The NRA Is Absolutely Right to Fear the ‘Terrorism Watch List’

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The New York Daily News knows on whom we all be focused in the wake of the shootings in Paris. Why, it’s the good ol’ NRA!

Over at Salon, Sophie Tesfaye repeats the complaint:

Well, wouldn’t you know it? “Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law,” according to the Government Accountability Office and now a report from the federal agency finds that over 2,000 individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list have indeed successfully and legally purchased a firearm from 2004 to 2014.

Not a single gun buyer on the terror watch list was turned away because they posed a threat to America as a suspected terrorist. Instead, reasons for their rejections included “felony conviction, under indictment, adjudicated mental health, misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction, fugitive from justice and controlled substance abuse,” according to the GAO. In fact, in 2013 and 2014, the number of successful gun buyers from the terror watch list rose to 94 percent — with 455 suspects purchasing firearms and just 30 being denied.

Of course, the NRA hasforcefully opposed any legislation to close this loophole since 2007, citing “a concern that the FBI might watchlist a person as a ‘suspected terrorist’ on dubious grounds.” Granted, 700,000 does appear to be a rather inflated amount of suspected terrorists living among us, but as the Post notes, even a full 71 percent of NRA members support prohibiting people on the terror watchlist from buying guns.

Gosh, how ghastly. Does the NRA have no shame? It is just typical for America’s right-wing loons to express skepticism about the restriction of constitutional rights without due process. Here, for example, is known conservative attack-group the American Civil Liberties Union explaining why suspicion is justified:

The government is adding people to its already bloated watchlisting system at breakneck pace, and it’s still hungry for more. That’s the unavoidable conclusion from documents published yesterday in The Intercept.

Those documents vindicate our ;concerns and warnings about a massive, virtually standardless government watchlisting scheme that ensnares innocent people and encourages racial and religious profiling.

The documents confirm what we have long suspected: It doesn’t take much to get yourself on a terrorist watchlist. The government’s recently leaked Watchlisting Guidance starts with a poorly defined “reasonable suspicion” standard and then subjects it to so many exceptions and caveats as to render it virtually toothless. The unsurprising result, as is clear from these documents, is a set of watchlists experiencing explosive growth.

Predictably, that “explosive growth” has led to the entanglement of almost 300,000 people who have “no affiliation with known terrorist groups” but who fall under “reasonable suspicion” nevertheless. This chart, from the right-wing-extremist hatesite TechDirt breaks down the composition:

Surely, though, there are a host of judicial safeguards in place to balance out the risk of abuse? Right?

Nah.

A Muslim civil rights group is suing the federal government on behalf of five Michigan plaintiffs who are challenging their placement on the government’s “terror watchlist.”

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the suit in Detroit federal court Thursday, “challenging the government’s broad and unchecked power…to secretly designate American Muslims to be added onto the terror watchlist without due process,” said CAIR-Michigan attorney Lena Masri.

Masri is representing the five Detroit area American Muslims who say they were placed on the centralized list of all “known and suspected terrorists” in the US.

Components of that larger database include the “no-fly list” and “selectee list” mandating secondary screening and detention at airports.

Masri said her clients weren’t given any notice about being put on the watchlist, violating their right to due process. “And they have not been given any recourse or legal mechanism to contest their designation,” she added.

Do they have a case? You’re damn right they do. Not only does the system rely upon names rather than identities — and thus yield ample opportunity for confusion — but, per the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, the meager due process protections that are provided are “arbitrary and capricious” and fly directly in the face of the Administrative Procedure Act.

As a result, the question here shouldn’t be “why does the NRA oppose using this list in a civil context?” but “why doesn’t everybody oppose using this list on a civil context?” Whether the New York Daily News likes it or not, the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution and cannot be restricted without serious cause. Of course Second Amendment advocates are opposed to the importation of this list into the firearms background check system. They understand well that it cannot be relied upon as a justification for denial. Whatever Everytown and their friends might imply, we are not talking here about selling guns to people who have been convicted in a court of law; that is already illegal. Rather, we are talking about selling guns to people who, as far as the state is concerned, have done nothing wrong and who must not therefore have their liberties abridged. It is an ugly testament to the illiberalism of many modern-day progressives that they are happily lining up on the authoritarian side against not just one, but two of America’s premier civil rights organizations.

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