Presidential candidate Marco Rubio and CNN’s State of the Union host Jake Tapper got into it Sunday after Rubio challenged President Obama’s statement Saturday in his weekly address about people on the government’s no-fly list being able to obtain firearms. The no-fly list contains about 50,000 names. A broader consolidated terrorist watch-list reportedly contains about 700,000 names. The president said:
"Right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you're too dangerous to board a plane, you're too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun," he said in his weekly address. "And so I'm calling on Congress to close this loophole, now. We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but -- at a bare minimum -- we shouldn't be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans."
That’s going to be a tough row to hoe. The Senate on Friday voted 54 to 45 against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) legislation to keep people on the government’s terrorist watch-list and "no fly" list from buying guns. Rubio was one of the no votes on the grounds that some people are on the list accidentally or on purpose but shouldn’t be. Katie Valentine reports:
“These are everyday Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism, they wind up on the No-Fly list, there’s no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion, and now they’re having their Second Amendment rights being impeded upon,” [Rubio] said.
And, when Tapper said he didn’t think it was accurate that a majority of people on the No-Fly list were there by mistake, Rubio said he thought it was a “very significant number.”
There is little doubt that the terrorist watch-list does contain names that shouldn’t be there, including people with the same name as someone who does belong on the list and people placed there because the government accepted the accusations of someone with a grudge. Hina Shamsi, who heads the ACLU’s National Security Project, told Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.”
Knowing that and being oh-so-deeply concerned with people’s civil liberties should have long ago sent Rubio and other Republicans scurrying to pass legislation that would fix the terrorist watch-list. But instead of doing that, as my colleague Joan McCarter points out, Rubio has little real concern for civil liberties except apparently where they intersect with firearms ownership. He wants more government surveillance of Americans even though there is plenty already. And he’s willing to spread lies to back it up.
As for Obama’s desire for Congress to close the terrorist-list gun loophole, that seems out of the question when the Senate also voted 50-48 Friday against a bill to tighten the background-check system designed to keep felons and the mentally ill from buying guns legally. That’s an approach that some 85-93 percent of Americans say they support every time pollsters ask them. But more than 50 percent of Congress still refuses to go along.