Advocates Want More Than 'No Fly, No Buy' Gun Bill

Jul 1, 2016

Lawmakers across the country are demanding action in response to the Orlando shooting earlier this month. WFSU looks into some of the gun control measures being considered in the wake of the tragedy.

Mourners in London light candles for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Credit Olly Newport/ flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyllo/

In the wake of the country’s mass shootings, there is a public push for lawmakers to do something. To pass laws that could’ve prevented the devastation at a gay nightclub, or a movie theater, or an elementary school. Following the Pulse shooting in Orlando, lawmakers across the country are chanting ‘No Fly, No Buy’. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats held a sit-in on the chamber floor.

“I do believe we shall overcome someday,” they sang.

Supporters call it common-sense gun regulation, saying people who are barred from air travel shouldn’t be able to buy guns. Now Florida Democrats are calling for a special session to consider No Fly, No Buy. The measure would incorporate the federal terrorist watch list into the state’s instant background checks. And according to a Quinnipiac poll, 86% of Floridians support it. But critics call it ineffective. Susan MacManus is a political scientist at the University of South Florida. 

“Seems to people who are concerned about gun violence to be a no-brainer. But to others it’s seen as insufficient. That it’s not really gonna do that much to stop gun violence because it doesn’t get at the root of the problem,” she said.

According to federal data, suspected terrorists make up a fraction of the country’s overall gun ownership. Out of the 29 million background checks the FBI ran last year, 244 of them were for people on the terror watch list. So why such broad support for a relatively limited regulation? Researchers say the policy response reflects the tragedy. But American gun violence doesn’t end with mass shootings.                

“Since 2009, in each year, the victims of these particular mass shooting incidents represent just 1% of the gun homicide victims in the United States,” he said.

Ted Alcorn is the research director at Everytown For Gun Safety. For gun control advocates like Alcorn, mass shootings are devastating. But they’re also an opportunity to continue the conversation.

“These incidents of public outrage are different from the underlying problem in some important ways, but it’s not to say that moments when our collective imagination is stirred and our collective concern is elevated aren’t incredibly important in the long-term,” he said.

Which is why groups like Everytown are demanding broader regulations like universal background checks for all gun sales. And some licensed dealers are seeing opinions change too, like Dawn Hoffman at DSH Firearms in Tallahassee. In Florida, background checks are not required for sales between private individuals. But some private sellers are turning to Hoffman to run background checks for them.

“They don’t want a gun to be tracked to them and then they sold it to somebody else.  So they’ll bring it in and we’ll do a background check on that person,” she said.

Say lawmakers are able to tighten gun access across the board. Critics argue, if someone really wants a gun, a background check won’t stop them; sales will just move online and underground. Susan MacManus says the public is split on how to respond.                   

“So what you have in a nutshell is a politically divided Florida and America in terms of whether gun control will really stop gun violence or whether criminals will continue to get guns,” she said.

Ted Alcorn admits laws aren’t perfect, but he believes they can shape social behavior and deter violence.

“Because a few individuals continue to violate laws isn’t a reason that we shouldn’t pass those that are commonsensical,” he said.

At the state level, it’s unlikely Florida Democrats will get the support they need to hold a special session. But Democrats in Congress promise to keep fighting for legislation when they return to Washington after the 4th of July holiday.