Should those on Terrorist Watchlist be Denied Gun Rights?

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Question for ya: Should those on the government’s terrorist watchlist be denied their Second Amendment rights?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) believe the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes.” Both reintroduced a bill last week that would allow the justice department to prevent any suspect on the FBI’s watchlist from purchasing firearms and explosives.

Background checks

Background checks for those on the terrorist watchlist. (Photo: ABC News)

“If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun,” said Feinstein, at a press conference.

“From 2004 to 2014, over a 10 year period, the GAO … took a look at this. And they report, that of the 2,233 people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist who went through a background check to buy a weapon, of those 2,043 passed that background check and likely purchased a firearm or explosives,” said the California Democrat.

“Now, that means that 91 percent of the people on the FBI’s watchlist who tried to buy weapons in the country, are in fact able to do so,” Feinstein continued. “To me, this is just a shocking statistic and one which might be addressed.”

Well, there’s just one little problem with this bill. It’s called the Constitution. As you probably know, the Fifth Amendment reads, in part, “No person shall be nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

The government cannot simply revoke one’s right to keep and bear arms without due process, without the proper legal proceedings. Moreover, the FBI’s Watchlist, known as the Terrorist Screening Database, is not the same as a criminal conviction. It means one is, well, being watched or monitored by the government.  It does not mean one is a convicted terrorist or, as it relates to the ability to purchase a firearm, a “prohibited person.”

It’s no wonder then why the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the FBI’s Watchlist.

(Photo: Intercept)

A breakdown of who is on the watchlist. (Photo: Intercept)

“The federal government’s Watchlist system lacks the kind of narrow, specific criteria and rigorous safeguards that would help protect innocent people from the negative consequences of blacklisting,” Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, told ABC News.

“Instead, the criteria are overbroad, ensnaring innocents, and the system as a whole is unfair and bloated with no meaningful way to clear one’s name and get off the lists,” Handeyside.

An eye-opening investigation by The Intercept revealed that the Terrorist Screening Database is flawed.  Classified documents obtained by the publication showed that nearly half of the more than 680,000 people on the list had no known connections to terrorist organizations.

“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent, told The Intercept. Gomez added that the watchlist system is “revving out of control.”

The FBI does not offer specifics of who is on the list nor does it publicize the process for how one ends up on the list because it believes it will jeopardize the system.  Yet what is clear is that the Watchlist isn’t going away anytime soon.

“You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works,” said former FBI agent Michael German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“These agencies see terrorism as a winning card for them,” he continued.  “They get more resources. They know that they can wave that card around and the American public will be very afraid and Congress and the courts will allow them to get away with whatever they’re doing under the national security umbrella.”

With all that said, where do you come out on this topic?  Should those on the watchlist be denied the right to keep and bear arms?

UPDATE: The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, sent me these Terrorist List Fast Facts on the FBI’s database:

  • It is unacceptable to deny Americans their Second Amendment rights without due process because they were placed on a government list or their name is similar to a name on the terrorist watch list.
  • There are major problems with how names are added to the list and errors are rampant. If placed onto the secretive list erroneously, it is difficult to be removed.
  • It is easier to be placed on the Terrorist Watchlist than the No-Fly list, although there is no Constitutional right to fly.
  • If such a law were enacted, the list would serve as a Terrorist Notification system, as terrorists could find out whether they are on the list simply by attempting to purchase a firearm. The current system more appropriately allows law enforcement the chance to scrutinize suspected individuals.
  • We all support the goal of preventing domestic terrorism. Dangerous terrorists and criminals should be included on law enforcement wanted lists or should be charged with a crime. Either action would prohibit these individuals from purchasing firearms.
{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Frank Morehouse June 17, 2016, 11:32 am

    Any one can put anybody on al list and all say they are a terrorist. I do not see how an American losses their constitutional rights because there name is on a list. That is not what the constitution or the bill of rights says.

  • Wolfgang Schramke November 30, 2015, 6:29 pm

    Of course it should be forbidden to sell on people like that, period!!!

