By Blake Neff
Democratic Rep. John Lewis was erroneously put on the no-fly list he now wants to use to restrict gun ownership for U.S. citizens.
Lewis staged a “sit-in” at the House of Representatives Wednesday to call for a law barring people on the federal no-fly list from purchasing guns. But Lewis himself was erroneously put on the list at one point for an entire year, meaning he would have been unable to buy a gun had his new proposal been law.
Several different gun control measures have been circulating in Congress in the wake of Omar Mateen’s June 12 shooting spree at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. One of the proposals would ban anybody on the federal government’s no-fly list from purchasing a gun. In the House, Lewis has become a champion of such a rule, leading an occupation of the House floor to demand a vote on the measure.
My colleagues & I have had enough. We are sitting-in on the House Floor until we get a vote to address gun violence. https://t.co/rTqrPifuUz
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 22, 2016
Lewis may view the no-fly list as a good vehicle for stopping terrorists from getting weapons. But terrorists wouldn’t be the only people hindered by Collins’ proposal. In fact, if such a law had existed a decade ago, Lewis himself would have been victimized by it.
Press accounts from 2004 to 2008 reveal that Lewis’ name somehow ended up on the federal no-fly list, and remained there for years despite his best efforts to get it off. In 2004, he claimed he was stopped 35 to 40 times in a single year by airport personnel who tried to keep him from flying. Presumably, if the “no fly, no gun” law had been in place then, Lewis would have had even more trouble buying a gun than he had getting on a plane.
Lewis isn’t the only prominent person to have trouble with the no-fly list, as Sen. Ted Kennedy and singer Cat Stevens also claimed they were mistakenly placed on it. Their experiences illustrate one of the chief criticisms of the no-fly list: That it can limit individual rights while giving individuals very limited power to fight back.
According to the FBI, the current no-fly list has about 81,000 names, although only a few hundred of them are Americans.