It’s been about three weeks since Nikolas Cruz stormed into the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people.
The Parkland shooting placed student survivors center stage in the latest national debate about gun violence in America. After a series of brave demonstrations and town halls demanding accountability from the NRA and lawmakers, a group of senators are actually reintroducing a bipartisan bill to curb gun violence.
The “Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act,” also known as the “No Fly, No Buy” bill, is sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). The bill was first introduced in 2016 — by Senate Democrats — after Omar Mateen, who was on the terrorism watch list for 10 months and was still able to purchase a firearm, opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Now, in response to the Parkland shooting, the bill is making its way through Congress once again. The legislation in question would prohibit people on the Transportation Security Administration’s “No Fly” list from buying a gun. At first glance, the bill sounds reasonable — right?
But here’s the thing: The bill would not have prevented Cruz — or any other recent mass shooters — from purchasing his firearm and subsequently unleashing bloodshed.
While lawmakers reintroduced the gun control measure in response to the backlash from the shooting, the bill does not apply to Cruz since he was never on a no-fly list.
In January, according to the New York Times, the FBI received word that Cruz had purchased a firearm and had been discussing about plotting a school shooting. The anonymous tipster told the FBI through a hotline that Cruz has a desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts.” But rather than forward the tip to the Miami FBI office, the bureau ignored it and failed to investigate Cruz.
And since Cruz was never investigated, he was not referred to the Terrorist Screening Center where it holds the no-fly list database. This is hardly the first time either.
Jared Loughner, the man who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, was not on a terrorism watch list. Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children in the Sandy Hook shooting, was not on the terrorist watch list. Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, and Robert Dear, who opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, were also not on the list.
And not only does this bill miss the real troubling factors of mass shooters, it’s racist.
Instead of devoting time, resources, research and programs addressing domestic violence, toxic masculinity, and white supremacy, (which are all common threads with a long list of white mass shooters in the last four decades) the bill gives credibility to an inherently racist and reckless list that encompasses more than 1.5 million names within the last five years without proper screening and investigation.
It also disproportionately targets people of color. It historically targeted notable civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X. The ACLU has released statements condemning that the majority of individuals in the list are either Arab, South Asian, and/or Muslim — many of which are law-abiding U.S. Citizens. In fact, Dearborn, Michigan, which is one of the most populated Arab neighborhoods in the country, was second — only behind New York City — for the city with the most names on the watch list. One of the people from Dearborn on the list is a 7-month-old baby.
But more than just being racist, the No Fly, No Buy bill strengthens the false belief that the people listed in the list are there for reasonable suspicion or are probable national security threats. It adds further stigma and suspicion on our fellow neighbors — who happen to have darker skin, come from a different country, and/or worship in a different way — without any effective measure to end gun violence.
One bill is never going to end mass shootings.
A gun control bill is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. It takes a lot more than just introducing a bill. It requires more citizens like Cameron Kasky, a student survivor for the Parkland shooting, to demand lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to promise to never accept financial contributions from the NRA. It also requires lawmakers to actually agree and act on that promise.
To end gun violence, law enforcement authorities must place a lot resources into researching and investigating trends of domestic violence and white supremacy. They must also take reports of domestic violence and extremism seriously, not only when it’s perpetrated by a brown and black person. It requires judicial powers to review the legal framework on domestic violence, right-wing extremism, and white supremacy.
But the onus also falls on all of us too. We must continue to take the ills of toxic masculinity seriously and start productive conversations on the matter. We must be active, vocal, and strong in combating the ills of xenophobia, gendered-violence, and white supremacy. And if you can’t do that, then one of the most helpful ways to assist in the fight is simply through donating funds to organizations like the Brady Campaign and signal boost activists like Stoneman Douglas student survivors like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg. They’re effectively taking a stand for something our previous generations failed to do.
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