A week after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the gun-control debate has reopened, this time with renewed focus placed on the availability of guns to people currently being monitored by the United States government for possible terrorist connections.
In a national address following the tragedy, President Obama said, “Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.”
However, to critics, including some self-described liberals, the question of restricting the Second Amendment rights of individuals included on watch lists is not so black and white.
One concern is the potential to introduce wrongful surveillances practices into a functioning democracy. Another is the fact that there is no way to prevent someone who is not a terrorist from inadvertently ending up on the list, as happened to former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts in 2004.
Restrictions on gun purchases for people on the no-fly list would also not have stopped the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attacks; neither were on the federal terrorism watch list.
Congress voted down one measure to prohibit individuals on no-fly lists from obtaining gun permits, part of a broader measure that would have also instituted other restrictions on gun purchases, including wider background checks.
This has prompted officials in Connecticut to take steps to restrict the ability of individuals on the no-fly list to purchase guns, ahead of what they perceive as Congress’s inaction.
Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) said in an address Thursday that he would seek to limit the ability of people on watch lists to purchase guns. He said that he would work with federal law enforcement to determine which lists will be crosschecked during background checks for gun permits.
"If you cannot fly due to being on a watch list, you shouldn't be able to purchase a firearm," Gov. Malloy said. "Since Congress so far as failed to act, we will."
A spokesman said that the governor planned to issue an executive order on the issue, and is working directly with the White House to gain access to the no-fly lists.
Connecticut already has some of the strictest gun laws in the US. Following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 young children and 6 adults were killed, the state passed broad gun-control laws that limited the sale of high-capacity gun magazines and required background checks for private gun sales, among other requirements.