U.S. House Democrats seized the floor until the early hours of Thursday morning in a sit-in for urgent gun control laws, but unfortunately—as many critics have pointed out—the policy they’re calling for is a bad idea that won’t dig deep on the issue of gun violence, but instead disproportionately profile Middle Eastern people with increased state surveillance.
Democratic representatives occupied the House of Representatives for 15 hours beginning Wednesday in the latest attempt to shame Republicans into voting in new gun control legislation in the wake of the Orlando shooter’s mass murder of 49 people with a semi-automatic weapon on June 12. But many progressives have slammed their focus on the so-called “no fly, no buy” bill as deeply misguided.
The proposal is to extend the United States’ controversial “no fly list” that links up names on a terrorism watch list to the purchase of guns. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid threw his support behind the idea on Wednesday in the name of keeping guns “out of the hands of terrorists.”
But critics say the plan would not address gun violence, but rather arbitrarily subject people who wind up on the highly flawed list to unwarranted heightened scrutiny.
The Intercept called the Democrats' sit-in a “political gimmick” that will balloon the “deeply flawed” watch list. Gawker wrote that the no-fly list is a “civil rights disaster by every conceivable standard” and the sit-in an example of “fantastic political theater.”
In a letter to the Senate this week urging lawmakers to take appropriate action on gun control, the American Civil Liberties Association, ACLU, has slammed the terror watch list system as “error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names.”
The “no fly” list is known to target Middle Eastern people and has also reportedly wrongly placed people with the same name and even infants on the list of potential terrorists.
ACLU argued that “regulation of firearms and individual gun ownership or use must be consistent with civil liberties principles, such as due process, equal protection, freedom from unlawful searches, and privacy.”
Meanwhile, the women-led anti-war organization Code Pink commented, “Reform needs to be implementing universal background checks and passing an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war out of civilian hands, not expansion of a dodgy and constitutionally suspect ‘watch list.’”
Groups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are lobbying for a ban on assault weapons, but so far lawmakers have not responded. None of the four gun control measures shot down in Congress on Monday would have reinstated the Federal Assault Weapons Ban on semi-automatic firearms that expired in 2004 after one decade.
According to an analysis published by FiveThirtyEight, gun sales to people listed on the terror watch list make up a “tiny portion” of total gun sales. The statistic underlines the shallowness of the “no fly, no buy” bill in the wake of what’s being called the most deadly mass shooting in modern U.S. history by a gunman who wasn’t on the FBI watch list.