  • Chris Baker November 27, 2015, 4:41 pm

    My first question is have the people on the watch list actually been convicted of a crime??? As far as I’m concerned the wording of the second amendment does not even allow for a convicted felon who has served his sentence from legally owning arms. The second amendment doesn’t say “…shall not be infringed except for…” and then any number of things they do now that are patently unconstitutional.

  • Victory1 November 27, 2015, 12:23 pm

    Where the hell is my comments?? If I’m on YOUR watchlist, I want no part of your rag!!

  • Abner T November 27, 2015, 10:26 am

    I suspect that this monitoring system (the watch list) exhibits the same degree of competence and accuracy as the TSA system for monitoring air travel?

    Your tax dollars at work…

    • Joseph Jacobs November 28, 2015, 11:53 am

      I think we need law makers outside the box and not jump to laws that interfere with the 2nd amendment. The problem is the United States gives the same rights to illegals as natural born citizens. If a person is in the country and isn’t a US citizen and makes the no fly list. That person should be deported and sent back to their Country no questions ask. It’s the only thing we can do without violating the bill of right. I work in law enforcement and realize that criminals don’t care about laws. The government doesn’t enforce the laws on the books and no law can stop a person or group from obtaining fire arms. Paris is a good example the French have very strict gun laws. It didn’t stop the terrorist. The only thing that works is not being a soft target. You can’t rely on the Goverment ,police for always being there when you need them. We need more sheep dogs than sheep to protect our way of life. I’m not talking about going around playing cop. I’m talking about more people keeping a lookout for the wolfs. The three Americans and others on the French train is a great example of what Im talking about. Also having the ability to stop the wolfs when attacked. Guns our part of America we need to embrace it, yes it’s the preferred weapon of choice by criminals but you can’t blam the instrument. No knee jerk law can stop criminals and terrorists, it just makes it a little more inconvenient to get the instrument . Laws only work with law abiding citizens not criminals or terrorist. Our law makers need to strengthen intelligence which has stopped many attacks. Deport non US citizens who break our laws or suspected to be part of a terrorist group. The constitution is for US Citizens not foreigners. Strengthening our immigration laws or enforcing the laws on the book along with good intelligence is the answer to keeping a society safe. When that is not enough a law abiding citizen with a gun can stop the threat to all the recent attacks. Always remember politicians are into smoking mirrors and bullshit, to fool you into believing they our doing something to counter the problem. Our founding fathers had it figured out too bad there is always some idiot who wants to change things and reinventing the wheel.

  • Roy November 27, 2015, 10:10 am

    The Supreme Court often cites the term “slippery slope” when discussing a law that erodes at a constitutional right. I am confident most everyone in this forum is against the proposed rule, and I did not take the time to read all the comments yet, this is obviously an attempt by the left leaning Dems to deny everyone gun rights. The Terrorism Watch list is nothing more than a computer list, how difficult is it to put anyone and everyone on it. The anti-gun types could just add a few key strokes and suddenly every background check in the US is denied. Then they call it a “computer glitch” or say “we’ve been hacked by a terrorist group” and suddenly without any warning whatsoever, your favorite gun store is forced out of business. We all shop for good deals, few of us are willing to pay the coinage required for our favorite arms purveyor to survive a 60-90 day shutdown. Perhaps my concern is a little Orwellian but I am not willing to risk it. Then, let’s go back to that slippery slope the Justice’s discuss from time to time. The Judicial Branch has long recognized that if left unchecked, one or both of the other branches would take and take power and control (I would quickly point out this applies to all three branches). Laws and governing are akin to pushing a heavy object some distance, but if you get that object sliding or rolling downhill it picks up momentum and takes out everything in its path. This proposed rule is a case of Ms. Feinstein buying a snow machine and looking for an inclined plane to plant her ideology upon.

  • elbow room` November 27, 2015, 9:52 am

    if they are on a watch list why are they allowed to stay in America? problem solved

    • Wolfgang November 30, 2015, 6:31 pm

      I like your response!

