Gun Control

Florida School Shooting Resurrects Terrible Plan to Prevent People on the No Fly List from Buying Guns

Senators want to use secret, largely unaccountable government watchlists as a justification for denying some citizens' due process.


Senator Susan Collins
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

A bipartisan group of senators is again attempting to restrict gun rights on the basis of inclusion in federal watchlists used to keep people suspected of terror ties from boarding planes.

"No fly, no buy" is back. In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) announced a bipartisan push to resurrect the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act to keep people from legally buying guns on the basis of being on a pair of federal watchlists.

"Our bipartisan bill is based on one simple principle: if you are considered to be too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you should not be able to buy a firearm," Collins justified in a statement earlier in the week.

Several other legislative sponsors, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) included their own statements. Flake added, "Terrorists shouldn't have access to guns, and this legislation has the teeth to make sure they don't."

The statements by other senators are all in a similar vein: The government has already declared these people are too dangerous to be on planes, so they shouldn't have guns.

The problem with these comments is that we are expected to accept that the inclusion on a secret government list is an appropriate way to declare somebody to be a "terrorist" absent any actual conviction for criminal activity. These are people on government watchlists for suspicion of terrorist ties. But that suspicion is not always based on accurate assessments.

The federal government has been sued over these secretive no-fly lists. The suits have argued that people placed on these lists are deprived of due process. People who are on watchlists have trouble getting off of them even after demonstrating they have no ties to terrorism. In one notable case, a person ended up on the watchlist entirely because an official literally checked the wrong box, and it took a lawsuit to uncover.

So the problems that existed when legislators pitched this back in 2016 remain. This bill uses lists that often deprive people of due process and deny them their right to travel freely in order to further deprive people of due process and further deny them an additional right to self defense. And there's no evidence that this bill would actually stop any mass shootings.

The slightly good news is that there's an expedited appeal process in the bill that would allow a person denied permission to buy a gun under this bill to go to the courts to have the refusal overruled. But it also allows the attorney general to keep information secret for classified or national security purposes, and it gives federal authorities permission to use information gathered secretly via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as justification. That matters because Congress and the president recently just renewed and expanded Section 702 of the FISA Amendments that authorizes the government to access data collected secretly domestically about Americans in connection with certain crimes.

Collins says that the two lists include fewer than 3,000 Americans. Respecting citizens' due process shouldn't be dependent on some arbitrary threshold of the number of people affected, but no doubt it makes it easier to sell to the "Do Something" crowd while at the same time reducing the number of people who have a personal stake in the outcome who would resist.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump said he thinks due process should be secondary to the goal of seizing guns from whoever the government or law enforcement officials deem bad. During the 2016 campaign he actually endorsed "Don't fly/don't buy" regulations, but later walked that position back. A spokesperson from the American Civil Liberties Union tells Reason the organization is still evaluating this current proposal, but in 2016 opposed an amendment by Collins to use the no fly list as a mechanism for denying gun purchases. They noted back then:

The government contends that it can place on the No Fly List American citizens who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of a prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of future conduct that the government concedes "may or may not occur." The overly broad criteria result in a high risk of error, and it is imperative that the watchlisting system include due process safeguards—which it does not. In the context of the No Fly List, for example, the government refuses to provide even Americans who know they are on the list with the full reasons for the placement, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. These are fundamentals of constitutionally-required due process.

Although these lists may have only 3,000 American citizens on them now, if the lists become used as a mechanism to deny people guns, that also serves as an incentive to attempt to add people to the list to keep them from purchasing guns on the basis of the government thinking they might be a threat.

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  1. This only works if they ban private party sales. Which will of course be the next step.

    And, was the shooter on a watch list?

    Fuck them.

    1. This only works has the remote possibility of working if they ban private party sales.


      Would the Texas church shooter’s previous abuse and disorderly (don’t recall exact charges) convictions landed him on the ‘No Fly’ list? I mean at least in spirit?

      1. Works in the narrow sense of preventing people on the no fly list from buying guns.

        And ignoring the concept of illegal private party sales.

        The point is simply to foreshadow a national ban on private sales.

  2. OT: Tariffs. I mean, tariffs.



    I can say with certainty that this is a BAD FUCKING IDEA.

    1. Someone doesn’t care about our national security.

    2. Oh, yeah, I’ll take your tariffs and raise you a Vice article on how monetary theory proves the government has unlimited money.

      This is the dumbest thing you will read all year.

      1. Modern Monetary Theory, otherwise known as “Magic Money Tree”.

  3. if the lists become used as a mechanism to deny people guns, that also serves as an incentive to attempt to add people to the list to keep them from purchasing guns

    Just as the list of felonies has exploded in an effort to deprive as many people of their rights as possible, these lists will no doubt be similarly abused.

  4. Oh, and fuck you Sue. I am ashamed to have you represent me in the Senate.

  5. Who knew that all we needed to disarm terrorists was to make a law. This plan certainly worked in France and all over the world, right?

    Oh, wait, no it didn’t work at all. Even those times when you can say it might have worked, they just ran people over with trucks (you know, sort of like when they didn’t have any ICBM’s they used airplanes instead).

