A New York state Democratic assemblyman from the Hudson Valley has introduced legislation to ban guns for people who appear on a federal “No-Fly” list. The bill, which echoes calls on the national level, is drawing both support and opposition.
Westchester County Assemblyman Tom Abinanti has introduced legislation to prohibit people named on the FBI’s No-Fly List from obtaining or renewing a license to carry firearms.
“If you’re not safe to fly, you’re not safe to have a gun,” says Abinanti. “It’s just plain, simple common sense.”
He says the No-Fly List falls under the federal government’s terrorism watch list, which is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center within the FBI. Individuals who are suspected or known terrorists are placed on the list. Abinanti contends the terror watch list is not always up to date and wants a separate FBI list, the no fly list, made available to New York state to close a gap.
“If the federal government thinks they’re dangerous, I think they deserve a second look before we give them a gun, before it’s a handgun, before it’s a rifle, before it’s an assault weapon. We have to give them a second look. We’ve got to be very, very careful,” says Abinanti. “The situation that occurred in California raises the red flag for us. It highlights how easy it is for bad people to get guns. We need to protect ourselves. We need to target those people who are targeting us for harm.”
In California, he refers to the San Bernardino shootings as the latest such attacks in prompting his bill. New Jersey has a law banning anyone on a terrorist watch list from obtaining an ID card permitting the purchase of firearms. And, in December, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, citing the San Bernardino shootings and November Paris attacks, announced his intention to sign an executive order banning people on federal terrorism watch lists from purchasing firearms in his state.
“This issue about people on the terrorism watch list who can be denied access to an airplane but can buy guns in the United States and did so successfully 2,043 times between 2004 and 2014, that is a gigantic loophole which I’m prepared, upon agreement with the White House and the Justice Department, to sign an executive order that would add that as a background check to our system in Connecticut,” says Malloy.
Republican Dutchess County Assemblyman Kieran Lalor criticizes Abinanti’s bill as politically motivated.
“I think this bill is very political and very ideological and it’s not really about providing safety or security for the people of New York state or this country,” says Lalor. “It’s about taking some issues that are in the headlines and trying to spin them favorably toward Democrats or those on the left.”
Leah Gunn Barrett is executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“And certainly for a state like New York, which is a terrorist target in so many instances, this is something that should be done pronto,” says Gunn Barrett. “And I don’t think you would broach any kind of opposition from either any party on this because it’s a matter of safety, public safety.”
Yet, as already expressed by Lalor, there is opposition. The East Fishkill lawmaker says the bill would erode Second Amendment rights.
“Can you think of another right that can be taken away from you, a constitutional right in the Bill of Rights that can be taken away from you, because somebody in the government puts you on a secret list and you lose that right?” Lalor says. “I can’t think of that.”
In addition, there are questions about just which authorities in New York state would have or be granted access to such classified information as a federal watch list. Lars Dalseide is a spokesman for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legal Action.
“You can be on this list because someone that you’re friends with lives in a building with someone who knows a terrorist. So there’s no real rhyme or reason why this is happening,” says Dalseide. “And to use this list to just broadly paint a brush against those that you want to deny the right to purchase a firearm is not a good idea.”
Abinanti’s bill has seven co-sponsors and three multi-sponsors, all Democrats. Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan sponsors the bill in the Senate, where there are six co-sponsors, also all Democrats.