When U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross restated his support for a ban on gun purchases by those on the federal government's "no-fly" list a few weeks ago, it was mostly an act of political opportunism.
Even though the ban had failed in Congress months earlier, Norcross, D-1st Dist., had a tougher-than-expected primary race against upstart Alex Law. The incumbent found an Achilles Heel: Though described as "progressive," Law opposed so-called "no-fly, no-buy" legislation, putting him in agreement with the National Rifle Association.
The Norcross campaign stretched the NRA-Law connection out of proportion, since nothing turns off Democratic voters like a candidate who seemingly backs, or is backed by, the NRA. The tactic probably shaved some points from Law's June 7 totals. Norcross won easily.
With the primary over, and new gun restrictions being discussed after last weekend's mass killing in Orlando, let's acknowledge Norcross' continued commitment to fixing this loophole. He discussed it again Friday at a gathering of anti-gun-violence and LGBT activists in Pennsauken.
If there is any crack in the Republicans' in-the-NRA's-pocket policies, it's on this kind of law. A Senate Democrats' filibuster the other day forced GOP Senate leaders to say they'll no longer block votes on "no-fly, no-buy" bills. Republican senators facing re-election fights this fall — notably Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey — are introducing their own, albeit weaker, versions of the ban.
Norcross says that House Republicans need to join this sudden move toward consensus, and we agree.
Start with our own South Jersey GOP congressmen, who sometimes can be coaxed from GOP orthodoxy.
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2, was first elected to Congress as an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA. The veteran lawmaker has since rejected some GOP dogma against the environment and social-services funding because he knows what's best for his region. What about on this issue?
Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., is a champion of human rights. Freshman Tom MacArthur, R-3rd, swiftly rebuffed the craziest GOP all-or-nothing government shutdown hawks. Isn't "No-fly, no-buy" in their wheelhouses, too?
Norcross is in step with his party, while it would take a little courage for the Republicans to break ranks on this. The fact is, though, none of these congressmen has serious election trouble this fall. All possess the political capital to do the right thing.
Most Republicans — and Law, too— portray this as a due-process issue. They argue it's unconstitutional to deny those on the watch list the right to buy powerful weapons because some people are on the list improperly. This indefensible idea is like taking away police arrest powers because some people who are arrested turn out to be innocent.
Want to give suspected terrorist "listees" easier legal recourse to get off the no-fly list? OK. Let them make their case. Once scrubbed from the list, authorities can then decide if it's safe to let them get their hands on firearms. It's common sense, and it's something all Washington lawmakers should support.