally licensed firearms dealers to conduct background searches on gun purchases. For instance, the records of people prevented from owing a gun for mental-health reasons are used for a NICS review, but not for a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry review.
And TSA allows people under 21 to get pre-check clearance. However, anyone under 21 may not legally purchase a handgun.
Lesko’s other proposed amendments — all of which were rejected — would have allowed “the transfer of a firearm to a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault who has an order of protection issued by a court”; pre-clearance of gun purchase by any participant in TSA’s Global Entry Program”; “the temporary transfer of firearms to individuals which take place solely on the property of the firearm owner”; and “the transfer of firearms to individuals who have a valid state-issued permit to purchase or own a firearm.”
The only amendment that was accepted for floor debate was Lesko’s TSA amendment.
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