On Monday, Congress shut down two “No-Fly, No-Buy” bills, which would essentially give the government the power to stop the sale of a firearm to a “suspected terrorist.” Did they do the right thing by killing those bills? Yes. Did the do it for the right reasons? No. It was opposition based on politics, not principle.
Update: Already, on Tuesday, a new bipartisan — what they’re calling a “compromised” — iteration of the bill is being put forth. See video above.
Yet, regardless of which version you read, all are flawed for pretty much the same reasons. Below, I’ve tried to articulate why one should staunchly oppose No-Fly, No-Buy legislation. Hopefully, this helps to set the record straight because believe you me this isn’t the last time No-Fly, No-Buy will come up for a vote.
1. Due Process
The most obvious objection to No-Fly, No-Buy legislation is that it violates one’s right to due process. To be overly simplistic, everyone is entitled to their day in court before Uncle Sugar yanks away your rights. With No-Fly, No-Buy the government is depriving you of your Second Amendment rights without (a) your knowledge and (b) without a streamlined system for you to get them back.
That’s correct. You won’t know you’re on the No-Fly, No-Buy list until you try to purchase a firearm or get on a plane. How wonderful is that? You show up at O’Hare, wearing your deck shoes and Hawaiian shirt, hoping to fly out to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway with the wife and then the TSA suddenly swarms down on you like ants on an ice cream cone. “No flight for you!”
Let’s be honest about what a pain in the butt this is. I mean, changing your cable subscription is an arduous and time-consuming process. I can’t tell you how many hours of my life I’ve wasted trying to get my Internet operational over the past few weeks. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to clear your name from the No-Fly, No-Buy list?
One bill tried to address this problem by limiting the amount of time the government could suspend your Second Amendment rights to three days. Then, after three days, prosecutors would have to present a case to make the ban permanent. But what about your right to a fair trial? Can you lawyer up adequately in three days to fight whatever wild accusations the government is purporting? Also, who the heck is going to foot the bill for your lawyer?
What seems like a reasonable idea isn’t all that reasonable when you actually start to think about the implications.
2. Suspected Terrorists?
Let me ask you a question, who is a “suspected terrorist”? What lands you on the No-Fly, No-Buy list? From what I’ve read, there are at least two lists. The Terrorist Screening Database with 800,000-plus hapless members and the No-Fly list with approximately 50,000 or so hapless members. To land on the No-Fly list, the parameters are a bit clearer in that the government believes you are involved in a terrorist plot, you have terrorist pals or you are providing material support to terrorist organizations. To wind up in the TSD, it’s not really clear whose toes you have to step on.
Let’s back up for a moment. As it relates specifically to the No-Fly list, if the government has credible evidence to support those suspicions (you’re plotting an attack, you’re paling around with evildoers or you’re helping out evildoers in a substantial way), why the hell doesn’t it just arrest you and charge you with the appropriate and relevant crimes? Why does it place you in a weird, extra-Constitutional purgatory?
In civics class, I was taught that you’re innocent until proven guilty. Now the presumption is your sorta guilty and the government is going to take away your rights without your knowledge until you suddenly find out and challenge them in court to have them restored. What the heck is going on here?
The way the justice system is supposed to work is you are either violating the law and your rights need to be revoked or you’re not violating the law and your rights need to remain intact. It’s pretty straightforward.
That’s really the underlying problem with this watchlist nonsense. It allows the government to circumvent the courts and adjudicate on its own who ought to lose fundamental rights. The process is not transparent (the lists are kept secret). There are no checks and balances (there have been several high-profile mistakes). And there is no stopping it from labeling you or me a “suspected terrorist.”
If this sounds bad, it is! We’ve allowed our government to create its own SS!
3. The Myth of Public Safety
One of the biggest problems we face as a society is that the government has convinced us that it is responsible for keeping us safe. As it relates to foreign enemies, sure, it is. That’s why we have a military. But at home, things are different. We have local law enforcement to enforce the laws and keep the peace. We also have a ballooning government security apparatus (DHS, NSA, FBI, etc.) whose job it is, well, isn’t always clear what the Feds actually do or why we need them but either way, the collective efforts of these two forces is to fight crime retroactively. The realistic goal for these agencies is to take bad people off the streets after they’ve been bad — not before.
