By TJ Martinell
Since the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida there has been a lot of discussion about prohibiting people on the federal government’s terrorist watch list or the so-called no-fly list from obtaining firearms.
For gun grabbers, it’s a clever way to get both sides of the aisle on the same page.
For one side, it provides an opportunity to finally get unpopular (and ineffective) gun control measures passed. For the other side, the ban makes them look “respectably” bipartisan and “tough on terrorism.”
I use the word “look” instead of “be” tough on terrorism because this idea is just more of the same rhetoric we’ve come to anticipate from the federal government and its apologists; proposals that infringe on the rights of innocent people while failing to solve a problem it created in the first place.
From a purely practical view, the concept relies on the feds actually knowing who the terrorists are and accurately identifying them. It seems their suspicions need fine-tuning.
According to The Intercept, almost half of the people on the feds’ database of terrorist suspects are not “connected to any known terrorist group.”
Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.
This kind of ban provides the convenient precedent for a future president to simply place anyone they don’t like on the watch-list or no-fly list in order to restrict their gun rights. If this were to occur, a person can have their right to keep and bear arms stripped from them without any kind of trial or means of recourse – based solely on the secret discretion of a few individuals.
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Just as the IRS is used as a weapon against political opponents, these lists could be used against anyone who poses a threat to a would-be tyrant.
If you’re a regular reader here at the TAC, that probably includes you. Even if you’re not, sooner or later someone who be in charge you oppose or who doesn’t like people such as yourself.
Needless to say, the federal government has no authority in any way whatsoever to restrict the right to keep and bear arms.
If a person is suspected of a crime, the matter should be investigated. If sufficient evidence is found indicating a crime has been committed, then the person should be arrested, charged with the crime, and tried. Only after they’ve been found guilty in a court of law do they forfeit any rights.
Our rights are not lost by mere suspicion. They are not contingent upon whether or not other people exercise those rights lawfully. We should not be silenced or censored because others libel or defame. Likewise, we do not lose our right to keep and bear arms because someone else used their guns to commit murder rather than self-defense.
The arguments we hear today about keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists is no different than the discussion about putting innocent Japanese Americans into internment camps after Pearl Harbor. No matter what the Supreme Court decided afterwards, the decision was not just unconstitutional. It was more than a waste of military resources when they were needed elsewhere.
It was an egregious violation of the rights of innocent people.
The Japanese internment set a terrible precedent that remains today, and might very well be used by a future president.
It’s at times of crisis that our liberties are endangered the most because it’s then that people are the most willing to give up those rights for the sake of “national security.” What they don’t realize is that we are most safe when we are free. Once our rights are surrendered for temporary security they are never returned, and the security promised by the agreed price fails to arrive.
Think carefully about what rights you consider worth surrendering for a false promise of national security.
TJ Martinell is a Seattle-based reporter and author of the Orwellian novel The Stringers. Visit his personal site at tjmartinell.com. He writes for The Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared.