On December 7, the Los Angeles Times countered Obama’s claim that the no-fly list should be used in background checks by pointing to the imprecision of the list and the fact that those on it “have not been convicted of doing anything wrong.”
Therefore, barring people on the list from buying guns is the equivalent of barring any American from exercising a constitutional right based on an allegation.
According to the LA Times, the failed effort to add the no-fly list and “the broader terror watch list” to background checks was given a new push by Obama during his Sunday night terrorism address. During that address, Obama looked into the camera and asked, “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon?”
The Times observed, “When he puts it that way, it does sound pretty stupid. But, in fact, there are several strong arguments against the proposal.”
One of the arguments is the imprecision of both lists—the no-fly list and the watch list. The Times explained:
Serious flaws in the [lists] have been identified. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the government over the no-fly list, the two lists include thousands of names that have been added in error, as well as the names of family members of suspected terrorists. The no-fly list has also been used to deny boarding passes to people who only share a name with a suspected terrorist. Former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was famously questioned at airports in 2004 because a terror suspect had used the alias “T. Kennedy.” It took the senator’s office three weeks to get his name cleared.
In addition to the imprecision of the list, the Times points to problem of stripping Americans of one constitutional right—the right to keep and bear arms—without honoring another constitutional right—the right to due process. They said, “The United States doesn’t generally punish or penalize people unless and until they have been charged and convicted of a crime. In this case, the government would be infringing on a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution—and yes, like it or not, the right to buy a gun is a constitutional right according to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
On the same day that the LA Times broke with Obama on the no-fly list, the Washington Post reported that trying to use the no-fly list for gun control is a “terrible” idea. They based this claim on the fact that the names listed on the no-fly list are a government secret and, therefore, would tend toward giving government a license to secretly ban anyone from gun ownership at any time.
WaPo put it thus:
The no-fly list is a secret list that uses secret criteria to determine who finds a home on it. So if you link banning guns to the no-fly list, the scenario presented is completely feasible: The government could theoretically add anyone it wants to the no-fly list, even broad categories of people, and thereby prevent them from owning a gun.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.