Senate Democrats plan to thunder back to the upper chamber today to demand passage of a gun-control bill in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack. As was the case in 2015, the proposal contains provisions to deny firearms sales to anyone on a federal terror watch list or no-fly list. Guess who would have managed to slide by that ban? The Orlando terrorist himself, of course:
The man who police say killed 49 people in a brutal rampage in Orlando, Fla., early on Sunday morning was on a federal watch list for roughly 10 months in 2013 and 2014, while he was the subject of an FBI probe.
But then Omar Mateen was taken off the list soon after the investigation ended in March of 2014, FBI Director James Comey said on Monday
“He was watch-listed with the opening of the preliminary investigation and he was taken off the watch list when the investigation was closed,” Comey told reporters.
In other words, the Senate bill demanded by Democrats would have done absolutely nothing to keep the terrorist in Orlando from purchasing his weapons. That has been true of every event which has prompted this proposal. This came up most recently in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, when not only were neither of the attackers on any watch list, DHS had just let Tashfeen Malik into the US despite her publicly expressed radical-jihadist sympathies.
In fact, this does nothing except deprive Americans from the exercise of their civil rights without due process. That’s much more dangerous than the current status quo, as I write in my column for The Week today, because it fundamentally changes the relationship between citizens and government:
The American system of justice relies on core principles based on a fundamental understanding of natural law. First, the Constitution exists to restrain government from encroaching on the rights of its sovereign citizens. Second, each citizen retains those civil rights unless a jury of their peers convicts them of violating the law. Third, each citizen is entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence from the government until conviction. …
In this proposal, Clinton and her allies call for an end to due process before denying citizens their constitutional right to bear arms. This is a far more fundamental issue than debating over which firearms to bar from private ownership; it strikes at the fundamental relationship between citizens and the government that exists to serve their liberty interests. Once those principles have been discarded for political expediency on the mere basis of official suspicion, no rights — whether natural or declared — will ever be safe again.
I also note the irony of Hillary Clinton demanding the suspension of civil rights based on FBI “suspicions”:
“If you’re too dangerous to get on a plane,” Clinton insisted, “you’re too dangerous to buy a gun in America.” Later, she also argued that a pending FBI investigation should deprive Americans of a constitutional right. “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked,” Clinton stated — and felt strongly enough about that point for her team to immortalize it in a tweet.
It’s worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton herself is under investigation by the FBI. The federal law enforcement agency has been investigating her use of a secret and unauthorized email server and the transmission of highly classified information through it ever since last summer. If Clinton were held to the same public standard she demands, just a suspicion and an investigation would disqualify her from the office she now seeks.
All of this is a dodge by Democrats to deal with the real underlying issue of the massacres in Orlando, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and other attacks over the past few years. That argument forms the conclusion of my column, but Glenn Reynolds made the same argument this week for USA Today:
To prevent this sort of event in the future, we need to do several things.
First, interrupt the flow of radicalizing propaganda at the source: ISIL and various other jihadist outfits need to be neutralized or destroyed. These organizations pursue a deliberate strategy of radicalizing Muslims in Western countries to turn them into terrorists, and they operate networks of sympathizers throughout the USA. We used to cozy up to the Saudis, but thanks to hydraulic fracturing we don’t really need their oil anymore, so they need to be told to put a stop to this sort of support or else. We likely could have nipped ISIL in the bud a few years ago at minimal cost — or kept it from sprouting in the first place by maintaining a presence in Iraq — but it needs to be brought down now.
We also need to be clear about what it is we’re fighting. We’re not fighting Islam as such. Many good Muslims are horrified by this violence. But we are fighting the jihadist strain of Islam, and unfortunately quite a few Muslims view that strain as legitimate.
We can’t allow ourselves to be blinded to this reality, unless we want to see jihadist attacks like this — which have, sadly, become normal in the past few years — continue and increase.
The continuing existence of ISIS provides all the inspiration that lone-wolf (or really known wolf) attackers need for inspiration to commit atrocities. Discussing ludicrous, unconstitutional, and unworkable gun-control laws that would have been non-sequiturs in each event is simply a method of deflection from the failure of the US to prevent the rise of ISIS and to deal with it ruthlessly afterward.