    Not that it matters. Gotta love it when ‘do something’ turns into a violation of rights.

    I find it telling that no one at all seems interested in an amendment to the constitution. Gee, I wonder why.

    1. (you know, sort of like when they didn’t have any ICBM’s they used airplanes instead).

      If only we had managed to keep the guns out of those terrorists’ hands!

      1. And after guns are made illegal in these United States, suddenly people will remember bombs.

        Remember the Bath School bombing? No? It’s ok, apparently no one remembers it at all. If guns were illegal, you could expect more of that.

        1. You don’t have to go that far back. As someone around here pointed out, if Harris and Klebold’s plan had gone off as they expected, they would’ve fired far fewer shots and killed and injured many, many more people.

          1. Yes, but examples from the 20’s prove that it’s not even something new. I guess one could make the argument people are too stupid to figure out how to make a bomb these days, but there is this thing called ‘the internet’ and I think people can figure it out pretty easily.

            Hell, it seems people have already forgotten the unibomber and that was only 20 something years ago.

            1. It’s harder to get bomb material these days. Can’t even buy black powder anymore. Not that I would know…

              1. Sure you can buy black powder, F [canon grade], FF [rifle], FFF [pistol] and FFFF [priming, as for a flintlock]. Just check any store that sells muzzle loaders, the antique replica kind.

                1. A couple years back I went to several stores and they didn’t carry it. Said the regulations were stupid and they didn’t want to deal with them.

                  1. You’re both right. Most gun stores no longer carry real “black powder” for muzzleloading because it’s dangerous and regulations for handling it are strict. However, they do sell black powder substitutes, which are safer and have several other advantages.

                    Many also sell various smokless powders, used in reloading modern cartridges, that are too powerful for muzzleloading.

              2. Look under your sink – – – – – – – —

                1. ^ This. Some of the most deadly shit known to man can be found under there.

                  Do you have any idea how simple and easy it is to get your hands on chlorine, just as a simple and known example? Just ask Syria how that’s working out for them.

                  It’s horrible, horrible stuff but for some reason idiots can’t fathom what crazy people might do if they didn’t have a gun. We should thank our lucky stars these crazy people went with the gun. It’s one of the least deadly things they could do AND easiest to stop.

                2. Yep. Give me a couple of hours in a typical home, and I can put together something that will blow it up, burn it down, or a little of both. Good thing I’m a peaceable, law-abiding type.

              3. Sure you can buy black powder. You don’t need that to make bombs.

                Pick up the Anarchists Cookbook. Internet is another great source.

                1. “Pick up the Anarchists Cookbook. Internet is another great source.”

                  Oh, that won’t draw any unwelcome attention at all, will it? Noooooo, of course not…

    2. “Congress can pass any law that is necessary and proper to promote the general welfare and regulate commerce.”

      Which means unlimited government.

      1. While I’m sure there are some pinheads in Congress who believe that way, I can’t see where anyone here said that. Whose quote are you refuting?

  6. Flake added, “Terrorists shouldn’t have access to guns, and this legislation has the teeth to make sure they don’t.”

    From hero to zero so quickly.

    1. This quote gave me a sad.

    2. Check out this tongue-bath gave Flake in December (with a few to-be-sures thrown in).

      1. this tongue-bath Reason gave Flake

    3. For a time I thought Flake might be ok, but the longer he’s in office the more time he has to reveal his shortcomings I suppose.

    4. I called it when Jeff Flake’s had his hands on both shoulders of Reason from behind.

  7. Someone should add a rider to the bill that denies some other guaranteed right to anyone on a “list”. Free speech, maybe?

    1. Well I for one don’t want any terrorists voting in the Land of the Free, that’s for sure!

      1. Due process is so quaint. I mean, it’s like really old and stuff.

      2. Yeah, and why not force them to testify against themselves or force them to quarter troops in their homes while we’re at it!


        1. They do force them to testify against themselves. They give immunity, then force the testimony.

          1. How do you force someone to give testimony? Furthermore, how to do you trust testimony that is involuntarily given?

            Oh well, fuck logic I guess.

          2. Only a moron would do that.

            You say, “since being in custody I forgot everything you are looking for”.

  8. How do I nominate someone for the no fly list?

    1. Anonymous tip to the FBI.

    2. Do a bunch of crazy shit that is not illegal but will get you on the list and give someone else’s name.

  9. Anyone remember when the left despised the no-fly list as a racist way to take rights away from brown people?

  10. If your a terrorist why aren’t you in jail

  11. Know who else used lists to deprive people of their rights?

    1. The Lord High Executioner in The Mikado?

    2. Clintons? Assuming you mean a hit list.

    3. Nixon?

    4. Apparently, if you weren’t on this Schindler guys list you were killed. He sounds pretty evil to me!

    5. Santa Claus?

  12. “Our bipartisan bill is based on one simple principle: if you are considered to be too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you should not be able to buy a firearm,”

    That is a simple principle, but it’s a stupid principle. At least she had the decency to throw in the “considered” so that anybody thinking about this for more than two seconds realizes that “considered to be too dangerous to fly” does not equal “too dangerous to fly”. It’s guilty until proven innocent and that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

    In a totally unrelated matter, I’m considering moving to Maine, changing my name to Susan Collins and making a bunch of Youtube videos praising Osama bin Laden and pledging my fealty to ISIS. Can I get somebody to make an anonymous call to DHS and report me?

