President Obama’s latest gun-control proposal hit a surprising snag on Thursday when a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security objected to the idea of banning people on the no-fly list from purchasing weapons.
“I believe it would be apples and oranges,” Alan Bersin, assistant secretary for international affairs at DHS, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
That’s a blow to Obama, who touts the proposal as a crucial part of the fight to prevent terrorism. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is using the idea to rally her base and attack Republican national-security hawks who regard the plan as unconstitutional.
Obama offered the “no-fly, no buy” idea as the primary response to the San Bernardino attack in his rare address from the Oval Office. “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?” he said on December 6. “This is a matter of national security.”
Clinton took up that refrain on Tuesday. “I have news for [Republicans] — terrorists use guns to kill Americans,” she said during a speech on national security. “I think we should make it harder for them from to do that.”
#share#Bersin’s testimony suggests that the gun-control measure has received more attention from Democratic politicos than it has from government administrators. “I have not heard that and I don’t believe that it would be,” he replied when Representative Blake Farenthold mentioned the proposal and asked if it would be “appropriate” to use the no-fly list as a tool for deciding who should be able to purchase guns.
Earlier in the exchange, Bersin told Farenthold that people need only be suspected of potential wrong-doing to be put on the list and that it can take a long time for innocent Americans to be removed from it. “There is a redress process that people can apply to to be removed,” he said. “It’s an extended process.”