Gawker might have angered both the political left and right with their stories, which finally caught up with them when they decided to release a sex tape featuring former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hogan sued, he won a $100+ million judgment, and now the media company had to file for bankruptcy. Yet, as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. And on the latest Democratic gun control push, Gawker is right to say that the “no-fly, no-buy” bill is a total disaster. Moreover, it’s a real waste of political capital on a “useless” bill, but I won’t stop the trainwreck [Warning: it’s Gawker, so there’s some language]:
That certainly sounds like a solid principle on which to take a stand—terrorists shouldn’t have AR-15s! Meanwhile, most gun deaths in the United States are not caused by suspected terrorists armed with military-style semi-automatic rifles. The vast majority of gun deaths—suicides as well as homicides—are caused by handguns, and the majority of people firing those guns are not suspected terrorists (which invariably refers, in contemporary discourse, to Muslims, and no other groups or individuals dedicated to political violence).
The no-fly list is a civil rights disaster by every conceivable standard. It is secret, it disproportionately affects Arab-Americans, it is error-prone, there is no due process or effective recourse for people placed on the list, and it constantly and relentlessly expands. As of 2014, the government had a master watchlist of 680,000 people, forty percent of whom had “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” This is both an absurdly large number of people to arbitrarily target in gun control legislation, and far, far too few to have any meaningful effect on actual gun ownership, let alone gun violence.
Perhaps such a bill makes political sense as a sort of desperate attempt to get something through a conservative-dominated Congress. But if it is, as it appears to be, more of an effort to highlight the unpopular extremism of Republicans on gun issues, it is a stupid and counterproductive hill to theatrically die on. Almost any popular and previously debated gun control measure would have made a better symbolic lost cause. Democrats could be staging a sit-in in support of universal background checks* and waiting periods, nationally standard gun licensing and training requirements, and tougher restrictions on where and how guns are sold. All of those, or even any one of those, would have been more defensible both politically and morally. Instead House Democrats are going to the mat for a shitty, racist, useless bill.
I won’t go into whether the terror watch list is a facet of institutional racism; you can debate that amongst yourselves. But given that any gun control bill would certainly die in either chamber, maybe expanded background checks was the better cause to go after more forcefully than try to paint Republicans as pro-terrorist gun runners. Even someone who isn’t a politics or news junkie would probably laugh at that concept since a) it’s totally ridiculous (no one is for giving terrorists guns) and b) an absolute lie. Republicans stood their ground against an assault on the Constitution and due process of law after Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) 15-hour filibuster of a Department of Justice spending bill forced Senate Republicans to hold a vote on Democratic pro-gun control amendments they knew would go down along party lines.
Was it caving? Some certainly think so, but if you know the outcome is as certain as when you roll a ball towards the end of a table, there’s really no harm. You listen, hold a vote, and show that Democrats can’t pass anti-gun legislation that strips Americans of their gun rights without due process, which is unconstitutional. Democrats, on the other hand, have a chance to bash the National Rifle Association. Both sides save a little face, though it’s not Republicans fundraising off the victims of the Orlando attack, which provided the catalyst for the Senate filibuster and a clown show of a sit-in by Democrats on the House floor.
Nevertheless, Gawker reiterating that 40 percent of those on the master list maintained by the FBI have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation” just confirms what pro-Second Amendment supporters have been saying since San Bernardino—which is that this list is inaccurate and would curtail gun rights to those who really aren’t terrorists. Many aren’t even Americans, or legal aliens, so they can’t buy firearms. Legal residents can buy guns, but only if they enter their ICE-issued identification number of the ATF’s 4473 form to complete the background check. It just exposes that Democrats aren’t doing this for the victims of Orlando, for public safety, and for any person who was lost to gun violence. They’re shredding the Constitution in order to expand government power. More control; that’s what this is all about, along with a chipping away at an individual right that for some reason scares liberals to death. At the same time, who am I to stop liberals from crashing into the same wall (again)? When your opponent messes up, don’t correct them.