While they’d love to stop crimes before they happen, it’s really, really hard to do. It does happen from time to time, but more often than not, bad people to bad things to good people before the authorities can intervene.
What we should learn from 9/11 is that regardless of how much we spend or how many more agencies we create, we’re never going to get all the bad actors off the streets. Never! This means, of course, that the government can’t keep you safe. It just can’t. The onus is really on you. In fact, it’s always been on you. You are responsible for your own safety (say that back to yourself if you need to). The more equipped you are to confront and stop evil, the safer you will be. As a society, the more equipped we are as individuals to confront and stop evil, the safer society will become.
Ultimately, that’s the solution to domestic terrorism: an armed, vigilant and engaged citizenry is how to maximize the safety of the public. After all, who knows our backyards, our neighborhoods, our cities better than we do?
Now, let me be clear, I’m not advocating for vigilantism or rogue civilian militias, I’m just simply saying that if we worked hand and hand with local law enforcement on a regular basis a lot of our domestic terrorism issues would go away. However, the problem is, the federal government keeps telling us — via its gun control agenda — that we’re not part of the solution. That it will handle it by themselves. All it needs is our guns and our Constitutional rights. Once they have all our guns and most of our freedoms, then we’ll be safe.
Yeah, crazy talk, right? But that’s where we are. Government bureaucrats want to disarm us, strip away our freedoms in exchange for something they know deep down they can’t deliver: public safety.
The most convincing reason to oppose No-Fly, No-Buy is that it would be laughably ineffective. Terrorists can source guns in any number of ways. They can steal them from law-abiding citizens, use straw purchasers who will pass background checks, buy them on the black market and have their well-heeled terrorist pals traffic them across the borders. What lawmakers don’t understand is that if the criminal demand for arms is there, the supply will follow. Remember, guns aren’t that hard to come by these days. Scarcity is not an issue (Note: I’m not advocating for fewer guns, I’m just pointing out the reality. There are a lot of guns in the world).
For the most part laws, sadly, do not stop evil men from carrying out evil deeds. The attacks in Paris underscore this argument. France is an anti-gunner’s dream. Effectively, civilian gun ownership in terms of carry rights is non-existent in Paris. Yet, despite the harsh gun laws, terrorists had no problem shooting up the city. They had no problem getting guns and using them to take the lives of innocent people. It doesn’t matter what we do legislatively, if the criminal demand for firearms exist, the supply will follow.
As it was mentioned previously, the best way to stop domestic terrorism is a vigilant, armed and engaged citizenry working hand in hand with local law enforcement. Laws are meaningless to the lawless.
5. Bad Precedent
It started with No-Fly. Now, they want No-Buy. What’s next, No-Drive? No-Lie?
Ponder the possibilities for a moment. The government believes you’re too dangerous to fly and to buy guns and to drive a car, because, you know, an automobile is really a two-ton weapon. Think I am crazy?
I don’t. Perhaps it’s not cars they go after because the automobile lobby is pretty good about keeping their death-traps-on-wheels on the road (I’m being sarcastic, but it’s funny to see how one could demonize cars much in the same manner anti-gunners demonize firearms, e.g. “assault weapons”). Instead, they go after free speech. What the government calls “lies,” hence the “No-Lie.” If you’re on the watchlist you lose your right to free speech because you’re fomenting terrorism. When you speak out against the state, when you criticize the government, when you agitate for social change the government believes you are an enemy and, therefore, your right to free speech ought to be suspended indefinitely.
I’m telling you this watchlist business is a slippery slope if there ever was one. No-Fly, No-Buy, No-Lie. Just you wait and see. It’s happened before. And it’ll happen again.
The plain fact is that most people don’t really give a shit about the Constitution, mass surveillance, privacy rights, the Second Amendment, the bedraggled and bedridden state of this country. They’d rather play Angry Birds on their smartphones in between the commercial breaks of “The Biggest Loser” or whatever crappy, life-sucking reality TV show they put on to keep themselves from thinking long and hard about their plight and station within the world — all of which is to say that due to the public’s political disengagement and pervasive apathy about the things that really matter, a No-Fly, No-Buy bill will eventually clear Congress and it won’t make one bit of difference on the terrorist-fighting front, yet it will march us just a little bit closer to the totalitarian state to which we are destined to fall.