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Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns

By   /   December 7, 2015  /   No Comments

Part 63 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week

You can’t take a gun on a plane. But soon, if you can’t get on a plane, you might not be able to take a gun anywhere.

Lawmakers in California have proposed legislation that would ban residents who are listed on the federal government’s so-called “no-fly list” from owning firearms. The list is maintained by the FBI and, as of last year, had more than 47,000 names on it.

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CANT FLY, CANT BUY: Lawmakers in California have proposed legislation that would ban residents who are listed on the federal government’s so-called “no-fly list” from owning firearms. The list is maintained by the FBI and, as of last year, had more than 47,000 names on it.

This has become a talking point du jour for gun control activists in the days since the horrific shooting in San Bernardino, egged on by President Barack Obama’s and the New York Times’ calls for increased gun control in the wake of the shooting that left 14 people dead and more than 20 injured.  Some Democrats in Congress have pushed this angle for years, but even with renewed interest over the past two weeks, it’s unlikely to become law at the federal level (unless the president acts unilaterally via executive order).

That’s not the case in some states. California is the first state where the idea has made the leap from punditry to legislation — perhaps no surprise, since the shooting happened there and because the state has a long history of activist lawmakers and government nannies.

Here’s the first problem: the no-fly list isn’t all that accurate.

Indeed, even as gun control activists and the New York Times use the San Bernardino shooting to call for applying the no-fly list to gun owners, there is an obvious flaw in their argument: the shooters were not on the no-fly list.

But who is on the no-fly list? Lots of people who probably shouldn’t be.

The New York Times editorial board knows this. In 2014, the paper whacked the Justice Department for eight years of “coordinated intransigence” before finally admitting that Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architecture professor, did not belong on the no-fly list.

The paper said the federal government’s no-fly list was “vastly overbroad” and part of a “shadowy, self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists, which operate under a veil of secrecy so thick that it is virtually impossible to pierce it when mistakes are made.”

She’s not the only one. In 2007, an Army veteran named Robert Johnson discovered he was on the no-fly list. After investigating the incident, 60 Minutes found 12 different people named Robert Johnson who were inaccurately on the list. Though it could not be proven, the program found another Robert Johnson who had once been linked to a bomb plot in Toronto.

Salon, another left-wing publication applauding the merger of gun control and anti-terrorism measures, once concluded the no-fly list was “netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups.

A 2007 government audit found that as many as half of the 71,000 people then listed on the no-fly list were wrongly included.

The bigger problem is a more philosophical one: if you apply the no-fly list to guns, to what else can it be applied?

Slippery slope arguments are slippery things, but in this case it’s a reasonable question to ask. If the no-fly list can be used to remove constitutional rights, there’s really no limitations on ways it could be used to limit other activities. Should people on the no-fly list have access to a cell phone, which they could use to plot terror attacks? What about Internet access? Knives? Fireworks? Remote-controlled cars?

The no-fly list already short-circuits due process, and apparently does so without identifying actual terror threats while targeting perhaps thousands of innocent Americans.

With something that flawed — on both a practical and philosophical manner — only a true believer in the power of the state can want to see it applied to other aspects of life.

But ignorance of reality in the name of expanding power is a basic facet of the Nanny State.

Part of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week
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