If Republican presidential candidate John Kasich were in Congress today, he would have likely been among the legislators to vote against a bill that would have banned people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns.
The GOP-controlled Senate did not pass that bill on Thursday, with 54 senators voting against it. Only one Republican voted for the bill, and one Democrat voted against it. According to the Government Accountability Office, suspected terrorists purchased guns over 2,000 times between 2004 and 2014.
The vote came just one day after the shooting in San Bernardino, California, where at least 14 people were killed by two suspects, one of which had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
One argument against the bill, which has been made by the NRA, is that innocent people could have their constitutional rights taken if they are wrongfully on the list, which includes nearly 700,000 people. In an interview on CNN Sunday, Kasich presented a different risk.
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“Of course it makes common sense to say that if you’re on a terrorist watch list, you shouldn’t be able to go out and get a gun,” Kasich said. “But what we have to deal with is the fact that we don’t want to tip somebody off.”
Kasich made the distinction between the no-fly list and the watch list, saying anyone on the no-fly list should be banned from buying a gun.
But he said if people on the terrorist watch list are denied the ability to purchase a firearm, they will find out that they are being tracked, which would sacrifice the success of the intelligence agency. The Ohio governor said when law enforcement in his state stop someone who is a suspected terrorist, it doesn’t tell the person that he or she is on the watch list.
“We want to make sure that we can exploit all the information that we can possibly get,” he said.
Kasich made clear there is not an easy answer to this problem, but sided more with the reliance on intelligence to be able to disrupt terrorist activities.
“Let’s just balance this in terms of what is in the best interest of gathering intelligence and keeping us safe,” he said.
Kasich's position differs from other Republican candidates, including Marco Rubio. The Florida senator said Sunday he doesn’t think people on the terrorist watch list or the no-fly list should be banned from purchasing a gun.
“There aren’t 700,000 terrorists operating in America openly on watch lists,” Rubio said on CNN.
Similarly, he said there are innocent Americans on the no-fly list, but did not provide any specific numbers.
“These are everyday Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism, they wind up on the no-fly list, there’s no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion, and now they’re having their Second Amendment rights being impeded upon,” Rubio said.
This remark was largely in response to President Barack Obama’s comment that it’s “insane” that people on the no-fly list can buy a gun.
“If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun,” he said. “And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now.”