Stephanopoulos Omits Arguments Against Barring Guns to Watch List Suspects

On Sunday's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos repeatedly brought up the debate over whether to bar guns from people on the federal terror watch list or the no-fly list without delving into any of the arguments against doing so.

The ABC host brought up the issue with both guests Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, and raised the issue again during the "Roundtable" segment, but never noted either the specific criticisms that the list gets from both the left and the right, or the argument against tipping off suspects under secret investigation which barring them from purchasing guns would cause.

About 14 minutes into the show, Stephanopoulos brought up the issue with Trump as he posed:

You've also talked about you want to keep the terror watch list, but under current law, individuals on the terror watch list and the no-fly list have been allowed to buy guns and explosives. Are you okay with that?

Unhappy with Trump's answer, the ABC host followed up:

But why should someone on a watch list be able to have a gun?

As the two went back and forth, Stephanopoulos followed up twice more:

But under current law, people on the watch list are allowed to buy guns. ... But yes or no? Should someone on the terrorist watch list be allowed to buy a gun?

During the interview with Dr. Carson, Stephanopoulos brought up the issue again:

How about this issue of the terror watch list? As I told Mr. Trump that, under the current law, people on the terror watch list are permitted to buy guns, have been permitted to buy guns and explosives. Would you continue that?

Dr. Carson voiced concerns about these people, many of whom have never been convicted or even charged with a crime, being put on the list with possibly weak justification and then having difficulty being removed.

During the "Roundtable" segment, the ABC host raised the issue a third time:

How about that question, though, I posed ... that question I posed to both Dr. Carson and Donald Trump, though, you know, you talk about the gaps in security. Then why is it okay for people on the terror watch list to buy guns?

After GOP Rep. Martha McSally gave a vague answer that did not get into arguments against denying watch list suspects guns, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison jumped in to inject:

Wait a minute. Of course no guns, of course no guns to these people.

Then, CNN political commentator and former President Obama advisor David Axelrod jumped in to trash talk about Republicans and the NRA:

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The answer is that the Republican caucus is more frightened as a political matter by the NRA than they are of ISIS. And on this question, they don't want to buck the NRA. That's why you don't have the watch list people on this list.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): David, I disagree with you.

AXELROD: I expected you would.

None of the panel members brought up the argument Dr. Carson had made earlier in the show about the possibly unfair nature of the list, or the argument that tipping people off that they are on the list could undermine an investigation not ready to go public.

The left-wing Huffington Post has also found fault with the watch lists.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Sunday, November 22, This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You've also talked about you want to keep the terror watch list, but under current law, individuals on the terror watch list and the no-fly list have been allowed to buy guns and explosives. Are you okay with that?

DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to have a watch list, and if that watch list has somebody that's, you know, we have the laws right now, we have the laws already on the books as far as Second Amendment and guns. And, as you know, I'm a big, big, really big proponent of the Second Amendment. I'll give you an example. If, in Paris, some of those people, if you had some of those people had guns, you wouldn't have had the horror show that you had-

STEPHANOPOULOS: But why should someone on a watch list be able to have a gun?

TRUMP: No, no, if people are on a watch list or people are sick, you have already, this is already covered in the legislation that we already have, George, it's already fully covered.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But under current law, people on the watch list are allowed to buy guns.

TRUMP: George, if we have an enemy of state, I don't want to give him anything. I want to have him in jail. That's what I want. I want to have him in jail. But if those people in Paris had guns, it would have been a shootout, and very few people would have been hurt by comparison to the number that were hurt. I tell you who would have been hurt, the bad guys that had the guns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But yes or no? Should someone on the terrorist watch list be allowed to buy a gun?

TRUMP: If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state that we know it's an enemy of state, I would keep them away absolutely.

(...)
 
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this issue of the terror watch list? As I told Mr. Trump that, under the current law, people on the terror watch list are permitted to buy guns, have been permitted to buy guns and explosives. Would you continue that?

DR. BEN CARSON, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, as you, I'm sure, know, there are a lot of people on that watch list, and they have no idea why they're on that list, they've been trying to get their names off of it and no one will give them information. You know, I am a big supporter of the Second Amendment, and I don't want it to deprive people unnecessarily of that.

There needs to be better due process, and that's one thing that I'm very interested in, finding a way to make government more responsive to the people. It's really unfair that people can't get a real hearing, and they get put on a list, and nobody can tell them why they're there, and they go through for years and years, and they have to be tormented. It just doesn't make any sense.

(...)

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about that question, though, I posed -- I'll go to you in one second, Matt -- that question I posed to both Dr. Carson and Donald Trump, though, you know, you talk about the gaps in security. Then why is it okay for people on the terror watch list to buy guns?

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Look, another finding we have of our 32 findings as related to the terror watch lists, we've certainly got to have an independent assessment of that. There have been some issues with it. Additionally, we have our European allies, we share information on the watch list and the no-fly list, and EU travelers don't get checked against that list. These are some of the gaping holes that we've identified.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a big hole.

REP. MCSALLY: That's a really big hole we've identified in our task force.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): Wait a minute. Of course no guns, of course no guns to these people.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The answer is that the Republican caucus is more frightened as a political matter by the NRA than they are of ISIS. And on this question, they don't want to buck the NRA. That's why you don't have the watch list people on this list.

REP. MCSALLY: David, I disagree with you.

AXELROD: I expected you would.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters