U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Wednesday he would support ending a loophole that allows foreigners who legally enter the United States without a visa to buy firearms.
Congress is now considering major revisions to the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers from more than three dozen nations to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. Although most foreign visitors are prohibited from buying weapons while here, those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program can acquire and possess firearms if they meet certain requirements.
Wednesday, Democrat Jason Kander — the Republican Blunt’s likely opponent next year — sharply criticized the loophole.
“The fact that a terrorist can come to the United States from any country in the Visa Waiver Program and buy a gun is extremely troubling,” said Kander, Missouri’s secretary of state. “An ISIS terrorist can use the program to fly from Belgium to the U.S., land at the airport, and immediately go buy a gun and plot an attack against American citizens.”
At least two accused terrorists — shoe bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui — entered the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program. More than 20 million visitors enter the country through the program each year, more than one-third of all foreign tourists.
This week, Blunt said he would support new restrictions on the visa waiver program after earlier arguing for its expansion.
The Star asked Blunt about his position on the issue Wednesday morning. Blunt said he wasn’t sure what gun laws applied to visitors without visas, but by Wednesday afternoon he said he was ready to support a ban on gun sales to those foreigners.
“I will continue to be firm in my support of the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of this country,” he said in an email to The Star. “However, those rights do not apply to non-citizens. And while no one has presented any evidence that this poses an imminent threat, there is no reason we shouldn’t take care of this before it does.”
Foreigners without visas must meet certain requirements to acquire weapons here, according to the Congressional Research Service, including a demonstration they intend to make a home in the state where they wish to purchase the firearm.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, introduced legislation in November that would extend the firearms ban to foreigners without visas. His office said Wednesday the proposal will be a part of a broader anti-terror measure Democrats plan to introduce.
“It’s time to close this loophole that terrorists could very easily exploit to get guns and use them to kill in this country,” Durbin said in November.
Senate Republicans may offer their own version of the gun ban this week. A similar ban has been introduced in the U.S. House.
The gun prohibition was not part of a bill passed by the House Tuesday that imposes new restrictions on the Visa Waiver Program. That bill had broad support from both parties.