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.
“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.
“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.