Man, when Democrats say they’re done worrying about due process, they don’t mess around. Follow the logic here. Republicans argue that we can’t summarily strip people on a terror watch list of their gun rights because there are too many innocents who land on those lists, often due to simple bureaucratic errors like confusing a law-abiding person with a terror suspect whose name is similar. The GOP plan, from John Cornyn, calls for a temporary three-day hold when someone on a list tries to buy a gun while the government goes to court to try to convince a judge that that person should be barred permanently from buying weapons. It’s a compromise designed to keep guns out of the hands of the real bad guys while letting the good guys enjoy their rights without too much delay.
Dianne Feinstein has a counterproposal. How about we do summarily strip people of their gun rights, and instead of merely stripping those who are currently on a watch list, we go ahead and also strip people who were … removed from the list in the recent past? In other words, let’s expand the universe of Americans who can’t legally buy guns with no opportunity for due process to include people who aren’t under suspicion anymore.
Even if you’re off the watch list, you’re never really off the watch list. That’s the Democrats’ version of “compromise” on due process.
The Democratic legislation, sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, would seek to prevent individuals on the government’s terror watch list from purchasing guns on the recommendation of the Justice Department alone. Ms. Feinstein unsuccessfully proposed a similar measure last year, after 14 people were killed by an Islamic extremist couple in San Bernardino, Calif.
The legislation she is now proposing goes even further, covering not just people on the watch list at the time of purchase, but anyone who had been on the list in the preceding five years. The Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, had been on the list but was removed after an F.B.I. investigation turned up no evidence that he was plotting any crimes.
The idea that the DOJ should be able to take away your gun rights on its own say-so, without proof that you’re dangerous, is offensive but it’s in line with standard surveillance-state politics. If the state has good reason to think you’re a threat, the thinking goes, well, we err on the side of neutralizing the threat even if the evidence doesn’t meet traditional legal standards of proof. (Even Cornyn’s proposal accepts that logic. Why force someone on a list to wait to buy a gun if the government doesn’t have probable cause to arrest them for a crime?) Feinstein’s going a step further by arguing that we should err on the side of neutralizing the threat even if the state doesn’t have reason to think you’re a threat. I’d call it the “off-chance” theory of counterterrorism. If you were on a terror watch list at any point, for any duration, because some government agent somewhere thought there was an off-chance you might be an enemy of the state, that’s reason enough to take away your Second Amendment rights. This is what an elder Democratic stateswoman of the Senate is arguing today. If you wanted proof that the left’s focus on the watch list lately has less to do with stopping actual threats and more to do with acclimating the public to the idea of a huge class of people being stripped of their rights in the name of public safety, here you go.
Quite an opening for the presumptive GOP nominee, if only to consolidate the right behind him. I know, I know, he’s said that he agrees with Democrats that people on a watch list shouldn’t be able to buy weapons, but that’s easily finessed by following up and stressing that he prefers Cornyn’s plan to provide due process. He could also argue, correctly, that the watch-list debate underlines how important the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court is. There’s every reason to think a five-member liberal majority would rubber-stamp garbage gun-grabbing bills like Feinstein’s. If you want to prevent that, vote Trump. Instead he’ll probably spend the day blathering about his Muslim ban, which no one outside of his core base on the right seems to like, or telling GOP leaders to “be quiet” or whatever. A more disciplined pol would know what to do this. But that’s not what Republicans wanted. Too bad.
Via Ben Shapiro, here’s CBS reporting to its shock and dismay that one of its employees with no criminal record, who passed a background check, was somehow able to buy an AR-15 in less than an hour. What crazy things will law-abiding people be able to purchase expeditiously next?