Quotes of the day

Congressional Democrats are trying to build support for an effort to bar gun purchases by terror suspects, hoping to take advantage of the same public anxieties about security that gave Republicans a ringing House victory…

“By leaving this terrorist loophole open, Republicans are leaving every community in America vulnerable to attacks by terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosives purchased legally, in broad daylight,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday in a written statement.

The bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would have the attorney general compile names of known and suspected terrorists, likely drawing from huge lists the government already keeps. Federally licensed gun dealers would be barred from selling firearms to people on that list if government officials believed they planned to use the weapons for terrorism…

Between 2004 and 2014, people on one terror watch list underwent background checks to buy guns 2,233 times and were allowed to make the purchase 91 percent of the time, according to a March report by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative agency of Congress.



Feinstein and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill in February to give the Department of Justice authority “to prevent a known or suspected terrorist from buying firearms or explosives.”…

King also pointed out that the bill includes an appeal process for people who don’t believe they should be on the watchlist.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the watchlist program and calls the watchlisting process “unfair.”

“The federal government’s watchlist system lacks the kind of narrow, specific criteria and rigorous safeguards that would help protect innocent people from the negative consequences of blacklisting,” said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Instead, the criteria are overbroad, ensnaring innocents, and the system as a whole is unfair and bloated with no meaningful way to clear one’s name and get off the lists.”


“I think this is a no-brainer,” said Feinstein, a longtime gun control supporter. “If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun.”

The GOP-run House has not held any votes on major gun control measures since the killings of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., did not respond directly when asked Thursday if he favored barring people on the watch list from buying guns, saying, “We are just beginning this process of reassessing all of our security stances.”…

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker pointed to past instances where innocent people were added to the watch list either in error or as the result of tenuous ties to others involved in suspicious activities. She stressed that the NRA doesn’t oppose denying terrorists firearms, but said the group wants to ensure that Americans who are wrongly on the list are afforded their constitutional right to due process.


“The same nefarious individual we monitor and bar from our planes, we turn the other way when it comes to allowing them to get guns and explosives,” Schumer said.

“The NRA has fought tooth and nail to prevent these individuals from the terror watchlist from being added over the past several years.”

A legal loophole allows an ISIS sympathizer already on federal authorities’ radar to walk into a state with loose gun laws and buy a firearm with little difficulty, Schumer said…

“If Congress really wants to do something…help us out with that terrorist watchlist — those thousands of people that can purchase firearms,” [NYPD Commissioner William] Bratton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve also talked about you want to keep the terror watchlist but, under current law, individuals on the terror watchlist and the no-fly list have been allowed to buy guns and explosives.

Are you OK with that?

TRUMP: We have to have a watchlist, and if that watchlist has somebody that’s — you know, we have — you know, we have the laws right now. We have the laws already on the books as far as Second Amendment for guns, and as you know I’m a big, big, really big proponent of the Second Amendment.

If in — I’ll give you an example. If in Paris some of those people, those — and if you had some of those people had guns, you wouldn’t have had the horror show that you had…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Trump, yes or no, should someone on the terror watch list be allowed to buy a gun?

TRUMP: If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it’s an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.


The “Terrorist Watch List,” like the “No-Fly List” and other secret government black lists, includes the names of suspects, relatives of suspects, friends of suspects, former college roommates of suspects, and more. No doubt these inclusions are useful for FBI agents and other officials as they search for terrorists and their accomplices, but they are not vetted lists of bad guys.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has attempted to add these government black lists to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before. In the spring of 2010, for example, former Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama’s adviser Rahm Emanuel (now the mayor of Chicago) wanted NICS to reject people whose names appear on the secret FBI watch lists.

The problem with this unconstitutional idea is that you can find yourself on one of these lists by having the same name as a suspected criminal or terrorist or by simply traveling to Turkey, and if you are on a list, you may not be able to determine which one you are on, much less get yourself removed. Basically, such a power would give the federal government the ability to make secret lists that could be used to take away a constitutionally protected right from anyone it chose—even the late Senator Ted Kennedy once ended up on a “no-fly list” for reasons that were never made public.


Not only does the system rely upon names rather than identities — and thus yield ample opportunity for confusion — but, per the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, the meager due process protections that are provided are “arbitrary and capricious” and fly directly in the face of the Administrative Procedure Act.

As a result, the question here shouldn’t be “why does the NRA oppose using this list in a civil context?” but “why doesn’t everybody oppose using this list on a civil context?” Whether the New York Daily News likes it or not, the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution and cannot be restricted without serious cause. Of course Second Amendment advocates are opposed to the importation of this list into the firearms background check system. They understand well that it cannot be relied upon as a justification for denial. Whatever Everytown and their friends might imply, we are not talking here about selling guns to people who have been convicted in a court of law; that is already illegal. Rather, we are talking about selling guns to people who, as far as the state is concerned, have done nothing wrong and who must not therefore have their liberties abridged. It is an ugly testament to the illiberalism of many modern-day progressives that they are happily lining up on the authoritarian side against not just one, but two of America’s premier civil rights organizations.



