During his December 6 terrorism address, President Obama urged Congress to act to be sure “no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.”
He was speaking in light of the San Bernardino attack and the threat that Americans face going forward. His words came in light of reports that all the guns used in the attack were acquired “legally.”
Obama’s not-so-subtle suggestion was that those guns might not have been acquired if the no-fly list was part of the background check process.
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.
The problem with Obama’s push for the inclusion of the no-fly list into background checks is that the San Bernardino attackers—Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik—were not on the no-fly list, according to CNN. In fact, they were not on “any list” tied to potential terrorists in the U.S.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10th) made this clear on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, when he referenced Farook and Malik and said, “There were no flags [or] warning signs in this particular case.”
In other words, Farook would have still been able to pass a background check for a gun purchase even if the no-fly list were included in background checks. Yet many law-abiding Americans might actually be denied gun purchases if the no-fly list were added, and that is the reason the NRA opposes adding the no-fly list to background checks.
In July 2014, the Huffington Post reported that the no-fly list was so imprecise that people who weren’t on it were nearly denied flights via “false positives” on identification at airports. HuffPo described the list as being as “imperfect as the intelligence officials tasked with doing it.” And this squares perfectly with the Washington Post report that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was on the list by happenstance in 2004.
The bottom line—adding the no-fly list to background checks would not have prevented San Bernardino attack, but it could provide one more barrier between law-abiding citizens and the guns they need for self-defense.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.