A picture of Representative John Garamendi
John G.
Democrat CA 3

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  • Our First Opportunity to Move to Protect Americans

    by Representative John Garamendi

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, I don't propose to take an hour, but I do propose to bring a very important issue before the House and before the American people. Today we had our first opportunity to really move to protect Americans.

    Presently, if you are on the no-fly list, which is not easy to get on--there has to be some very specific reason why you could be a threat to American citizens, to the airplane on which you might be traveling, or you might be entering this country for some nefarious reason, like terrorism.

    But if you are on the no-fly list and you do happen to be in America, you can go to a gun store or to perhaps any fairground where there is a gun show and you can buy a weapon, virtually any gun, an assault weapon, a handgun, a shotgun.

    And the question arises: If you are too dangerous to fly, are you not too dangerous to buy a gun? But, under American law today, you can, indeed, be too dangerous to fly. You could be a threat to the other passengers or to a tower, to an airplane. But, apparently, you are not a threat to buy a gun.

    In fact, there are some 16,000 people, a very small portion of the American citizenry, that are on the no-fly list. Since 9/11 in 2001, more than 2,000 men, probably women, who are too dangerous to fly on the no-fly list have been able to purchase guns here in the United States.

    So let's see if we get this straight. You have been designated by the Department of Homeland Security and the various Federal Government agencies--TSA, FBI, quite possibly the CIA, and others--as being a threat to the security and safety of America and Americans, and you are put on a no-fly list, meaning you can't get on an airplane.

    {time} 1900 You are not able to buy a ticket, you are not able to travel, and yet you find some way to go down to the local gun store in those States that do not have background checks or maybe a gun show where there are no background checks, you present yourself and say: ``Oh, that is a pretty good-looking AR-14. I'd like to have it.'' ``Sure, you got the money?'' ``I got the money.'' ``Here is the gun.'' This makes no sense whatsoever. Somehow I think the American public gets this. If you are too dangerous to fly, then you are too dangerous to be able to buy a gun in America. It is that simple. There ought to be a law, but there is no law.

    Here in the House of Representatives, many of us have been trying for, actually, several years to deal with this crazy loophole in our gun safety laws; yet we have been unable to have a bill come to the House floor where 435 of us [[Page H9074]] that represent all of the American citizens will have an opportunity to vote on whether we believe that, if you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun.

    So today my fellow Democratic representatives and I--about 135 of us thus far--have signed what is known as a discharge petition so that a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by Representative King of New York, who is a Republican, could be brought to the floor and all of us face the responsibility of selecting whose side do we stand on. Do we stand for the safety of Americans and prevent people that are too dangerous to fly from being able to buy a gun, or do we stand with those on the no-fly list that are presumably dangerous and say: ``Oh, yeah, you ought to be able to buy a gun even though you are too dangerous to fly''? Now, for my American friends out there, all of you, voters and nonvoters, don't you think it is time for your Representatives, 435 of us, to stand before you in this House and say: ``We agree that if you are too dangerous to fly, then you are too dangerous to buy a gun, and you cannot buy a gun,'' or stand here before all the American public and say: ``No, no, no. If you are too dangerous to fly, go ahead and buy a gun''? So, Mr. Speaker, that is what a discharge petition will do. It will take our Republican friend's bill, Mr. King of New York, bring it to the floor and put the issue before your Representatives, before the representatives of the American people, and cause us to make a choice for your safety or for the presumed right of a person who is too dangerous to fly to be able to buy a gun. It is pretty simple stuff. We will see what happens.

    That issue is now bubbling around here on the floor. Today there were four motions to adjourn, which is a way of disrupting the normal procedures of the House--which are terribly abnormal to begin with--and causing the attention of the membership of the House and the press from the press box, or wherever they happen to be, to focus on this one-- one--issue: whether those 16,000 or so people that are on the no-fly list can also go out and buy a gun. Two thousand already have.

    By the way, Mr. Speaker, we ought to quickly discuss this issue of, well, there is a constitutional issue here, an issue in which these people are on a list but they have no ability to get off--no. Not so. Not so. When the no-fly list was first put together following 9/11, the issue was raised of the constitutionality of it by the American Civil Liberties Organization. It went to a Federal court, and the Federal court said: No, we disagree with you. We believe this is a constitutionally authorized protection of the American public, and there is a procedure for an individual to petition to get off the list. So this issue of constitutionality was decided some years ago by a Federal court.

    So, Mr. Speaker, the arguments that you will undoubtedly hear here about this being, oh, an infringement of the constitutional right for an individual to buy a gun, no. This issue has already been resolved. If you are on the no-fly list and you think you shouldn't be there, you have got a procedure, a program underway and available to you to remove yourself from the no-fly list, and the court said it meets constitutional muster.

    So, taking it a step further, we know a lot of Americans of certain classes that cannot buy a gun: criminals, convicted felons, people that in some States have been involved in domestic violence, and people that have exhibited mental health issues. Those people are barred in many cases from not being able to buy a gun. So we would add to that category people that our law enforcement agencies have deemed to be dangerous, quite possibly terrorists, or abiding and assisting terrorist organizations. If you can't fly, we just simply say that you can't buy a gun also--pretty simple.

    My Republican colleague, Mr. King, is correct. The issue is not resolved. The issue will be back before us tomorrow, the 9th day of December, for those of us that believe that if you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun. Those of us that believe this to be the right policy will continue to push this issue for the safety of Americans.

    Mr. Speaker, 16,000 people may not be able to buy a gun if this becomes law, and that is a good thing, because we know already 2,000 people that are on that no-fly list--actually, more than 2,000--have been able to buy a gun. What did they do with it? Well, maybe they went out and shot quail, or maybe--we pray not, but we don't know, do we? So, Mr. Speaker, the issue is before us, as are many, many important issues, but I don't think there is any issue more important than the safety of the American people. We know that if somebody is thought to be dangerous, then they ought not have a gun.

    Mr. Speaker, I hope that this House will see the wisdom of taking a small step and denying some 16,000 people, many of whom are probably not even American citizens, the opportunity to buy a gun.

    Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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