President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the nation during a prime-time address Sunday evening in which he spoke of the mass shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and the attack's possible connection to ISIS. This led to Obama calling on Congress to address the issue of those on a no-fly list being able to purchase a gun. “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?" Obama said rhetorically. "This is a matter of national security.”
Hours earlier, however, Marco Rubio appeared on CNN's State of the Union and explained his reason for blocking a bill that would have pushed that agenda forward. Rubio said that people on the no-fly list should be able to purchase a gun, arguing that those on the list are "everyday Americans."
“The majority of the people on the no-fly list are oftentimes people that just basically have the same name as somebody else, who doesn’t belong on the no-fly list,” Rubio told the show's host, Jake Tapper. “Former Senator Ted Kennedy once said he was on a no-fly list. There are journalists on the no-fly list.”
“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 added.
When challenged by Tapper on the accuracy of his statements, Rubio insisted that the number of "everyday Americans" on the no-fly list was "significant."
Rubio explained that this was the reason he was part of blocking a Senate bill that would keep those on the Justice Department’s Terrorist Watch List from being able to purchase guns. The blocking of the bill prompted Obama to say it was "insane" to allow those on the list to buy guns.
"If these were perfect lists, that would be one thing," Rubio explained on CNN. "But there are over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another that would all be captured under this amendment the Democrats offered. And that's the problem."
Yet hours after Rubio's comments, Politifact looked into his claim that there are more than 700,000 Americans on the list and found that the number was more in the thousands than the hundreds of thousands.
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In fact, according to one former chief of the FBI Terrorist Screening Center, the number on the list "likely doesn’t exceed 10,000."
The New York Times has pointed out that there have been times innocent Americans have appeared on this list, but, according to the former FBI chief, getting on that list is "harder than you think."
Still, Rubio and many of his fellow Republican senators argue that blocking the bill was the right thing to do.
“If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun," Obama said a day before addressing the nation. "And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now.”