As President Barack Obama and Congress debate banning people on the government no-fly list from buying guns, here’s what you need to know.
In one of his calls to action for Congress after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to pass legislation preventing suspected terrorists on the no-fly list from buying guns.
So far, Republicans have voted down this proposal, just as they have rejected other gun control measures.
While Obama and Democrats frame the act of denying weapons to potential terrorists as a no-brainer, Republicans argue that such legislation would unintentionally harm the Second Amendment rights of everyday Americans.
That’s because, Republicans say, not everyone on the no-fly list, which is a component of the FBI’s terrorist watch list, deserves to be on there—which is especially unfair, they say, because people belonging to such lists usually don’t know they are on them.
In addition, opponents of using the no-fly list as a tool for gun control note that the two San Bernardino shooters, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were not on the list.
All of this raises the question: What is the no-fly-list, and the wider terrorist watch list, and why is it necessary?
According to one expert who helped oversee the terrorist watch list under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, the list is necessarily secretive, involving unknown criteria that determine who gets put on it, which makes due process especially challenging.
“My view from the inside is that I think all of these complaints are valid, but I don’t see how else you can have a terrorist watch list,” said Timothy Edgar, who oversaw civil liberties and national intelligence issues, including the terrorist watch list, under the current and last administration.