NY Times: A Gun “No Buy” List Is A Bad Idea, And Would Also Have Little Effect

Jeffrey Kahn, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, a guy who knows a bit about the government’s secret lists, having written a book titled “Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists”, writes in the NY Times about Democrats wanting to use secret lists, and finds them to be a big problem with civil liberties which wouldn’t actually do anything

A ‘No Buy’ List for Guns Is a Bad Idea

Very few people on the terrorist watch list, which is estimated to include at least 800,000 identities, are buying guns. According to a report in March from the Government Accountability Office, out of the 23.1 million background checks conducted last year in accordance with federal gun laws, only 244 involved people on the watch list. That’s 0.001 percent of checked sales.

As for the no-fly list: According to an estimate provided by the director of the Terrorist Screening Center in 2014, about 9 out of 10 identities on that list are neither United States citizens nor lawful residents. Thus, they are already largely unable, or not permitted, to buy guns here.

Since the no-fly list is created from the larger watch list, presumably an even lower percentage of people on it are seeking guns. (The Collins bill would also cover people on the so-called selectee list, who are subject to additional airport screening, but the effect on gun sales would seem to be similarly small.)

What Mr. Kahn is missing is the possibility that American citizens will be thrown onto one of the lists, people who are not terrorists, but might have Wrongthink. How do some folks end up on a list? How did Senator Ted Kennedy get on it, as cited so often? Actually, he wasn’t. It was someone named T. Kennedy on the “Selectee” list, so, Ted continued to be stopped. See how easy it is to cause problems for an American citizen? Think how easy it would be for some bureacrat or political appointee to put someone on a list, even in a subtle manner, and cause you problems. Perhaps you aren’t interested in buying a gun. What if you want to fly? You can join the ranks of children, toddlers, nuns, and Ted Kennedy in having problems.

Of course, you might think that eliminating even just one gun sale to a suspected terrorist is worth the effort. But that assumes these lists should be trusted in the first place. And they shouldn’t be.

The threats that the terrorist watch list and no-fly list pose to civil liberties — indeed, to the very idea of citizenship — are enormous. Watch lists are designed to circumvent the protections of due process and the separation of powers. They subvert a principle of our free society: Our rights aren’t held on loan until a government official labels us suspect, at which point they are easily stripped away; our rights are ours unless and until a court concludes that we have violated the law.

These lists provide little to no due process. They require barely any proof. For liberals who are A-OK with them, remember how you caterwauled about Los Federales listening to international calls without a specific warrant. These calls were mostly between non-US citizens, and had a blanket warrant. You were appalled. Appalled! Yet, you’re fine with using these lists with little to no civil liberties protections to deny people their Constitutional rights? Even the ACLU has a problem with these lists.

Don’t expect a no-gun list to be the stopping point. We already have a no-fly list, and there is also a no-maritime list (because the destruction of a cruise liner at sea is no less terrifying than terrorism in the skies). A suicide bomber in a sports stadium could spawn a “no Super Bowl” list. A “no X” list will always tempt lawmakers. But rights lose their value when they can be emptied of meaning by an easily affixed terrorist label.

Think lawmakers wouldn’t create new lists? Think they wouldn’t use them for political gain or revenge? Or just because they can? Then you aren’t paying attention to politics. Mr. Kahn ends with this quote

“Experience should teach us,” Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in 1928, “to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent.”

Here’s another one from the ever wise (and made up) character of Jean Luc Picard: “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.”

Or, how about the one at the top of this blog, from uber-Leftist Noam Chomsky: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” It’s not just about expression: it’s about civil rights overall. If you’re cool with denying Constitutional Rights to That Guy, to Someone Else, well, don’t be shocked or upset when all of a sudden you are caught in that same net.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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