      • Paul June 17, 2016, 5:35 am

        No way. If your on the list and you don’t know it and you go to purchase a firearm they put you in jail without due process.
        So anybody who purchases a firearm can be arrested. The government really don’t need a list just wait for a person to purchase a firearm and when the background check paper work comes to the attention of N.I.C.S. they just go to that persons house and arrest him/her for the mere fact of exercising his/her constitutional rights. NO LIST PEOPLE.

  • rev_dave November 27, 2015, 8:49 am

    The fedgov has been publishing lists of ‘suspicious activities’ that indicate a person may be a potential terrorist for some dozen or more years. You can find them all over the internet, and they are verified. But the fact is, almost anything you do can put you on that list, so NO, I don’t think being on the terrorist watch list should be denied gun rights.

    Go to church ‘religiously? Bam! You’re a suspect. Pay cash for a box of ammo? You’re a suspect. Middle East veteran? You on the list. Old veteran who is politically active? On the list! Read the wrong book – On the list. Own a gun of some specific kind – YOU are on the list. Did you buy propane for cooking and a few road flares for you car at the same time? Hell, you could be killed over that.

    Basically, when you read the compiled suspicious activities on these lists, if you breath and think with more that 3 brain cells, you’re a “terror suspect”. Now, in practice, these things don’t guarantee you GET ON the list -but the point is that they are small reasons to put an honest citizen on a terror watch list, and you won’t be asked about what you did first, you won’t be told you’re on the list, and you can’t get off the list. And Feinstein (in her best bourbon soaked tradition of Joe McCarthy) would have you denied your right to self defense, just because you are a veteran, or bought a box of shotshells for cash, or wrote something unkind about Obama.

  • Madelyn Koening November 27, 2015, 8:32 am

    Absolutely. People on terrorist watch lists are there for a reason and have no reason to own guns. They’re not there willy-nilly. Over 80 percent of gun owners and NRA members support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns, while 69 percent said they favor requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns.

    It seems to me that NRA members are a lot more reasonable and patriotic than the organization’s leaders and supporters in Congress. At least they understanding it’s important keeping guns out of the wrong hands of terrorists. And don’t say all the Syrian refugees are terrorists, neither. They’re not.

    • Joe McHugh November 27, 2015, 2:29 pm

      Madelyn Koening, I don’t agree. In fact I am so upset about your views about the constitutional rights of the people who end up on the Terrorist Watch List, that I’m going to call the F.B.I. and have your name added to that list. The great part about naming you as a suspected terrorist is that I don’t need to prove it. Heck, I don’t even need to identify myself so that you can confront me!

      So you can kiss getting an airline ticket good by and if you ever wanted to purchase a firearm for self defense, forget it. And just to rub salt into the wound, I’m going to find out who your friends and relatives are and report them too. After all they must be just as devious and dangerous as you are.

      Not happy with my plans? Hey, I’m not the one who wrote that people are not placed on the terrorist list willy-nilly. According to you, people on that watch list did something so bad that they should be on the list. Well, the reason that you will be on the watch list is because you managed to upset me. Pretty bad right?

  • charlene November 27, 2015, 8:07 am

    Does a bear shit in the woods? Is the Pope Catholic? Is Obama a complete PUTZ?

    Of Course!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • David November 27, 2015, 6:08 am

    Although this seems like it would be a cut and dry “Yes” using just straight forward common sense, the problem with it would be that our federal government has shown that it is more than willing to label any of us not aligned with the liberals as someone who should be denied rights. Whether it be the taking of veterans seeking therapy or tax-paying citizens supporting a candidate, the Feds are more than willing to throw a label on us and classify us as “Enemies of the State”. If a person is a foreign national who is seeking refuge in our country they should need to wait until they are granted citizenship before they are able to legally purchase a firearm, Though we no that even such laws as this still would not deter a person determined to obtain the firearm, it does seem to me to be a reasonable safeguard. But only for non-US citizens.

  • JGinNJ November 27, 2015, 5:22 am

    “To me, this is just a shocking statistic…” What is? The fact that so many on a watch list were able to buy weapons legally? Or the fact that as far as we know none of those on the watch list who bought a weapon did anything illegal with it afterwards.

