(12/4/15) On 12/3/15 the Senate voted against an amendment that would prohibit the sale of guns to those on the No-fly list. The votes essentially split along party lines with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.
The amendment would give the attorney general discretion to “deny the transfer of a firearm” if he or she “determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources for terrorism” and “has a reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.”
When you read this it sounds like sound policy, but there are some fundamental problems. First, it essentially gives the Attorney General the discretion to determine who is a possible terrorist. This is frightening as the definitions may change to include more and more people. Further, the No-fly list is used as a predictor of crime rather than being based on evidence of a crime. I understand that the goal is to prevent people from getting guns and committing crimes, but there are many people on these lists who are innocent and have been put there simply based on association.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also had a long standing case regarding the No-fly list in which they argue that the government does not provide significant steps for someone caught in the “predictive assessments” to get off the blacklists. The ACLU has compared the No-fly list to the “Pre-Crime” concept in the Philip K. Dick novels. Again, if you are innocent you have very little means to get off of this list and enjoy your rights as a citizen or resident.
If you are a Democrat this all might sound like a great idea because the current Attorney General is a Democrat. I ask you, would you feel this comfortable in 2017, if the new Attorney General is a Republican and is determining who “might” be a potential terrorist? Could it be you? While there is a need for comprehensive gun legislation, this is not the answer if you value civil liberties.
Written by Dave Van Zandt