California Assemblyman Does Not Propose Bill Banning People on No-Fly List From Buying Guns, Thanks to LawProfs

February 12th, 2016

In December, I received an email out of the blue from a legislative counsel to California Assemblymember Mike Gatto. She was inquiring about the constitutionality of a law that would prohibit, or restrict people on the federal no-fly list from purchasing guns in California. My answer was that such a law would be unconstitutional, for reasons I stated in this post. In short, people are added to this list without any due process of law. It would violate both the right to keep and bear arms, as well as the Due Process Clause, to deny someone a constitutional right without any process at all. I explained this position to the legislative counsel, who took detailed notes, and explained that her boss was genuinely interested in hearing different perspectives. Over the next month, we had a few more phone conversations. At each juncture, she asked me about different ways of tweaking the bill, so that a hearing could be afforded before a person is prohibited from buying a gun. I explained that such a hearing would be pointless, because the federal government will not disclose the reason why someone was added to the list. It would be a rump hearing, without any conceivable evidence. After that, I didn’t hear anything else.

Yesterday on Twitter, Asssemblymember Gatto announced that he was not proceeding with the bill, and kindly thanked several law professors who advised him.

It is really, really refreshing that an elected official considered a bill that was in the zeitgeist, talked to constitutional experts from across the spectrum, and made a decision contrary to what he was initially inclined to do. Kudos to Mr. Gatto and his staff for taking the Constitution seriously.