  • REV. Ken November 27, 2015, 5:19 am

    Stop letting these illegals in the USA and that fixes half the problem

  • Mark N. November 26, 2015, 2:45 am

    The proposed law is blatantly unconstitutional, both under the Second Amendment and the Fifth Amendment. The only way that this law can be “justified” is by construing the Second Amendment as a privilege and not a right, or going back to the old theory that the Second protects only a collective right, not an individual right, to be able to form militias, and since militias are obsolete, only the police have the “right” to bear arms. Not buying it. Nor am I buying the claim of the NY Post that the NRA is a terrorist organization for seeking to uphold freedom over a group thing “feeling” of security.

  • Mark N. November 26, 2015, 2:42 am

    The proposed law is blatantly unconstitutional, both under the Second Amendment and the Fifth Amendment. The only way that this law can be “justified” is by construing the Second Amendment as a privilege and not a right, or going back to the old theory that the Second protects only a collective right, not an individual right, to be able to form militias, and since militias are obsolete, only the police have the “right” to bear arms. Not buying it. Nor am I buying the claim of the NY Post that the NRA is a terrorist organization for seeking to uphold freedom over a group thing “feeling” of security.

  • Aaron November 25, 2015, 1:53 pm

    I asked liberals who are for gun control a question about this topic. They want to keep ‘terrorists’from getting guns legally.

    So I asked them why they don’t support doing something about the 680,000 terrorists.

    They’re fine with them being here. They just don’t want them to buy guns legally?

    They then recognised the list has serious implications due to its size. It isn’t just due process. Even if the half of names that are readily understood to be incorrectly on the list are incorrect, that leaves 300,000 terrorists.

    They see there is a threat.

    As if it’ll matter. We’re all terrorists for supporting the constitution.

  • Will Drider November 25, 2015, 12:11 am

    No!!! Being on the TWL means someone, somewhere for any reason “thinks” you should be monitored and your public transportation options limited. If there was anything tangable people on the TWL would have been arrested. People on the TWL that have been denied approval on firearms or explosives have other disqualifers so there is no true reation to them being on the TWL.
    We need to fully digest what they mean by to deny purchase. There is no Law in the U.S. that restricts you from firearm purchase and allows you to keep what firearms you currently own. So this proposed law would in fact criminalize current firearm possession/ownership by all people on the TWL. That also means confiscation and not just firearms owned by the TWLer but all firearms co-located at shared properties (even if locked in a Safe). And the kicker is you may not even know your on the TWL. As most know, the IRS targeted political groups that were in opposition to Obama’s agenda. We also know the Gov has listed the many right wing groups, militias and individuals as “threats”. A couple strokes on a keyboard and the Gov could “legally” disarm them and lock them up withe the standard BATFE 10 Years and $250K fine. Make no mistake, this is just another gun grab dressed in the safety and Patriotic disguise of the day. Innocent until PROVEN guilty not crimilazation because they can.
    READY FOR THE SHOCKER? There are over eighy million U.S. Citizens who are considered “Threats” by our Government! You probabaly have no idea how easy it is for them to put YOU on the list. Extensive info and copy of the Government’s guidelines at the link. I recommend GA contact source and republish here. It truely needs wide decimination.
    https://theintercept.com/2014/07/23/blacklisted/

  • Will Drider November 24, 2015, 11:13 pm

    No!!! Being on the TWL means someone, somewhere for any reason “thinks” you should be monitored and your public transportation options limited. If there was anything tangable people on the TWL would have been arrested. People on the TWL that have been denied approval on firearms or explosives have other disqualifers so there is no true reation to them being on the TWL.
    We need to fully digest what they mean by to deny purchase. There is no Law in the U.S. that restricts you from firearm purchase and allows you to keep what firearms you currently own. So this proposed law would in fact criminalize current firearm possession/ownership by all people on the TWL. That also means confiscation and not just firearms owned by the TWLer but all firearms co-located at shared properties (even if locked in a Safe). And the kicker is you may not even know your on the TWL. As most know, the IRS targeted political groups that were in opposition to Obama’s agenda. We also know the Gov has listed the many right wing groups, militias and individuals as “threats”. A couple strokes on a keyboard and the Gov could “legally” disarm them and lock them up withe the standard BATFE 10 Years and $250K fine. Make no mistake, this is just another gun grab dressed in the safety and Patriotic disguise of the day. Innocent until PROVEN guilty not crimilazation because they can.

