Take Action Against Gun Violence and Islamophobia
In the wake of the horrific shooting in Orlando, House Democrats called for a vote on anti-gun legislation. Rep. John Lewis, an iconic civil rights leader, led fellow Democrats in a historic sit-in action, after they were denied a vote on that measure. Though the demonstration was inspiring for many, it was in support of a bill that the ACLU calls “error prone” and “unfair.”
There is popular support for measures to end the gun violence epidemic in the country. However, this bill, House Resolution 1076, is expected to do little to actually curb gun violence and advances civil rights abuses. Titled “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015,” “no fly, no buy” for short, this legislation calls for a ban on weapon sales to people on the so-called No Fly List. This watchlist was developed after 9/11 and disproportionately targets Muslims.
In reality, most gun-related violence is not carried out by people on government watchlists. The practice of adding and maintaining people on government watchlists is riddled with civil rights and human rights abuses. Even Rep. Lewis, who is leading the campaign on this bill, was once on the No Fly List. The bill advocated by Democrats could serve to further legitimize this oppression without preventing gun violence.
What you can do
You can use this opportunity to inform your legislators, friends and community members about the abusive nature of government watchlists.
Initiate a dialogue with your friends, faith organization, social justice allies on why gun control should not take place at the cost of limiting the constitutional rights of an entire group of people.
Engage your legislators during candidate forums to ask them about their position on civil rights for all people. Many legislators will visit their constituents during July 4th and Summer breaks.
You can use these talking points to write a letter-to-the-editor or an op-ed, communicate with your legislator, rally allies for an action, or post on social media. A letter-to-editor or op-ed is more likely to be published if it is written in response to a story or an editorial published in the paper. Here are some more tips on writing letters to the editor and a worksheet to help you get started.
Some of the talking points include:
- We must work to reduce gun violence without threatening civil liberties or resorting to Islamophobia.
- The “No Fly, No Buy” bill targets “suspected terrorists,” but innocent people can earn that designation based on overboard and vague criteria, without due process to challenge it effectively, as argued by civil liberties organizations and a US federal court.
- Civil rights heroes like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was on a government watchlist, and Rep. John Lewis was reportedly on the No Fly List. These are just two examples of the abusive and sweeping nature of the watchlist that targets everyday people.
- We should not legitimize such an ambiguous, arbitrary and abusive system, through gun-control legislation.
- The overwhelming number of people perpetrating gun violence are neither foreign-born nor on a government watchlist. HR 1076 does little to prevent gun violence.
- Reducing gun violence, ending racism and inequality, empowering women, defending immigrant rights, advancing LGBTQ justice and all progressive changes require building broad-based movements. We cannot advance on any front at the cost of demonizing and alienating a group of people.
After sending your letter to a media organization, consider calling to check the status of publication or to ask the editors if they have any questions for you. If they have published it, thank them for doing so. Follow-up with a phone call if you do not hear from your legislator or an organization you contacted.
The following articles provide information to use in your responses.
Use of error-prone and unfair watchlists is not the way to regulate guns in America.
ACLU | June 22, 2016
Court challenges no-fly list.
ACLU | June 24, 2014
US government watchlisting: unfair process and devastating consequences.
ACLU | March 2014
The House sit-in would’ve been more powerful if it rejected “no fly, no buy”.
Foreign Policy In Focus | June 23, 2016
Vote YES on Senate Amendment 4750; oppose measures to expand National Security Letter and limit refugees.
Amnesty International | June, 2016
Why Democrats aren’t pushing an assault weapons ban?
Politico | June 16, 2016
Manzoor Cheema is a fellow at the Center for New Community.