Sometimes there are amazing confluences of events which seem to unite all sentient beings in opposition to some nutjobbery conceived of by an elected official. Ever since the Obama administration rolled out the idea that the federal government should be able to forbid a citizen who has neither been suspected of, charged with, indicted for, or convicted of a crime to purchase a legal firearm because some unknown bureaucrat has put your name on a “watch list”, left and right, the NRA and the ACLU, have united against that idiocy. For instance, the odious twit, Alex Pareene, writing at the bankrupt husk that is Gawker after Hulk Hogan sued them out of business, says:
The Democratic proposal has been catch-phrased and hashtagged as “no fly, no buy,” because it would prevent people who end up on government terrorism watchlists, including the “no fly list,” from purchasing firearms. This would do little to reduce gun violence, but it would add an additional layer of surveillance and government scrutiny to a particular class of people.
That certainly sounds like a solid principle on which to take a stand—terrorists shouldn’t have AR-15s! Meanwhile, most gun deaths in the United States are not caused by suspected terrorists armed with military-style semi-automatic rifles. The vast majority of gun deaths—suicides as well as homicides—are caused by handguns, and the majority of people firing those guns are not suspected terrorists (which invariably refers, in contemporary discourse, to Muslims, and no other groups or individuals dedicated to political violence).
The no-fly list is a civil rights disaster by every conceivable standard. It is secret, it disproportionately affects Arab-Americans, it is error-prone, there is no due process or effective recourse for people placed on the list, and it constantly and relentlessly expands. As of 2014, the government had a master watchlist of 680,000 people, forty percent of whom had “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” This is both an absurdly large number of people to arbitrarily target in gun control legislation, and far, far too few to have any meaningful effect on actual gun ownership, let alone gun violence.
Pareene, as a good little leftist, obviously believes that Big Islamophobia would use the lists to punish Muslims but all indications are that a) the Obama administration is terrified to take any action against any Muslim and b) the real targets would be conservative groups that the FBI has been trying to brand as terror threats for eight years.
Be that as it may, he’s right on the rest. Plus, it would compromise ongoing investigations when someone attempted to purchase a weapon and were refused.
And once you are on the no-fly list you are basically there for good, EVEN IF the government admits they screwed up.
In 2005, Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architecture professor and doctoral candidate at Stanford University, went to San Francisco International Airport where she was told that she couldn’t board an airplane.
Her name was on a government no-fly list of suspected terrorists.
Eight years of court battles later, a federal judge agreed that Ibrahim didn’t belong on the list.
The FBI ultimately acknowledged that she ended up on there because an agent investigating her had checked the wrong box on a form, said her attorney, Elizabeth Pipkin.
Chillingly, the U.S. Justice Department never disclosed why Ibrahim was being investigated in the first place.
Note that even after the FBI admitted its error they still would not remove this woman from the no-fly list. It took a federal court order to make it happen. And she still doesn’t know what she was suspected of doing that triggered her being placed on the list.
Not everyone feels being deprived of a Constitutional right without any meaningful right of appeal by an unknown bureaucrat using a secret process is a bad idea. For instance, a self-proclaimed “hard hitting” television journalist named Ana Garcia. She has an op-ed in the Washington Post titled I’m on a watch list. I’m innocent. Here’s what I think about my gun rights.
First off, Garcia is framing the argument as though “gun rights” was some small and disposable portion of the set of “rights.” That isn’t how “right” work. “Rights” are, well, “rights.”
I am on a watch list.
And I don’t like it.
It’s not fair. I haven’t done anything, but my name is apparently the same as that of a wanted terrorist.
The authorities won’t tell me what “bad Ana Garcia” has done, but based on the facial expressions of the numerous immigration and customs officers who have questioned me, she’s bad.
Technically, I am on a Transportation Security Administration selectee list. That’s one down from the no-fly list.
This, alone, should be enough to convince a person of at least average intelligence that something is wrong. Would you accept the same rules for being able to own or drive a car, something that is manifestly NOT a right? Of course not.
My watch list challenges have been documented through news stories. Privately, the Department of Homeland Security has cleared me, but it will not take me off the list. Instead, DHS issued me a redress number. It’s yet another government ID that proves I am not the person the authorities are looking for.
Again, if you can’t see the underlying problem in the proposal by now you simply are not trying. Like the case I mentioned above, she is on the list wrongly. The government knows this. Yet the government refuses to take her off the list because it is easier to keep her on it.
It just makes sense that if you are a terrorist on a watch list, you should be banned from buying weapons. And if you are innocent like me, I am sure the government can come up with a redress number specifically to protect your Second Amendment right.
This doesn’t feel all that good to me. As a pro-life Catholic, I feel that we are already entering this stage with the First Amendment. As a pro-family Catholic I can already be fired or disciplined for not going along with the whole homosexual marriage nonsense. How would Garcia feel about the government pulling freedom of the press for some arbitrary reason. How about search and seizure? How about jury trial?
More to the point, this useless infringement upon a free people’s ability to live free of government meddling would have done nothing in San Bernardino nor Orlando. This is feel good policy making of the worst nanny-state sort.
This is how totalitarianism arrives. It takes one small and seemingly reasonable bite from our freedoms until there is nothing left.
These various lists are an abomination in a free society. If there is enough evidence to keep a person from buying a firearm there should be enough evidence to arrest and convict them. If there isn’t, the government has no right to infringe upon your Constitutional rights.