Following the heightened anxiety after the Paris attacks, it’s not surprising that lawmakers are seeking to do something to prevent such a tragedy from happening on American shores. However, the current proposal up for discussion is a terrible abridgement of civil liberties for hundreds of thousands of Americans who aren’t a threat to anyone.
Having overwhelmingly lost the public debate about whether the Obama administration’s Syrian refugee screening policy should be enhanced, Democrats have retreated to more comfortable rhetorical ground: demanding more gun control.
Their new secret weapon? A bill that would ban anyone whose name appears on a terror watch list from buying or possessing a firearm. The idea sounds reasonable enough until you dig into the details and realize that the proposed Democratic legislation is a shocking assault on the constitutional right to due process. What makes the proposal even worse is that the Democrats’ assault on due process isn’t necessary to accomplish what they say is their only goal: preventing “dangerous terrorists” from legally purchasing or possessing a firearm.
The new bill, which Democrats have dubbed the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015, gives the U.S. attorney general the authority to “deny the sale, delivery, or transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearms or explosives license or permit to dangerous terrorists.”
According to several Democratic sponsors of the bill, the proposed law would allow the attorney general to deny a criminal background check clearance to any individual whose name appears on the national terror watch list. The huge problem with this expansive new power is that there are precisely zero statutory criteria for inclusion on this massive list. In fact, when statutory authority for the centralized government database was first codified into law via the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Congress gave all authority for determining criteria for inclusion in the watch list to unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrats. If some faceless Beltway bureaucrat decides you might be a terrorist, then you’re a terrorist. End of story.
If this doesn’t bother you, then we don’t really know what to say. After all, there’s just something wrong with denying people rights based on something like this. There’s no trial, no defense before a jury of your peers, nothing but someone’s opinion.
To make matter worse, if you seek to go to court to clear your name, you don’t get the “innocent until proven guilty” standard that marks the American legal system. Instead of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this “trial” uses a preponderance of evidence standard. Since that evidence is likely based on intelligence, and therefore classified, you’re unlikely to actually see it. How do you defend against evidence you can’t even see?
What’s really sad is many of the proponents of this bill would go nuts if you tried to apply this standard to any other constitutional right.
“No free speech to anyone on the terrorist watch list! If you can’t be trusted to fly, you can’t be trusted to speak publicly.”
They’d lose their freaking minds, and for good reason. This shouldn’t be any different.
Meanwhile, this particular piece of legislation is nothing but a violation of civil liberties. As The Federalist points out, there’s already a means to prevent real terror threats from arming:
All the attorney general has to do to prevent “dangerous terrorists” from legally purchasing firearms is to indict them. That’s it. Charge these terrorists with terrorism, and their legal right to purchase firearms goes up in smoke. That’s because existing federal law states that anyone who’s been indicted for any crime that carries a prison sentence of more than one year–and felony indictment for conspiracy to commit terrorism certainly satisfies that standard–automatically becomes ineligible to purchase or possess a firearm:
The Gun Control Act (GCA) makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to ship, transport, receive, or possess firearms. 18 USC 922(g). Transfers of firearms to any such prohibited persons are also unlawful. 18 USC 922(d).
These categories include any person:
Under indictment or information in any court for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
who is a fugitive from justice;
who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
who is an illegal alien;
who has been discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions;
who has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (enacted by the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 104-208, effective September 30, 1996). 18 USC 922(g) and (n).
Seems pretty straight forward to us.
The funny thing is that getting an indictment isn’t exactly difficult either. The joke is that a competent DA can get an indictment for a ham sandwich. However, at least then there’s something resembling due process at work.
Guess we just can’t have that, now can we?
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