STEPHANOPOULOS: So you want to enhance the intelligence.

How about this issue of the terror watch list? As I told Mr. Trump, under the current law, people on the terror watchlist are permitted to buy guns, have been permitted to buy guns and explosives. Would you continue that?

CARSON: Well, as you, I’m sure, know, there are a lot of people on that watchlist and they have no idea why they’re on that list and they’ve been trying to get their names off of it and no one will give them information. You know, I am a big supporter of the Second Amendment, and I don’t want to deprive people unnecessarily of that. There needs to be better due process.

And that’s one thing that I’m very interested in finding a way to make government more responsive to the people. It’s really unfair that people can’t get a real hearing. And they get put on a list and nobody can tell them why they’re there, and they go through for years and years and they have to be tormented. It just doesn’t make any sense.


Engaging in terrorism is a federal crime. Providing material support for terrorism is a federal crime. Preparing to engage in terrorism is a federal crime. If there is sufficient evidence to show that these individuals are engaged in terrorism, the best way to make America safer is to indict these terrorists and arrest them.

The attorney general absolutely has that power, which raises a very troubling question given the premise of the Democrats’ proposed legislation: why are hundreds of thousands of known, dangerous terrorists walking free in America right now? Why have they not been indicted for their crimes? Why is American law enforcement not working 24/7 to secure indictments for these terrorists, to arrest them, and to convict them for their crimes against America?

The simple answer is that there’s not sufficient evidence to indict, let alone convict, the hundreds of thousands of names included on the terrorist watch list. Once you realize that fact, you realize that the purpose of this bill isn’t to prevent “dangerous terrorists” from possessing guns–the attorney general can already accomplish that with a simple indictment–it’s to prevent evil Republicans from possessing political power. The proposed legislation from Democrats is nothing more than a clumsy attempt at wedge-issue politics: rather than dealing with an actual terror threat from ISIS, just pretend that Republicans and the monstrous National Rifle Association are hell-bent on protecting a “loophole” that allows dangerous terrorists to get guns…

The silly gun control proposal from Democrats attempts to turn the principle of due process on its head. Instead of requiring a jury of your peers to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed a crime, Democrats have decided that power should belong to a handful of Washington, D.C.-based bureaucrats. Instead of allowing you to review and challenge all evidence presented against you, Democrats have decided that evidence should be kept secret. Instead of requiring a legal standard that all reasonable doubt must be eliminated prior to the government-sanctioned revocation of your rights, Democrats have decided that a mere preponderance of evidence should be plenty.


This idea flies directly in the face of every cherished American conception of justice, and it should be rejected with extreme prejudice. You will note, I hope, that Reid, Schumer, Jentleson, and co. are not proposing to place restrictions on those who have been “accused,” “charged,” or “convicted,” but upon those who are “suspected.” They are not referring to those who are working their way through the judicial system, but to those who remain outside of it. They are not seeking to limit the rights of those who are out on bail or awaiting trial, but those who have not so much as been handcuffed. Loudly and proudly, they are arguing in favor of removing fundamental rights from anyone whose name has been written down on a list. Because they hope to confuse the public, their talk is peppered with references to “Paris-style” “assault” rifles and “automatic” weapons. But this is a red herring: Their proposal applies equally to guns of all types, not just those that give Shannon Watts and Diane Feinstein the willies…

However the press might cast it, there are not in fact “two sides” to this issue. It is not a “tricky question.” It is not a “thorny one” or a “gray area” or a “difficult choice.” It is tyranny. Somewhere, deep down, its advocates must know this. Presumably, Chuck Schumer would not submit that those on a terror watch list should be deprived of their right to speak? Presumably, Harry Reid would not contend that they must be kept away from their mosques? Presumably, Diane Feinstein would not argue that they should be subjected to warrantless searches and seizures? Such proposals would properly be considered disgraceful — perhaps, even, as an overture to American fascism. Alas, there is something about guns that causes otherwise reasonable people to lose their minds…

Should the Democrats’ bill pass into law, the opportunities for its abuse would be so extensive as to make one wonder if the whole thing had been a ruse from the outset. A few pixels back, I suggested that politicians who are willing to throw out the usual due-process protections should be tarred and feathered. Does that make me a potential terrorist? Linda Stasi, writing in the same New York Daily News that is at present cheering the proposal, believes that the NRA is itself a terrorist organization. Should its members be prevented from buying guns in consequence? Famously, Harry Reid call those who disagree with his legislative agenda “hostage takers.” Should Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert be added to the FBI’s rolls?

Traditionally, we have used an old-fashioned tool to sort out who deserves to be punished and who does not: It’s called “the justice system.” If, as the watch list’s proponents insist, there are people among us who are too dangerous to remain at liberty, then those people must be arrested, charged, and tried tout de suite. Until that happens, they must be left the hell alone, lest the pitchforks and smoothbores that subdued the last set of usurpers start to twitch and grow restless in their retirement.


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