  • Miles November 24, 2015, 10:34 pm

    Wow taking right without any due process were on our way to nazi germany really fast id say. Also is there any info on any of these people commiting a crime after purchase dout it. Now they take the right of those that they dont like or deam to ____________.

    • shrugger November 27, 2015, 9:57 am

      There are currently 400,000 Americans on the No Fly list. Do you think we really have that many Terrorists? There’s no one that can tell them how they got on it. And no route to take to get taken off. If they’re allowed to continue with this, the next step will be to place EVERYONE on the list, and it’ll be all over with.

      • jer miller November 27, 2015, 11:24 am

        what a dumb fucking question. if u are on the no fly list, u don’t have to be a terrorist – just a psyco moron and should not be allowed near a gun. that’s mostly who is killing people!

        • Victory1 November 27, 2015, 12:08 pm

          Big difference between enemy of the state and enemy of the country’s!

        • Retrocon November 28, 2015, 10:23 am

          Normally I don’t respond to trolls, but if you believe this, you are not the sharpest tool in the shed. Any “list” onto which a person can be added, without due process of law, and which can be used to restrict basic rights, is a political tool for tyranny. If you favor this when implemented for a “cause” you support, just remember that eventually, this list will also be used to oppress abortionists, gays, enviro-wackos, etc.

          There is no court between you and the list, so the list is at the whim of the current political party.

          So, just to be clear, you are OK with it, as long as your side is doing the oppressing?

        • Bob November 28, 2015, 8:19 pm

          I was a Customs Officer for thirty years. What do you think of a an 18 month old baby on a “no-fly” list taken off the plane with his parents? Anyone stupid enough to trust Frau Feinstein and RINO Peter King with our civil rights should have their head examined. The place to vet immigrants and screen out crazy people is the U.S. Embassy in whatever country they originate: If they don’t pass muster, have a criminal history, ties to terrorism, you don’t give them a visa to board an aircraft, a train, a bus or a ship to come here – plain and simple! That’s the solution. The list is overbroad, unreliable and violates your due process. That’s what’s wrong with it.

          • Andrew Ling June 17, 2016, 6:45 am

            We are talking specifically about people on the NOFLY list.

            Our NOFLY list is flawed and laws must be tweaked to accommodate those wrongfully stuck in the list.
            There must be an easier way to identify and correct the wrongly accused individual. We all know that our Homeland Security Agency is not perfect. I have seen the caliber of people employed by the agency and I really wonder how they were vetted for employment. There ought to a stricter parameters than what I see today.,
            My take is that a separate bill should be added for prohibition against all known or confirmed mentally unstable people, non US Citizens, illegals and people convicted or have history of domestic violence. Sure this is a long list. But this is better than trying to prohibit all of us 100+ million gun owners.

        • atsjr November 29, 2015, 11:04 am

          You can be placed on the no fly list just for talking back to a flight attendant, so you do not have to be a crazed moron.

    • Victory1 November 27, 2015, 12:02 pm

      If the terrorist list is meant to protect our country rather then protecting our Government I would say YES! The truth is, our Government is diciding that a lot of average citizens are on the list and there is no easy way to get off of it. I think that ALL legal people in this country should be allowed to carry under the rights of the 2nd Amendment. I think NO NONAMERICAN should be allowed to #1 posses a firearm #2 should be allowed in this country!

      BTW—Trump carries and thinks the same thing.

    • Don November 28, 2015, 10:21 am

      Why don’t we thoroughly vet these people that are on these watch lists and lock them up, or remove them from the lists altogether, or deport them? If they pass this law then they will most certainly abuse the denial of the exercise of 2A without due process. How about we work on some real issues like ISIS 10 miles from El Paso, and Terrorist training camps within our boarders? Getting our youth to behave like human beings that want to be productive citizens. Or some other really important issues for a healthy nation to prosper and have a measurable quality of life.

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