As you may have noticed, the attacks in San Bernadino last week quickly became seen through the lens of what political point certain people wanted to make. The Democratic party quickly attempted to push for a bizarre type of gun control, barring people on the "no fly list" from buying guns
. It's one of those things that sounds
good if you have no real knowledge about what's going on. But it's still being pushed because it sounds
like a sensible thing at first glance: why, if someone is a potential terrorist threat, they think, they probably shouldn't be able to buy guns. Hell, here's how President Obama himself put it last night in his big speech about terrorism (and gun control)
in the wake of the attacks:
Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge. There are several steps that Congress should take right away. To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
Well, here's the problem: being on the "no fly list" does not mean you're a terrorist suspect
. For the President to equate the two is not just wrong, it's disgraceful. First of all, there are two separate lists
: the no fly list and the "terrorist screening database." There is overlap between the two lists, but they are not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination.
Second, there is no due process
whatsoever involved in putting people on the no fly list. As we noted just last year, a court found that the lack of any legitimate way of getting off the no fly list was unconstitutional
. Another case involved an FBI agent checking the wrong box
, which put a woman on the no fly list, and kept her out of the country for a decade. In another case, a court had to force the DOJ
to admit to people they were on the no fly list, because it refused to even let them know before. While the DOJ finally changed this policy
a few months ago, the lack of due process is ridiculously concerning.
Then... there's this:
Leaks to the Intercept revealed that the "process" by which people are put on either the no fly list or the terrorist watch list basically involves hunches
, and revelations from just a few months ago show that DHS still uses flim flam pseudo science
to put people on the list based on hunches that the government laughably calls "predictive judgment," but which experts have said has no scientific basis whatsoever.
If you want to understand how incredibly wrong
this proposal is, you just need to replace "buy guns" with something else
, like "the right to assemble" or "the right to use the internet." It's easy to say: "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to use the internet?" But then you remember that these aren't actual suspects -- they're just people put on a list by law enforcement with no thorough process, let alone due process to defend themselves or to get off the list. And, of course, being a "suspect" doesn't mean you're guilty. Innocent until proven guilty used to actually mean something.
Thankfully, at least some are now
recognizing this with Republicans suddenly
arguing that they don't like this gun control policy because the no fly list is a joke
. Here's presidential candidate Marco Rubio:
“These are everyday Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism, they wind up on the no-fly list, there’s no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion, and now they’re having their Second Amendment rights being impeded upon.... The majority of the people on the no-fly list are often times people that just basically have the same name as somebody else who doesn’t belong on the no-fly list.... Sometimes you’re only on that list because the FBI wants to talk to you about someone you know, not because you’re a suspect."
He's not wrong
per se, but note that he's only concerned about the potential
Second Amendment impact of this should that amendment move forward (which it won't) -- and not
about the impact of all those innocent people whose lives are totally disrupted by being on the list.
And here's House Speaker Paul Ryan
suddenly concerned about due process violations with the no fly list -- but again, showing no interest in actually doing anything about it, other than using it to block gun control:
“People have due process rights in this country,” Republican House speaker Paul Ryan said in explaining his party’s opposition to the vote, apparently with a straight face. He went on to say there shouldn’t be a rush to pass legislation at the risk of “infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens...”
Again, sure. But if the no fly list is a due process nightmare, why is it still around? Why aren't Rubio and Ryan looking to end that? And why have both of them supported all sorts of other legislation that infringes upon the 4th Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens?
It's great that some folks are suddenly aware of the fact that the no fly list is an unconstitutional, due process nightmare -- but focusing on the whole gun control aspect of it is pretty ridiculous. The no fly list is a problem on its own. It should be done away with. If people want gun control, focus on gun control, not on expanding the mess that is the no fly list. If people don't want gun control, go ahead and make that argument. But don't suddenly point to the problems of the no fly list and not do anything about them
except block the gun control measure.