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Red meat square-off

GOP Senate debate How's this for a loaded question: Republican candidates vying to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara Boxer were asked at a debate Thursday night whether people on the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list should be allowed to buy a gun. Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner: the genius who came up that question. It's not only a litmus test for reasonableness vs. ideology, it sends two sacred cows galloping toward an unavoidable collision. 

For the record, former Rep. Tom Campbell responded, "Ah, no!" Deposed Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina gave an unconditional "Yes." And Assemblyman Chuck DeVore said yes, assuming the suspected terrorists hadn't been convicted of a felony. I guess it's reassuring that DeVore isn't looking to eliminate the federal ban on felons buying guns, at least where it comes to people on the no-fly list.

A pox on all their houses. The question demands a far more nuanced answer than any of them gave, one that combines Campbell's concerns about terrorists toting newly unboxed lethal weapons with the admonition Fiorina voiced about the no-fly list being over-inclusive. But nuance goes out the window in a primary, where candidates strive for purity, not reason.

But how would you have answered the question, which evidently sprung from the mind of one of the journalists on Thursday's panel (Warren Armstrong of KFSN, Mark Matthews of KGO and John North, KABC)? Take our poll, leave a comment, or do both!

-- Jon Healey

Photo: At Thursday's debate, a focused Carly Fiorina stands, fittingly, with Tom Campbell on the left and Chuck DeVore on the right. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (4)

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Amy Thoma

This was actually a trick question that Campbell the law professor missed. People who are on the no fly list have not been afforded any sort of due process so denying them their constitutional rights is problematic on many levels. People end up on the no fly list for a variety of reasons - and there are mistakes made all the time that put the name of an American who has done nothing to deserve being on it - Ted Kennedy is one high profile example. Of course anyone on the no fly list who has previous criminal convictions or is mentally ill would be subject to existing law preventing them to purchase gun.
Amy Thoma, Carly for California

Emile Zola

Let's take the politics out of this and re-phrase the question. Can a terrorist buy bombs to kill people in America? Automatic guns can kill just as many, maybe less than an actual bomb, but the to the victims, they both are deadly, so the correct answer is no. But since and it's always the case, when politics gets in the way, the truth is nowhere to be found.

John H

Well, since the latest "attack" involved an SUV, would a better question be "Should anyone on the no fly list be able to purchase an automobile?" After all, these seem to be the item of choice for terrorists. Therefore, my view is that anyone on the no fly list not be permitted to have any type of automobile.

Jon Healey

@John H -- Maybe we should just bar them from buying a car on credit.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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