BAIT & SWITCH: Dems propose ‘no-fly, no-gun’ but mean something entirely different

Image: MSNBC

In his address to the nation Sunday, President Obama said that “no one on a no-fly list” should be able to buy a gun, but exactly what list was he talking about?

There are, in fact, two different lists the government maintains to help investigate and prevent terrorist activity: The “consolidated Terrorist Watchlist” and the federal no-fly list.  The watchlist is a huge database of about 1.1 million people, while the no-fly list (used by the TSA) has only around 47,000 names.

WATCH: President Obama’s Oval Office ‘mulligan’ speech with transcript

Republicans are accusing congressional Democrats—and Obama—of playing bait and switch with these two lists, by publicly talking about the smaller no-fly list while proposing legislation using the larger watchlist, according to a Tuesday report by Roll Call.

Responding directly to this charge, an aide to California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “Even though the watch list is much larger, the percentage of the list that is comprised of Americans is very small.”  Feinstein’s gun control proposal was defeated in the senate last week.

While the White House publicly avoids explaining the difference between the two lists, a Monday tweet cited a Government Accountability Office statistic referring to the “terror watch list” while calling for Congress to pass gun control legislation.

But they also tweeted that if you are on the no-fly list, you can still purchase a gun.

It would appear to be common sense that if an individual is on the no-fly list, they shouldn’t be able to buy a deadly weapon. But the NRA has opposed using the watchlist for vetting gun purchases, and rightly so, according to conservative pundit Charles C.W. Cooke, who wrote about the topic last month.

Do they have a case? You’re damn right they do. Not only does the system rely upon names rather than identities — and thus yield ample opportunity for confusion — but, per the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, the meager due process protections that are provided are “arbitrary and capricious” and fly directly in the face of the Administrative Procedure Act.


Feinstein appeared to purposely conflate the two lists, using them interchangeably, even in the same press release.  An aide, who spoke anonymously, told Roll Call that the senator has always targeted the larger list, while referring to the smaller one.

“That’s more relatable to the average person — people have heard of the no-fly list,” the aide said.  “I’d imagine that’s why White House officials have referred to no-fly as well.”


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