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Rep. Brad Ashford said Thursday he supports legislation to prevent suspects on a terrorist no-fly list from purchasing firearms along with a bill requiring enhanced background checks, but he did not participate in the sit-in protest mounted by House Democrats.

Ashford chose not to join his Democratic colleagues during Wednesday night's unprecedented sit-in on the House floor.

"He does not support shutting down Congress on any issue," spokesman Joe Jordan said, "and he is concerned that this tactic will be used in the future by the far-right to advance issues that we do not agree with."

The sit-in ended Thursday, about 25 hours after it began.

Ashford has called for a bipartisan compromise to strengthen gun purchase background checks and ensure that suspected terrorists on the federal "no fly" list, a designation that prevents them from boarding airliners, would also be prohibited from purchasing weapons.

"The Congress owes the American people a solution to the gun violence that is devastating families and communities across the country," the Omaha congressman said.  

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln said that while he can "understand the passion" of those who participated in the sit-in, "people need to make their voices heard in an orderly fashion" to be effective within the rules of the House.

"I anticipate the House could move forward on some form of legislation in the near term," Fortenberry said during a telephone interview prior to boarding a flight home.   

That conceivably could take the form of "a refined terrorist list," perhaps providing that a person could be flagged and stopped from purchasing a weapon while the government is required to demonstrate some burden of proof that a person should be on that list within a short period of time, he said.

That would provide a balance between protecting Americans and protecting their Second Amendment rights, Fortenberry said.  

"It would protect both the Second Amendment and due process," he said.

Fortenberry said he believes there's also a need for much more robust prosecution of people who lie on their background check forms.

"I believe there can be some areas of common ground," he said.

Ashford said he believes that "keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists is a common-sense way to strengthen our national security and ensure that acts of violence are not perpetrated on our communities."

"The stakes are too high to retreat to partisan positions and talking points," he said.

Ashford is co-sponsor of a bill that would strengthen background checks for gun purchasers and provide assistance for communities to identify and respond to mental health issues associated with criminal violence.

Ashford said the "no fly, no buy" bill was authored by Rep. Peter King of New York, a Republican. 

Rep. Adrian Smith of Gering, a Republican, said the sit-in was "not about solutions, but political statements."

"I share the serious concerns of many of my colleagues about restricting constitutional rights without due process," he said.

"We must come together, rather than shouting over one another, to work through the issues of radical ideology, terrorism and mental health fueling so many violent events in our country."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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