    1. If you do ever visit Maine, let me know. We could go shoot some guns. Before they are illegal.

    2. Call not necessary. The NSA bot has already picked up this post. Say hi tot he nice agent for me.

  13. The good news is it’ll just mostly affect Muslims.

  14. I can remember when Democrats saw no-fly lists as a violation of civil liberty. Now that they’ve discovered a way to fuck their political enemies with them, they are big fanboys.

    Just another good example of how dangerous it is to trust one of the major parties, even if they appear to be on your side.

    1. Principals, not principles.

      1. “”Principals, not principles.””

        ^^ This, it’s always this.

    2. Wasn’t the lack of due process with the no-fly list based on the idea that flying is a privilege and doesn’t specifically usurp your right to freely travel because there are other means? I could see the intel folks having a shit fit if you wanted to add no guns to that list, since the list would then be attached to denying of a right and would open it to far more scrutiny.

      1. As I recall that was the justification given for it.

      2. Well, you are always free to throw bullets at someone.

      3. And yet at least the Feinstein version of NFNB (probably not Cornyn; don’t know about Collins) actually provided for disarming a much wider “watch list” than the actual No Fly. That is what we must really watch out for–the prohibitions narrowly tailored to the target disability, while allowing civic life to go on with little other molestation. Obama could have put everyone in America on that list; and we’d have woken up all the same, with all our lives and activities intact except the ability to bear arms.

        The ability to do this seems pretty well entrenched in precedent as a permissible “administrative” restriction, with broad privileges given to the government and little scrutiny for any reason. The fact that it’s a “right” never seemed to bother anyone before. Maybe pushing things this far really would get the courts to finally reassess how wild a permission they’ve historically given the government. Or maybe just the inevitable “discriminates against Muslims” thing will invite closer scrutiny.

  15. Good grief it’s back. And this time, as last, and as with so many things, our fate will hang with one thing and one thing only–the idiocy/insincerity and intransigence of the Democrats. They could’ve had it last time if they’d wanted it. Just like they could’ve had DACA, or Obamacare “fixes,” or whatever, if they were smart and wanted it more than an anti-Trump cudgel. (I guess the theory is that Trump *never truly intended* a compromise on those things, that he is actually horrified by them and only made the offer because he was dead sure that the Dems would embarrass themselves. I don’t know if I’m completely sold on that.)

    Can we count on them again? I think the perverse background check “fix” may be a good bet now. Will NFNB join it? Good news is that–while, through cowardice on our side to call it out, the “mass shooting” moral panic continues to grow as a premise and will one day defeat us–the “terrorism” angle isn’t directly at play here, as it was in Orlando. And the NRA strategy–hand Cornyn a NFNB bill weak enough to poison Dems, instruct Repubs to back it for political cover–might work again. I think the Dems will back the “centrist” Collins NFNB, which they refused to last time (backing only the Feinstein–and Trump!–one). But can we get the Republicans to reject Collins, and the Dems to reject Cornyn (actually an excellent foot-in-the-door move for them) out of political posturing?

  16. Due process in this context should mean getting convicted in a trial for a violent felony – not an administrative hearing before some bureaucrat.

    1. not an administrative hearing before some bureaucrat.

      +1 Eric Holder’s definition of “due process”

  17. Nobody wants to take your guns away.

    1. mmmmm hmmmmm

    2. But they will if you fail to comply.

      So, in fact, they do. But they will claim it’s your fault for the confiscation, you failed to comply. And it’s funny in that failing to comply is the exact excuse police use to justify their treatment of minorities (among others).

      1. “minorities (among others)”

        If by this you mean “anyone who crosses them,” then yes.

        1. Sure.

          However, some groups think that a cop has no right to arrest you or use force for failure to comply. But they will support arrest and force for failure to comply when they want it to be so.

          1. Freedom isn’t free. Sooner or later people will get fed up and start shooting back at cops trying to kill them.

            When the government knows that large portions of Americans will not let the agents of destruction do this, they will think twice about violating people’s rights.

    3. Nobody wants to take your guns away.

      Actually, this is true. Sorta. For darn sure the cops don’t want to come to your door and take your guns away. “I’ll be out behind the squad car, Bro.”
      They would much rather have you turn them in “voluntarily,” aka the Australia plan.

  18. Several other legislative sponsors, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) included their own statements. Flake added, “Terrorists shouldn’t have access to guns, and this legislation has the teeth to make sure they don’t.”

    Not Libertarian at all.

  19. no fly/no watch lists are UNconstitutional

  20. Here’s what gun-control advocates don’t get about guns and mass killers:

    “Gun Control and Mass Killers”

    Join the link and delete spaces.

  21. why not make these people wear a distinctive badge when out in public?


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