Crist, Rutherford, Demings Renew Bipartisan Push to Close Pensacola Loophole

Washington, DC – U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL), John Rutherford (R-FL), and Val Demings (D-FL) have introduced the Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act to close the “Pensacola loophole,” which allows foreign nationals to legally purchase firearms simply by first acquiring a hunting license.

In 2019, a Saudi foreign national exploited the Pensacola Loophole to legally purchase a gun, which he used to attack Naval Air Station Pensacola, injuring eight and killing three people. One of the victims, Pinellas airman Mohammed “Mo” Haitham, was only 19 years old and lost his life heroically trying to stop the shooter. The terrorist reportedly had ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

“The Pensacola Loophole allowed a terrorist to attack American heroes on our own soil. Some Floridians may not know that foreign nationals can legally buy guns in America simply by acquiring a hunting license, but al-Qaeda knows it. ISIS knows it,” said Rep. Crist. “That’s why I’m renewing my push to close this loophole to keep foreign terrorists from legally buying guns. I thank my friends and colleagues Representatives Rutherford and Demings for their leadership, and I thank our allies who have been advocating for common sense, gun violence prevention measures for decades.”

“In 2019, a terrorist killed three American sailors at the Pensacola Naval Air Station,” said Rep. Rutherford. “He was able to purchase a firearm without a proper background check due to a loophole in federal gun laws for foreign visitors. This legislation would close that loophole by holding foreign individuals to the same standard as U.S. citizens and requiring them to be vetted both here in the U.S. and in their country of origin. I'm proud to join a bipartisan coalition working to prevent an attack like this from ever happening again.”

“Every reasonable person agrees that people shouldn’t be able to get any gun, anywhere, anytime, with no oversight and no background checks,” said Rep. Demings. “We have seen that guns in the wrong hands leads to tragedy. This legislation will close the loophole that allowed a tragic shooting at NAS Pensacola, and bring some sanity and common sense into our gun laws. I thank my cosponsors for their support on this important legislation and look forward to taking real action to end America's epidemic of gun violence.”

“Far too many incidents of gun violence can be attributed to weaknesses in the law. The shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola tragically underscored how many states issue hunting licenses freely because there is no minimum nationwide standard,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords Federal Affairs Directors. “We thank Representatives Crist and Rutherford for introducing this legislation to ensure that federal authorities vet foreign nationals who wish to obtain or possess a gun and prevent the hunting license loophole from being exploited in this way.”

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that all people should be subject to common-sense safety measures like a comprehensive Brady background check when purchasing a firearm,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “The Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act is a common-sense measure that closes an existing loophole, ensuring lawfully admitted non-citizens  are thoroughly vetted before they can access a firearm. This bill will ensure that individuals who visit our country for hunting and sporting purposes get appropriate scrutiny before obtaining a gun. Brady thanks Rep. Crist for championing this important bill.”

“MCSA thanks Representatives Crist, Rutherford, and Demings for their leadership on the Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act,” said Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, President of Major County Sheriffs of America. “This legislation would strengthen homeland security by implementing stronger vetting procedures for foreign nationals who are seeking to purchase a firearm in the United States. MCSA looks forward to continuing to support efforts to advance this critical legislation.”

Additional Background on the Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act:
Congressman Crist first introduced this bipartisan legislation with Reps. Rutherford and Demings last year following Mo Haitham’s death and has been a champion of common sense gun reform in the wake of shootings across the state, including Parkland Pulse shootings.

Under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, a foreign national is allowed to purchase and/or possess a firearm in the United States if they first obtain a hunting license. If enacted, the legislation would require foreign nationals wishing to purchase or possess a firearm with a hunting license to petition the U.S. Attorney General for a one-year waiver, providing a more rigorous and intensive background check and ongoing oversight.

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