Let’s all find some points of agreement on guns. For example, terrorists shouldn’t have guns. In fact, taking it a step further, we can all agree that no one who will use a gun to commit a crime should have a gun.
That’s easy. Now how do we accomplish this pre-crime policing? That’s the hard part. So far Congress has not been able to, even by sitting on their butts for 25 hours.
The proposed plans of the moment are to use the No Fly List as a No Buy list, all to varying degrees. The Democrats want an outright ban for anyone on the No Fly List (some even for people if they’ve been off the list for 5 years). The GOP wants to incorporate due process if the No Fly List flags a potential gun purchaser. All the votes in the Senate failed. The House GOP is about to introduce a bill next week incorporating due process as well (that is expected to, you guessed it, fail).
But let’s step back and examine why using the No Fly List for anything (other than, maybe, a list of people who should get extra scrutiny at the airport) is a dangerous idea. The No Fly List was a common target by those on the left when President Bush was in office, portrayed as a government overreach and unfairly targeting Muslims and political opponents. Playing that out in the future, imagine a President Trump using the No Fly List to take other rights away – maybe using it to take away freedom of speech? Those who deem it a good starting point now are favoring the present over the precedent it will set.
Here’s a look at some people who have ended up on the No Fly List (or watch list of some kind) who most certainly are not terrorists:
– Awais Sajjad – a “lawful permanent U.S. resident living” learned he was on the No Fly List in 2012 shortly after refusing to serve as an informant for the FBI. He has since filed a lawsuit. Sajjad claims the FBI offered to take him off the list if he agreed to be an informant for them. Can the government assure all citizens and residents that the No Fly List isn’t currently being used – or could be used in the future – for political retribution or coercion? It doesn’t seem likely. And who would likely be the target of this? Muslim Americans.
– Professor Walter Murphy – In 2007, Naomi Wolf wrote quite negatively of the use of terror watch lists to inadvertently target what she thought were political opponents. The Princeton professor gave a talk that criticized President Bush, which he was told could be the reason why he was denied a boarding pass. “Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist,” wrote Wolf. “We ban a lot of people from flying because of” going to peace marches, the airline employee told Murphy, according to Wolf.
– Rahinah Ibrahim – A Malaysian architect ended up on the list for a very simple reason – someone checked the wrong box on a form. She successfully sued. Are clerical errors going to cause citizens to lose their 2nd Amendment rights?
– John Lewis – That’s right, the Congressman who led the “sit-in” was on a watch list himself, due to him sharing the same name with someone who should have been on the list. If a terrorist on the No Fly List has a name shared by many others in America, let’s say, John Smith (or Ahmed Muhammad), do we really trust the system will be able to distinguish and only bar the correct person from purchasing guns or ammo?
– Robert Johnson – To that point, a man named Robert Johnson was rightfully on the list after he plotted to blow up a Hindu temple. But…many other Robert Johnsons ended up on the list too, as 60 Minutes found out.
– Stephen Hayes – In September 2014, Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard writer Hayes found out he was apparently on a terror watch list. He suspected it was because he and his wife took a one-way trip to Istanbul, Turkey (interestingly now the scene of the latest apparent ISIS attack). “I can say definitively I am not a terrorist,” he told NPR at the time. But…should he be barred from buying a gun?
– Erich Scherfen – Persian Gulf veteran, converted to Islam, married a Pakistani-born woman. Ok…but, not a terrorist. So how come he ended up on the list?
– Cat Stevens – The folk singer who now goes by Yusuf Islam ended up on a No Fly List in 2004, but isn’t sure how. He hinted at the time that, based on questions from the agent, it may have been a mistake, as they were actually meant to flag someone by the name of Yousuf Islam (an extra ‘o’).