Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown joins Democrats seeking to suspend constitutional right on the basis of suspicion alone
Editor's Note: U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, pictured above with President Obama and Senate candidate Ted Strickland, recently made news for backing legislation that would mandate that a person's placement on the federal government’s no-fly list would not be legally allowed to purchase guns. Brown has failed to respond to a Twitter challenge by @BuckeyeFirearms to name other constitutional rights he wants to take away from people without due process.
Are you a terrorist? A potential terrorist? A suspected terrorist? A suspected potential terrorist? Or potentially a suspected terrorist?
As Jeff Foxworthy might say: If you believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the rule of law … you might be a terrorist.
Prohibiting people listed on the government’s secret terrorist watchlist and its secret subsidiary, the federal no-fly list, from buying guns is again on the table. President Obama expressed the argument simply the other night when he said, “If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun.” That seems reasonable, but of course, like most government programs, seeming reasonable and being reasonable are two vastly different things.
More importantly, that is not what the legislation now pending in Congress does.
Politicians, the media and anti-rights organizations are fond of terms like “terror gap” and “terrorist loophole.” Then they float between talking about the “no-fly list” and the “terrorist watchlist.” In fact, their legislation does not use either of those lists, but instead gives the attorney general (or her designate) the authority to create yet another list, based on the same vague criteria of the terrorist watchlist, but with her discretion as to whom to include and whom to leave off.
The terrorist watchlist is estimated to have over a million names on it, but no one really knows, because it’s a secret and the number is said to fluctuate. People on the terrorist watchlist can fly, as long as they’re not on the no-fly list, but they face greater scrutiny at the airport. People on the no-fly list, which is reported to be between 50,000 and 100,000 names, are not supposed to be allowed to even fly over the United States, for instance from Canada to Mexico. It is unknown exactly how and why people’s names are added to these lists, because there is no formal adjudication process, and whatever process does exist is, well, a secret.
We do know that there have been numerous cases of “false positives,” people, including small children and babies, being delayed or denied flights based on erroneous identification as being on one of the lists, and numerous cases of people actually being added to the lists based on bad information or for invalid or even illegal reasons. In one case, over 50 peaceful anti-war and anti-death penalty activists in Maryland were added to the lists as suspected terrorists by the state police. On the other hand, a federal inspector general’s audit of the Transportation Security Administration turned up 73 people whose names were on the terrorist watchlist but who were allowed by TSA to work in airports around the country. We don’t know if those suspected terrorists are still employed in airports or how (or even whether) they were fired without revealing the secret that their names are on the watchlist. That information is apparently still a secret.
There is also the inconvenient fact that most, if not all, of the terrorists who have carried out attacks in the U.S. in recent years were not included on the terrorist watchlist.
Now the president, the Democratic presidential candidates and the majority of Democrats in the House and Senate want to use the vague and malleable language of the George W. Bush executive order that underlies the terrorist watchlist to give the attorney general authority to create a list of Americans she thinks are “too dangerous to buy a gun.”
But wait, there’s more. The Democrats’ legislation doesn’t just give the AG authority to block gun sales to anyone she suspects might be engaged in or supportive of terrorism. Under this legislation, she would be able to completely repeal those individuals’ Second Amendment rights – with no due process, no court, no judge, no jury and no mechanism for appeal. She would only be able to authorize confiscation of the person’s firearms, though, if she informed them that she was doing so because she thinks they are connected to terrorists or terrorism.
They want to suspend constitutional rights on the basis of suspicion alone.
Recall the controversy a few years ago when the Department of Homeland Security sent out alerts to local law enforcement agencies warning them that veterans, libertarians, anti-abortion activists, Ron Paul supporters, gun rights advocates, tea party people and basically anyone who didn’t drive a Prius with an Obama sticker on the back was a potential terrorist and worthy of enhanced caution and increased scrutiny. And we’re supposed to trust these people to decide who can and can’t buy or own a gun? These are the same people who used the IRS as a political weapon and who have suggested that all NRA members should be added to the terrorist watchlist. Why would anyone even consider giving them a blank check on our rights?
“No person shall [...] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The secret process of compiling the terrorist watchlist is not due process.
Liberty can only be taken away for just cause. That includes the right to purchase and possess firearms. The laws and the courts have laid out the acceptable causes and process for denying that right. Your name on a secret list that is compiled by government agents without any sort of due process or means of redress does not qualify as a due process for prohibiting a constitutionally guaranteed right.
Supporters of this outrage want to couch this debate in terms of “letting terrorists buy guns,” but the real issue is whether to allow bureaucrats to arbitrarily deny the constitutional rights of Americans without due process. Under our Constitution, the only possible answer is an emphatic NO!
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