This is a leftover from last night but it’s worth blogging now, and not just because House Democrats decided this afternoon to do a little “down with due process” performance art. Trump has been typically ambiguous about whether he thinks people on terror watch lists should have the right to buy guns or not. He sent a shock wave of anxiety through righties last week when he tweeted, without saying more, that he planned to meet with the NRA about blocking those purchases. He repeated it in a short interview this past weekend on ABC, triggering another shock wave, but if you watched the interview you saw him nod at the concerns of gun-rights supporters in noting that sometimes innocent people end up on watch lists. What he didn’t clearly say is whether he thought that concern was strong enough to warrant some sort of due process requirement for watch-listers in temporarily blocking their attempts to buy guns, which is the John Cornyn/GOP position, or if he’s all-in with Dianne Feinstein and Democrats in wanting to give the DOJ power to block them permanently on their own say-so.
Katrina Pierson’s pretty clear towards the end of the clip below that he’s with Cornyn and the GOP, which, realistically, is the only way this could have ended. The last thing Trump needs when conservative delegates are trying to build a “Dump Trump” push in Cleveland is to get crosswise with the base on a core cultural issue. Between his poll slide, his judge comments, and his embarrassing fundraising deficit, “take the guns without due process” might have been the last straw. It would have been really damaging today too given that the Democrats’ sit-in stunt is antagonizing righties. Instead of being pressed on whether he agrees with Cornyn or Feinstein, he would have been pressed on whether he supports anti-gun grandstanding by the left and its media enablers or not. One of the key ways in which Trump ingratiates himself to the right is through his media-bashing, even though he tends to bash them for being unfair to him rather than for being unfair to conservative’s pet issues. If he had inadvertently lined up with Feinstein and John Lewis before Democrats rolled out the new gun-grab gimmick, that would have been a headache for him. Pierson helped him out here by siding with the right team.
Speaking of siding with the right team, Susan Collins is offering a new compromise gun bill in the Senate. Which team is she on in all this? It’s a mixed bag. Her bill would shrink the universe of people subject to a ban by limiting it to those on the no-fly list and another smaller list related to air travel instead of including everyone on the enormous FBI terror watch list. That’s an improvement insofar as fewer innocents will be ensnared, but if the point of this politically is to throw up a roadblock to anyone who’s under even slight suspicion of terrorism, omitting the FBI watch list is probably a dealbreaker for Dems. The due process protections are flawed too:
Collins’ summary is silent on the crucial question of what standard would apply when a suspected terrorist argues that government’s suspicions are wrong.
Collins does say the attorney general “would have the burden of proof.” But burdens can be heavy or light, and it makes a big difference whether the standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, clear and convincing evidence, a preponderance of the evidence, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or something even weaker. An earlier version of Feinstein’s bill, for instance, required the government to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the attorney general’s suspicion was reasonable, which essentially means taking whatever probability qualifies as reasonable suspicion and cutting it in half.
There is also the issue of who has to bring the matter to court, because without a case the burden of proof is irrelevant. Unlike Cornyn’s bill, which would have allowed a gun sale to go through after a three-day delay unless the government met its burden of proof, Collins’ bill makes the deprivation of Second Amendment rights permanent unless the would-be buyer appeals and prevails. Feinstein’s bill took the same approach.
Unlike Cornyn, Collins thinks if the feds decide to take your gun rights, it’s on you to haul ass down to the courthouse and demand that they be reinstated instead of on the feds to go to court and get permission to stop you. Why on earth should the individual citizen be on the clock, and on the hook for the expense, when the government seeks to deprive them of something they’re constitutionally entitled to?
Trump spox on banning gun sales to watch list: He stands with NRA, wanted meeting because "they are the experts" https://t.co/sqIkfCXUNs
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) June 21, 2016