A new gun control campaign is targeting Nevadans.
A group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, is pushing for new laws that would bar people on the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list from purchasing firearms. However, gun rights and civil rights groups continue to raise concerns about due process over those lists.
The group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, said a majority of Nevadans would support a federal law prohibiting people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list or the no-fly list from buying firearms, according to poll results released Tuesday.
Public Policy Polling surveyed 583 Nevada voters from April 15-17 to ask them about closing the “terror gap.” The poll has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.
Half of the respondents were gun owners, 40 percent identified as Democrats, and 37 percent were Republicans.
Sixty percent of those surveyed responded that they thought “known or suspected terrorists … in other words, individuals on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist” already would be barred from buying a gun.
Another question asked how important it is to take measures to protect Americans from the “growing threat” of “active shooter terrorism,” such as the recent multiple-victim shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Paris. Seventy-three percent of respondents said it was very important.
The majority of respondents said they were in favor of Congress making it illegal for “known or suspected terrorists” to purchases guns and would be more likely to support a congressional candidate who favors such a law.
Kelly spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week to say that Congress has failed to pass that law several times.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. “It’s not really a question of civil rights or gun rights.”
Kelly said the terrorist watch list has about 700,000 people on it, most of whom are foreign nationals.
But the American Civil Liberties Union has due process concerns with both lists. Ordinary citizens can appear on either list and not know about it until they are turned down for a government service or forbidden from boarding an airplane.
“That’s the fundamental problem with the lists,” said Tod Story, executive director of the Nevada ACLU. “You can’t defend yourself if you’re not informed.”
He said he was once involved in a case in which it took a person more than a year to get off the no-fly list, even with legal assistance.
“So much of these programs are shrouded in secrecy,” Story said. “They don’t even have to tell you what they did or why they did it.”
Story said the ACLU is not typically associated with Second Amendment cases, but the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right, and it should take a court order to take it away.
“There’s a difference in being on a terrorist watch list or a no-fly list and depriving someone of a fundamental right,” he said. “You don’t have a right to fly. It’s not the same thing.”
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has previously stated its opposition to such restrictions.
“The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong,” Jennifer Baker, public affairs director, said. “Under the current system, law enforcement is notified every time a person on the list attempts to purchase a firearm … The NRA’s only objective is to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the list are afforded their constitutional right to due process.”
Kelly said Americans for Responsible Solutions also advocates expanding background checks, decreasing gun deaths associated with domestic violence and firearm safety in general.
He and his wife became involved in the debate over gun policies after Giffords survived an assassination attempt in 2011. A gunman opened fire on Giffords at a public event near Tucson, wounding 13 people and killing six.
“We started this organization because we have a problem in this country,” Kelly said. “This terror gap piece is just part of what we do.”
Contact Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0391. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter.