Viewpoint written for Newport News Times by Central Oregon Coast NOW and Central Coast Ceasefire Oregon member Dianne Eckstein. Eckstein is also Vice-Chair of the Lincoln County Democratic Central Committee
Paul Ryan is the latest GOP hypocrite of the month.
After the horrific shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, and while Democrats tried to get some sensible, relatively uncontroversial gun legislation passed, Ryan made this argument: Making it illegal for people on the “no-fly list” (a list created with background data about potential terrorist threats) to buy large amounts of ammunition and military style weapons is a bad idea. Why? Because it might compromise ongoing FBI investigations by tipping of the suspects.
Is there merit to that argument?
When Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, first tried to buy weapons, he was turned down by a gun store employee who found his order suspicious. He went away and shopped successfully elsewhere. The first gun storeowner did not turn Mateen away because of legislation. He used common sense and a sense of responsibility. But this did not stop the shooter. It did not alert him or make him run away. He simply left without the guns. Mateen went to a different store, where the owner was happy to make a sale.
There are a few likely scenarios to Ryan’s argument about interference in FBI investigations.
1. The FBI is on the terrorist’s trail. They are watching the gun store already. A quick sale gives the shooter the firepower he wants to gun down law enforcement officers.
2. The FBI is a few days behind the shooter. A quick sale leaves him free to launch an attack before he is caught.
3. The FBI is weeks or months behind making a case. A quick sale leaves the shooter free to practice at length and then launch an attack before he is caught.
In all three scenarios, the shooter can go on to wreck havoc.
A “no gun sale to terrorists” law leaves us with a fourth scenario.
4. The gun dealer’s refusal to sell him weapons, because of the new law, tips off the shooter, who then gives up his plan or goes from gun shop to gun shop until the law catches up with him.
Compromising an investigation or tipping off a suspect is a small price to pay for stopping an attack.
Investigations and no sales to terrorists are both meant to combat terrorism. The “no sale” law would probably prevent an attack. An investigation would help punish the shooter later. Since most of these shooters probably intend to die during the attack, the victims would find small comfort.
A “no sale” law would serve the public good better than Ryan’s stalling tactics.
Ryan is wrong when he says that gun shop owners would necessarily inform the purchaser that he is on the suspected terrorist watch list. Dealers could simply say that they don’t have the necessary forms, come back tomorrow.
Since gun sales are at the discretion of the dealers, they are, in a real sense, already regulated. Refusal is an option. Informing the FBI about suspicious buyers is a necessity.
As to the argument that there are mistakes on the “no fly” list, the answer is simple. That is unacceptable. There must be no mistakes. Fix the list.
After consideration, Ryan’s “thoughtful moderation” is no more sensible than Trump’s rantings.
The GOP is unfit to govern.
Newport News Times, July 13, 2016 Edition, Page A6