Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who heads the House Homeland Security Committe, is calling on the TSA and FBI to add the names of those arrested inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to the No Fly List, which would not only bar them from air travel but could ban them from legally purchasing a gun as well, at least if Democrats (and some Republicans) get their way.
On Thursday Thompson released a statement urging the agencies to take immediate action to block those identified as taking part in the storming of the Capitol.
“We already saw reports of ‘unruly mobs’ in air on the way to Washington, D.C.,” he added. “It does not take much imagination to envision how they might act out on their way out of D.C. if allowed to fly unfettered. This is an action that TSA and the FBI, by law, are able to take but, to my knowledge, have not yet taken. Alleged perpetrators of a domestic terrorist attack who have been identified by the FBI should be held accountable.
The No Fly List has been eyed by Democrats for years now as a vehicle for disarming Americans. Way back in 2007, Rahm Emanuel, while speaking at a Brady Campaign gala, declared that a bill barring individuals on the No Fly List from purchasing a gun should have been a top priority for Democrats.
“I’m not one far from liking the mixing of politics and policy, but as my old boss used to say, ‘Gimme that vote and throw me into that briar patch. I’ll make politics out of that every day.’ Because if it’s between that terror list and the NRA, I know where America is going to be every time… If you’re on that No Fly List your access to the right to keep and bear arms is cancelled, because you’re not part of the American family. You don’t deserve that right.”
President-elect Joe Biden would appear to agree with Rahm Emanuel. In 2016 Biden was on hand as President Barack Obama declared that “people with possible ties to terrorism who are not allowed on a plane shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun” and never objected to the proposal, though it didn’t make it onto Biden’s laundry list of gun control efforts on his campaign website.
There’s already plenty of evidence that the No Fly List has been used to abuse the civil rights of Americans, and even the ACLU objected to the idea of banning gun ownership for those on the list when the proposal was offered as an amendment to an appropriations bill back in 2016 (though not before claiming that the Second Amendment should be treated differently than all of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights).
The government contends that it can place Americans on the No Fly List who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of conduct that the government concedes “may or may not occur.” Criteria like these guarantee 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.
Who authored that amendment? It wasn’t Chuck Schumer or Dianne Feinstein. Instead, it was Sen. Susan Collins, Republican from Maine who tried to insert the language into the spending bill. Collins wasn’t successful, but she did manage to get the support of eight Republicans. In 2018 she tried again with the “Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act”, received support from GOP senators like Jeff Flake and Pat Toomey.
Don’t be surprised if Collins once again renews her call for a No-Fly, No-Buy bill in the very near future. Even if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate for the measure, Democrats could try to slip the ban into must-pass appropriation bills or attempt to use the reconciliation process to approve the ban with just 51 votes. Based on the 2016 vote, it’s at least possible that Collins could cobble together enough Republicans go along with the bill to ensure its passage with all of its constitutional defects intact.