01 Mar Guns and the No-Fly List
The ‘No-fly list’ is the list of selected people who are prohibited from boarding commercial aircraft for travel in or over the United States’ air space. The list is maintained by the United States Federal Government’s Terrorists Screening Center (TSC). This list contains the information of the people who are suspected to be a terrorist or with a terrorist organization. Former US president, George W. Bush’s administration, created the ‘no-fly list,’ ‘ the selectee list ‘ and the ‘terrorist watch list’, and was continued through the administration of Barack Obama and current US president Donald Trump. According to the former US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein the ‘no-fly list’ is very beneficial and one of the best lines of defense for the United States.
Back in 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), noticed that there is no prohibition for the people on the ‘no-fly list’ to buy guns and ammunition, and they can easily be given licenses and ammunition through the standard procedure just as an ordinary citizen of the country. From 2004-2010, around 1400 individuals applied for the guns and 1321 succeeded in purchasing the required ammunition which means more than 90% of the people who are barred from taking flights from or in or over the US and are suspected to be a terrorist can buy guns. No law was resisting the members of a terrorist organization to purchase firearms.
Many senators repeatedly requested to introduce legislation to ban the selected people from buying guns but was rejected twice due to lack of votes. The required votes for the proceeding of the bill was 60, and the votes were 45- 54 and 55-45. It was after the 2015 Paris attacks that President Barack Obama called for such legislation to be approved. ‘No-Fly. No buy.’
Of course, the people who can be terrorists or may have relationships with terrorist organizations should not be allowed to buy guns, it’s like we are giving them the extra weapon to be put on our head and it’s a suicide. The TCS is probably an essential information sharing tool for the Government and should be trusted. However, the problem also extends to the terrorist watch lists themselves, which are both secretive and routinely refreshed without the typical due process presented to those who are accused of breaching the law, such as court proceedings. Without a trial, the government can attach anyone to watch lists who it considers may be a threat to national security—and exactly how the government determines such a threat isn’t even public knowledge.
“The government doesn’t release its criteria,” says Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty & National Security Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “It’s a black box.”
Such an ad-hoc strategy to these lists raises fewer concerns when they are solely used to keep track of potential suspects but becomes more legally questionable when their many members are refused certain rights or privileges. The no-fly list, which comprises individuals considered too dangerous to board a plane, is just one of the numerous records reportedly managed by the government. The Wall Street Journal has reported that there are 16,000 names on the list, with the more massive Terrorist Screening Database including 420,000 names.
One of the cases involved Omar Mateen who was added on terrorist suspect list in 2013 and 2014 and was removed from the list after carrying out investigations, even if he was not removed, he could buy Sig Saucer MCX and a handgun which he used for mass killing at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Also, in San Bernardino, a terrorist attack was carried out by a couple, and 14 people were shot dead in that attack, the couple got the handguns and assault rifles legally to carry out this mass shooting. It was after this attack, the eyes of the US government opened, and they approved the legislation.
The former president, Barack Obama said, “If you are too dangerous to board a plane, then you are too dangerous by definition to buy a gun.”