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Senators Ayotte and Shaheen Detail Positions on Gun Sale Ban, ISIS

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As more details come out about the shooting in San Bernardino, terrorism threats and measures to restrict guns have become part of the debate surrounding national security.

NHPR spoke with both of New Hampshire’s Senators this morning about one of President Obama’s proposals: banning the sale of guns to those on the government’s no-fly list.

On the night of President Obama’s address, Republican Kelly Ayotte tweeted that the country needs to prevent those on the no-fly list from accessing guns.

That echoed what the president said, but Ayotte says her support for such a measure includes an important condition – ensuring due process.

“If you’re going to put someone on a list and say they are not allowed to fly on a commercial flight, the government would have to have information and evidence upon which to do that. So it seems logical that if you’re going to deny someone’s constitutional right, that you have due process available to them.”

The no-fly list is a subset of the much larger terrorist watch list; of the 16,000 people on the no-fly list, it’s estimated roughly 500 are Americans. And groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have long raised questions about how people end up on the no-fly list.

Ayotte and other Republicans back a measure that if someone on the list wants to buy a gun, the burden of proof would then be on the government to show that person poses a threat.

Not surprisingly, the New Hampshire Democratic Party was quick to criticize Ayotte for her unwillingness to ban guns from those on the no-fly list – no questions asked.

Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen sees no problem with that approach.

“If you are on a no-fly list and you’re not allowed to get on a plane, then you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. It’s pretty simple.”

Shaheen also brushed aside Ayotte’s concerns about due process.

“There is a process where if you feel like you should not be on the no-fly list you can appeal that and have that either overturned or upheld.”

A spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is challenging Ayotte’s re-election, says the governor also supports restricting access to guns for those on the no-fly list – without any conditions – calling it a common sense measure.

But where the Senators share some agreement is the fight against terrorism and specifically ISIS.

Both Senators think the visa waiver program needs review and agree that Congress should pass an authorization to use of military force against ISIS. They also believe a significant increase in ground troops isn’t the answer.

Again, here’s Senator Shaheen:

“I think to be successful in the Middle East, we need to have the people who live in Iraq and Syria and the countries that are under attack take up the battle to protect those countries and we’re seeing them do that.”

Asked what steps she’s looking for, Ayotte says the president should call together NATO to build a stronger coalition that includes Arab nations engaged on the ground in defeating ISIS.

“And then I think there needs to be stronger air strikes, better rules of engagement for that. Some of that has happened in the recent days, but I think it can be much stronger. I also believe we should be providing direct support to the Kurds, which are the one effective fighting force on the ground.”

For Ayotte, what the President has been saying hasn’t been strong enough, while Shaheen says his message of 'stay the course' is the right one.

“He didn’t offer any new actions that the United States was going to be taking. But I do think it was important to say to people this is a fight we’re going to continue.”

And President Obama has called on lawmakers like Shaheen and Ayotte to find common ground on measures to address this ongoing fight.

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