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Navy wants Congress to limit foreign military personnel’s gun purchases after FL Navy base shooting

Row of handguns. (US Coast Guard Academy/Released)
December 11, 2019

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and the Pentagon want Congress to revise gun legislation in the aftermath of the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, making it harder for foreign nationals to purchase firearms.

Modly said the Pentagon is looking for additional ways to protect military bases, military personnel and their families, but one approach also includes new action in Congress to prevent foreign nationals from gun purchases, according to NBC.

Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the 21-year-old Saudi Arabian military trainee suspected in the Friday shooting attack, reportedly purchased a hunting license on July 11, 2019. Nine days later Alshamrani used that license to purchase a firearm.

Alshamrani was one of 5,181 foreign military students, including 852 Saudi nationals, brought into the U.S. to train under the direction of U.S. military personnel.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, foreign nationals in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa cannot purchase and possess firearms, though some limited exceptions exist, NPR reported. Those firearms purchase exceptions include purchases for hunting purposes.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said expressed shock at learning any foreign nationals can buy guns in the U.S.

“That’s a federal loophole he took advantage of. I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment – but the Second Amendment is so that we the American people can keep and bear arms,” DeSantis told NPR. “It does not apply to Saudi Arabians. He had no constitutional right to do that, for sure.”

He added, “I think that they should definitely look at that.”

On Tuesday the Pentagon announced it had suspended training for all 852 Saudi Arabian military trainees present in the U.S.

At least six additional Saudi nationals were reportedly detained and questioned by investigators in the aftermath of the Friday shooting. Three of those detained reportedly watched and recording the shooting as it occurred. Alshamrani allegedly also hosted a party to watch videos of mass shootings in the days leading up to the attack.

Modly said that the U.S. efforts to train foreign military students remains important despite the origins of the Pensacola base shooter and the new scrutiny against the training program.

“It’s very important for our national security, as well as the world’s national security, that we have partners and allies who we train,” Modly said.

Just prior to the shooting at the Florida Navy base, another shooting incident involving a Navy sailor occurred at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In response to the pair of attacks, the Navy is also reportedly looking at how it assesses when people are under stress or exhibiting signs of potentially harmful behavior.

“We need to do a much better job of being in front of those types of issues,” Modly said.