In the days immediately following the horrible rampage in Orlando, a throng of Democrat legislators conducted a sit-in within the House of Representatives chamber of the U.S. Capitol. Twelve hours into their rather childish demonstration demanding additional controls over gun ownership, some of the participants held up photos of the 49 victims gunned down by Omar Mateen. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) entered the chamber and sought to be heard by shouting over the anti-gun protestations, “Radical Islam killed those poor people.” He wanted them to realize that attacking ownership of a gun was senseless. But the Democrats weren’t interested in Gohmert’s logic. They blamed Mateen’s gun, not Mateen himself or the hatred he obviously harbored for those he killed.
Congressman Gohmert’s point is crucially important. The guns Mateen used (he had several) didn’t jump off a table, take themselves to the nightclub, and shoot dozens of victims. Inspired by radical Islam, Mateen went on the same type of rampage that impelled Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernardino, Army Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, and the radical Islamists who hijacked planes and slammed them into New York’s Twin Towers. If the Democrat demonstrators were correct in targeting guns, then they should have waged a similar campaign to ban commercial airplanes. Even more, Mateen was already licensed to have a weapon as a result of his employment by a security agency. And Hasan, an officer in the U.S. Army, would hardly be questioned if he had possession of a gun.
The drive to take guns away from law-abiding Americans has proceeded through numerous phases, but one after another failure has been the fate of the anti-gun crowd. The newest proposal authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) calls for banning gun purchases by anyone who is on the federal government’s no-fly list. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest expressed President Obama’s support for this measure in a rather simplistic summary, “If it’s too dangerous for you to board an airplane, it’s too dangerous for you to buy a gun.” Sounds reasonable until one takes a look at the incredible deficiencies of such a list.
The name of the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) appeared on the no-fly list. A four-year-old boy in California got listed. The names of more than a million Americans have been added to the list, and most of these people have no idea they have been targeted. They will find out if they try to buy an airline ticket, or if they try to purchase a gun. Anyone who tries to discover if his or her name is listed will find that the no-fly list is a secret document. But even if the no-fly list wasn’t already violating the rights of many Americans, its deficiency can be gauged by the fact that the names of the shooter who murdered dozens at the primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killer in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, weren’t on any no-fly list.
Evidently, one’s name gets added to this list when some unnamed government bureaucrat has suspicion that a person could be dangerous. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson wants his federal department to have a role in suppressing the God-given right of all Americans to keep and bear arms. He pontificated, “We need to do something to minimize the opportunity for terrorists to get a gun in this country, and this is something that is critical to homeland security as well as public safety.” In other words, forget the Second Amendment.
Combatting this latest attempt to water down the people’s right to own a gun, the National Rifle Association stated, “Restrictions like bans on gun purchases by people on ‘watch lists’ are ineffective, unconstitutional, or both.” In a rare case of agreement with the NRA, an official of the American Civil Liberties Union stated: “The standards for inclusion on the no-fly list are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government errors.”
Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) found it “amazing that some U.S. senators would filibuster in favor of using secret lists, like some authoritarian regime, to deny rights without due process.” If due process were employed, the rights to trial by jury, to being able to confront one’s accuser, to examine evidence, and more would all be in place. But the current use of a no-fly list allows for none of that.
Aiming his remarks at the use of a no-fly list, FBI Director James Comey has testified before Congress that denying a gun sale to any suspected terrorists would alert them that they were under surveillance. However, Attorney General Loretta Lynch publicly disagreed with the head of the FBI and is a strong advocate of using a no-fly list to reduce gun ownership.
As our nation prepares to elect a new president, it is worth noting that Democrat Hillary Clinton has long advocated using a no-fly list to ban gun purchases. And Republican Donald Trump announced in June that he would meet with the NRA to forge his response to the no-fly list mania.
If the American people can have fundamental rights impacted through the use of a no-fly list, the next step would be a no-railroad list, then a no driver’s license list. Stopping the use of the extremely flawed no-fly list is important. Let your U.S. representative and two senators know that you want none of this.
Phone and email your representative (202-225-3121) and senators (202-224-3121) and ask them to oppose any legislation that would prohibit gun purchases by people who happen to be listed on the government’s secret no-fly list.
(This article was originally published as "Blaming the Gun Is Absurd; Blame the User" in the August 2016 JBS Bulletin.)