Washington Weekly: Gun Control

By, Siraj Hashmi

Anytime there's a mass shooting in the United States, or in Europe, it's become a part of the American stream of consciousness to question why the alleged shooter was allowed to either purchase or acquire a gun in the first place that was used to murder and injure countless of innocent victims.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, one of the deadliest mass shootings (and terrorist attacks, for that matter) to take place on American soil since the Virginia Tech massacre, the aftermath was no different. Many politicians, pundits and gun control activists, alike, questioned why Omar Mateen, an American Muslim born in Queens, NY and who also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, gained access to firearms used to kill 49 people and injure 53 at the Pulse gay nightclub on June 12th.

Just days after the shooting, Democratic lawmakers took action in which Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., (and other Democratic Senators as well) conducted a 15-hour filibuster while House Democrats staged a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor. In both events, their goal was to bring up a vote to expand universal background checks for gun purchases and pass a piece of legislation dubbed the "No Fly, No Buy" proposal. The law, if passed, stipulates that if your name appears on the No Fly List, which is used for suspected terrorists, you are barred from purchasing firearms.

"In America, our gun laws are full of so many holes that, in fact, you can be a suspected terrorist and legally [be] permitted to buy guns," said Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, who represents Connecticut's 5th District where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown took place in 2012. That shooting left 27 people dead, 20 of which were children aged between six and seven years old.

Despite having the support from many gun control activists, Democrats have been fighting a losing battle. In most cases, conservatives and gun rights activists will tell you that expanding background checks wouldn't have prevented many mass shootings from occurring because the alleged shooter either passed the initial background check or they obtained those weapons illegally through a straw purchaser or even theft.

When it comes to the "No Fly, No Buy" proposal, however, it's an infringement on the rights of all Americans, especially those who are wrongly named to the No Fly list.

"It violates due process," said Adam Bates of the Cato Institute. "I think in this country, at least, you're not a terrorist until you've been charged, evidence has been presented, you've been given the opportunity to confront your accuser, and either a judge or jury has convicted you of some kind of crime of terrorism."
Bates went on to say that those nominated onto the terrorist watchlist, such as the No Fly list, in particular, have no way of challenging their placement onto said list.

While Congressional Democrats continue to push for the No Fly, No Buy gun legislation, they concede that there are a lot of kinks to work out in which an appeals process needs to be implemented for these particular watch lists.