Graham Wants Expanded Background Checks, Says Some People Shouldn’t be Allowed to Buy Guns

August 9, 2019 Updated: August 9, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed support for expanded background checks on Aug. 9, saying he was going to speak to President Donald Trump about planned and proposed legislation on Air Force One, later adding that he thinks some people should be put on a list and barred from buying guns.

Graham spoke to reporters after boarding the plane before Trump spoke to reporters outside the White House.

Graham said that people getting guns from family members or friends shouldn’t have to undergo background checks—unless the guns are sold.

“A lot of us don’t want transferring a gun to a family member or a friend to become a federal event. But if you’re selling a gun—even to a family member—or at a gun show if it’s an assault weapon, you have to get a background check. It’s different than a shotgun or a pistol. So I don’t know. I’m floating that idea,” Graham said.

The Senator, an ally of Trump, said that there’s a difference between a parent giving a shotgun to their son or daughter and commercial transactions and that he’d like to start with expanded checks for assault weapons with an eye toward including other guns in the future.

Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store
Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, 2019. (Andres Leighton/AP Photo)

“I’m just saying, rather than doing shotguns and pistols, we’ve all got to start somewhere. We’ve all voted against the bill before. I’m trying to find some middle ground here,” he said.

“The red-flag stuff won’t mean anything. None of these cases involved somebody that got around a background check. All these guys bought the gun legally. There’s so many—like the guy in Dayton, if you get kicked out of school for threatening your schoolmates, with a rape list and a kill list, maybe you shouldn’t [be able to] buy a gun. That’s the heart of the matter here,” he added.

People like that should be put on a list, Graham said. “When you start threatening the school, and when you start threatening violence against people in a serious kind of way, then there should be consequences with that,” he said.

Graham added that there should be adequate due process, including evaluations by mental health professionals. Graham said he’s trying to create a program that would provide funding for such professionals to work with law enforcement.

“You’re an average cop, I mean, you run into bizarre people all the time, okay? You need somebody to help you figure out, hey this guy’s about to blow, this is more serious than that case. This is what’s missing in the system, is that most law enforcement people don’t have the advisory team they need to make these hard calls. Like [Nikolas] Cruz. They went to his house 40 times. Down in Parkland, Florida? He did everything but take an ad out in the paper, ‘I’m going to shoot somebody,'” Graham said.

“You know, you just can’t let that keep going and going. There will be another one tomorrow, maybe. This guy who went into Wal-Mart with a whole—my goal is to have a system that can identify truly a person about to blow, and do something about it before it’s too late.”

Nikolas Cruz appears in court with attorney Melissa McNeil (L) for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Feb. 19, 2018. (Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images)

The Senator said that he owns an AR-15 for protection. He bought it while he was in Afghanistan.

“Here’s a scenario that I think is real: There’s a hurricane, a natural disaster, no power, no cops, no anything. They’re not going to come to the AR-15 home,” he said. “I’ve got an AR-15. I don’t think I’m the problem. The whole goal is to keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

Graham was asked by a reporter why “the average American needs an assault weapon,” and said it doesn’t matter what they need.

“I can’t limit—your rights can’t be limited because I don’t understand why you want to do something,” he said. “The Second Amendment is a personal right.”

Whatever the case, some kind of action must now be taken, according to Graham, echoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“I think there’s more pressure on all of us to do something. If you’re out there just living a normal life, this is hard to understand, why we can’t do something after multiple events with the same background, same profile. Somebody blows and there’s some evidence that the person was squirrely and nobody ever did anything about it,” he said.

“The whole background checks, people find a hard time that: Well, if you own a gun, why wouldn’t you want to go through a background check? I just think the space to do nothing is gone. And that’s a good thing.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber