The No-Fly List and the Assault Weapons Myth

Attempting in vain to convince thinking Americans that he’s serious about combating domestic terrorism, President Obama addressed the nation and said, in part:

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 semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.

The problem with the no-fly list is that many innocent Americans can end up on that list:

It’s probably America’s most controversial list. You can be put on it without your knowledge, and getting off it is extremely difficult.

It’s the federal no-fly list, a collection of names of people who are not allowed to board commercial flights into or out of the United States. According to leaked documents obtained by The Intercept, more than 47,000 people were on America’s no-fly list as of August 2013. That number reportedly includes 800 Americans, many of whom don’t even know they’re on it. The government sends no official notification to those on the list; many times, people don’t find out until they’re denied boarding at the airport.

A number of high-profile lawsuits have claimed the government unjustly added people to the list and blocked their efforts to have their names removed.  Last summer, a federal court ruled in favor of 13 people who claimed the government violated their constitutional rights to travel by placing them on the no-fly list. The government was ordered to tell the plaintiffs whether they’re on the list, spell out the reasons they are barred from travel, and to give them a chance to challenge the government finding.

The case was one of the biggest challenges yet to the super-secret government list, but the veil that shrouds the no-fly list still remains.

“There is this black box procedure which operates purely behind the curtains and no one is able to part those curtains and find out what really goes on,” airline industry analyst Robert Mann explained to Yahoo Travel.

The linked article lists eight ways you can end up on the list:

  1. Being suspected of direct terrorist activity (that one is obvious).
  2. Travel [frequent] to certain countries.
  3. Something you said in the past.
  4. Have a similar name to someone on the no-fly list.
  5. Not becoming an informant.
  6. Clerical error.
  7. Law enforcement issues.
  8. Controversial tweets.

Getting off the list is extremely difficult. Why, then, would we deny Americans their constitutional rights based on a procedure shrouded in such a veil of secrecy? If they are not American citizens, how about not letting them into the country? If they are American citizens, how about charging them with a crime before denying them their rights?

Moreover, the president believes that by targeting “assault weapons,” we can somehow discourage future terrorist attacks. As the New York Times notes:

OVER the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

“Assault weapons” account for an extremely small number of murders, but the president wants to “make it harder for people” to get them. Why isn’t he focusing on handguns? To be certain, there’s no doubt that’s what he’d like to do, but political expediency comes before the facts with this administration. If the New York Times can finally admit the myth, the president should keep up with the Times instead of dwelling in his make-believe past. “Good guys” can stop terrorists so long as they have the means to do so. Targeting “assault weapons” does nothing to deter ISIS disciples. Citizens who can shoot back are an adequate remedy.

As we’ve said all along, Obama cannot really believe that his recommendations will work because he cannot tell us how his “solutions” will prevent the next attack. He can only hope that his dishonesty will convince a majority of Americans to adopt an incremental approach that will result in a total gun ban. Thus, the one who believes that it’s his responsibility to protect the American people believes that he is protecting them by taking their rights away.

If King Hussein were still alive . . .
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