Fans of mindless authoritarianism are having a pretty good month. The New York Times reports:
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.
The Democratic push seems likely to fall victim to opposition from the National Rifle Association and congressional gun-rights backers, chiefly Republicans, who have smothered firearms curbs for years. If the Republicans who control Congress block votes on the proposal, Democrats hope to profit politically by winning sympathy from angry voters.
If FBI suspects you of being a terrorist & intending to commit terrorist acts, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. https://t.co/dE8gDXstYa— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) November 22, 2015
In times past, officials advocating the simultaneous undermining of a range of constitutional rights would have been tarred, feathered, and dumped into the sea, along with their staff, their press agents, and anyone else who saw fit to acquiesce in the scheme. A little of that spirit might be welcome here.
And lose their minds the bill’s champions have. As of today, there are almost one million names on the terror watch list — that’s names, not identities — of which around 280,000 are linked to nothing much at all. This should not surprise, for one does not in fact have to do a great deal in order to find one’s way onto the list. Perhaps you know someone who is already on it? That’s suspicious, right? On you go! Perhaps you have annoyed someone powerful? Oops! On you go! Perhaps you once said something intemperate in public? Better to be safe. On you go! Perhaps you are a Muslim? On. You. Go.
And now what? To whom do you apply for removal? Nobody, that’s whom. By design, the system features scant due-process protections and an appeals process straight out of Kafka. It is, in the words of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, an “arbitrary and capricious” monstrosity that violates not only the Constitution of the United States but the Administrative Procedure Act, too. No man shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” says the Fifth Amendment. “Whatever,” say the apologists.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.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.