Rutherford Introduces Bill to Close the Pensacola Loophole

December 19, 2019
Press Release
Legislation would prevent foreign nationals from easily purchasing firearms in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives John Rutherford (R-FL), Charlie Crist (D-FL), and Val B. Demings (D-FL) introduced the Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act. On December 6, 2019, three servicemembers were killed and eight were injured in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The shooter, who was a Saudi Arabian national, used a hunting license to legally purchase a handgun. Today’s legislation would prohibit foreign nationals from purchasing a firearm in the United States, unless that individual receives a waiver from the U.S. Attorney General certifying that, both here and abroad, they meet the same background check standards as a U.S. citizen.

“Following the tragedy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, it is clear that Congress must act to close a loophole in federal gun laws that allowed a foreign visitor to legally purchase a firearm and kill three Americans,” said Rep. Rutherford. “As the former Sheriff of Duval County and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe that all foreigners seeking to purchase a firearm must be vetted both here in the U.S. and in their country of origin. This bipartisan bill is crucial to strengthening our national security and keeping communities safe. Thank you to Representatives Crist and Demings for their bipartisan work on this legislation.”

“As communities in Florida, Georgia and Alabama mourn the loss of three of our best and brightest young airmen, Congress has a responsibility to step in and close the loophole that made this tragedy possible,” said Rep. Crist. “Foreign nationals should not be able to buy a firearm through the purchase of a hunting license. We need tougher vetting than that, and requiring them to petition the Attorney General directly would provide greater scrutiny and security for the American people.”

Under current law, non-immigrant visa holders are permitted to purchase a firearm in the event they: 1) Have a hunting license or are present for lawful hunting; 2) Are a foreign law enforcement officer on official duty; or 3) Are an official representative of a foreign government on official duties. The Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act would end those exceptions, and would only allow a non-immigrant visa holder to purchase a firearm after first receiving a waiver from the U.S. Attorney General. Before issuing a waiver, the Attorney General must receive a written statement from the visa holder’s country of origin consulate certifying that the individual is in compliance with all National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) requirements in the U.S.