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2nd Amendment and the Terrorist Watch List

5/6/10
A friend of mine posted this column from the Washington Post on Facebook today, and I think it deserves a blog.  The title of that column is "Terrorists who want to buy guns have friends on Capitol Hill."  It talks of an initiative to ban the sale of firearms to anyone who is on the terrorist watch list.  This move is opposed by the NRA (surprised?) and others on the Hill.  This columnist wants to paint everyone who opposes this bill as some sort of terror-lover, and the NRA as a terrorist organization.

"Is the NRA a terrorist organization?"
 This is like one of those lines a lawyer would say in some courtroom drama.  Of course the opposing council yells "Objection!" and the judge says "Sustained!" but the words are out there and in the juror's minds now.  You can't unsay things, after all.  I'm no lawyer, but it might even count as libel. Sure, it's phrased as a question, but we know what you meant, Dana.

One-sided rhetoric like this really pisses me off.  I realize that this Dana Milbank guy is a columnist, and not a real "news guy," but if you're going to publish something that people will read in a (reputable?) news paper then you have a responsibility not to write tripe like this.  The NRA is protecting the 2nd Amendment.  Clearly that's a terrorist act.

The NRA isn't off the hook here either.

"The NRA, restating its opposition to the bill a few months ago, said it is all part of a conspiracy by "politicians who hate the Second Amendment" and who "think that more gun owners can be placed on the list over time."
NRA, stop using one-sided rhetoric against people who use one-sided rhetoric!  It's not helpful, and it makes you look just as stupid.  The best cure for stupid is to drag it out into the light and expose it for the stupid that it is.  Piling more stupid on top of it doesn't help.

I seriously doubt that the govt is planning to use the terrorist watch list to just take guns from people who own guns.  This isn't the sort of conspiracy theory that I can get behind.  I'd like to think that our government isn't so far gone that this is a real concern.  These politicians are just worried about terrorists and they have the misguided idea that making laws against guns will keep criminals from getting guns.  That's a claim that is ridiculous on its face.

Let's look at this bit-of-dumb next:
"...change the absurdity in the law that keeps those with alleged terrorist ties off airplanes but enables them to legally buy guns and explosives."
 Actually, this might be a pile of dumb.


There are so many problems here that I'll use a numbered list.

  1. The "terrorist watch list" is a huge problem.  It's chock full of innocent people that the FBI hasn't vetted yet.  They're people who may never have committed a crime in their life. According to the ACLU it's got over a million people on it.  Probably way more than a million.  In April 2007 it had 700,000 people on it.  20,000 people were being added to that list per month.  If that trend has continued we now have 1,440,000 people on that list.  Those people might not even know that they're on a watch list.  They can't get off of that watch list.  I bet it's even likely that lots of them did nothing at all to get on that list in the first place.
  2. What is absurd is revoking the rights of ~1.5 million people based on their alleged terrorist ties.  I'm not sure how anyone can, with a straight face, say that it's a good idea to strip people of rights based on their inclusion on a massive, secret government list that it's nearly impossible to get off of.  That's an F'ing crazy thing to say.
  3. I'd say it's absurd to even keep these people off of airplanes.  Sure, maybe you scan/search them more carefully, but don't keep them from moving freely about the country on this nebulous suspicion.  It sounds very official to say "But they're on the terrorist watch list!"  If that turns out to just mean that they're on a massive, secret government list for obscure reasons then it's just an empty statement that can only be meant to instill fear and silence dissent.
  4. Even if we should keep them off of planes, this doesn't mean that we should make it illegal for them to buy firearms (aka strip them of a Right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights).  This sort of arbitrary removal of rights is exactly what the Constitution and Bill of Rights protect the citizens from.  Rights should only be removed if there's a legitimate reason to do so (being a felon or having some history of mental illness, for example) and not simply because a government entity has put you on a list. 
 Seriously, people. 

The world is not made better by removing more liberties from more people without any real reason.
Post Comment
Kevin said...

Random thoughts: Crazy people seem to become more and more involved with speaking for otherwise ok organizations. When I moved to NY and then CA I realized just how out of touch costal inhabitants are with the pro-gun culture. If you own a gun you must be a serial killer, terrorist, or just waiting to go postal. Freedom from religion is an absolute, but it’s best to turn in your guns to Uncle Sam for safe keeping. The terrorist watch list, and probably most of “homeland security” is kind of a joke.

It is tough in a liberal democracy, or constitutional republic, to balance the needs of liberty and security, but we have been doing a terrible job of it since 9/11.