A secret government list, exclusively controlled by the executive, and used to deny civil rights without means for redress? Does that sound like America to you? Sounds more like the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany.
But the President and his supporters want to do exactly that. They want to use both the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list to deny American citizens the right to purchase a firearm, and they make it sound perfectly reasonable.
“Right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun.” – President Obama, December 5, 2015
Never mind that the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list are two different things; both are being advocated as a means to restrict civil rights, and they share some frightening characteristics. First, both lists are secret, and you are not notified if you are placed on either of them. There is no number you can call to find out…no website where you can look it up. The only way to find out is to try to get on an airplane or, if the President gets his way, try to exercise your right to keep and bear arms.
Another problem is that both lists are notorious for false positives…people being placed on a list simply because they share a common name, or in a case of mistaken identity. (You can perform a quick internet search and find plenty of examples, starting with the late Senator Ted Kennedy.) Then, if a citizen is wrongly placed on either list…good luck getting off of it. You must now fight the same bureaucracy which placed you on the list in order to be removed, and how much fun do you suppose that might be? And what chance of success do you suppose you have?
But the biggest problem is the fact that these secret government lists also violate the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, namely the right to due process under the law. There is no court convened, no judge or jury, and you can be stripped of your Constitutionally protected civil right to keep and bear arms. Both lists are administered completely under the Executive Branch of the government, and the legal standard of proof to place you on either is simple “reasonable suspicion.”
Understand that this is a very low standard. To even make an arrest, a police officer must have “probable cause.” In fact, with only reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a crime, all a police officer can do is conduct what is known as a “Terry stop,” which is only a brief stop in order to conduct an investigation. They may not detain you for an extended period, and they may not search your person…only conduct a pat down for weapons. And of course, to actually convict you of a crime, the government must prove to a court of law that you did the deed in question beyond a reasonable doubt. I would certainly hope that if there were any real evidence that anyone on these lists were actually involved in terrorism that they would be charged as such, arrested and tried. But the mere fact that there are so many on these lists who are not being charged with any crime at all is what gives away the truth…that most are innocent.
Yet this is the standard by which citizens, often mistakenly, are being placed on a secret government list…a list which the President and his anti-gun supporters intend to use to deprive you of a Constitutionally guaranteed civil right. Does this sound like America to you? The East German Stasi were notorious for keeping secret lists, compiling names of state enemies for investigation and possible persecution. In our fear of terrorism, is America going to do the same?
To quote the President once more, “That’s not who we are.”
— Dave Cole
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