Yesterday the New York Times published an article titled “The N.R.A.’s Complicity in Terrorism.” In its article the New York Times used a quote from an Al Qaeda spokesmen stating, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms, so what are you waiting for?”
America is also awash in ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fireworks, which have been used by other domestic terrorists. Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers used these materials to kill and injure more than 1,000 people. Does that mean that the Fireworks Alliance and the American Farm Bureau Federation are complicit in terrorism? Of course not, but using the NYT’s logic they would be because their efforts allowed these twisted individuals to procure and misuse bomb-making materials.
On June 15, Senate Democrats began a filibuster to force a vote on new gun control legislation. The following morning a compromise was reached that would allow for a vote to be held on whether to ban people on the government’s terrorist watch list from obtaining firearms. While anyone would agree that we need to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals, we shouldn’t gut the United States Constitution to achieve that goal. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains a Due Process Clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice, and thus it acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property.
You might be wondering: What does due process have to do with buying a gun in the United States? To better understand that relationship, we need to talk about the so called “Terror Watchlist.”
The Terror Watchlist is a database maintained by the FBI that was “born out of the events of 9/11 and created in 2003.” According to the FBI, it is a single database of identifying information about those known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. For an individual to be placed in that database, an FBI agent only needs to have “reasonable suspicion” that he or she is involved in terrorist activities. However, the FBI standard is well short of the probable cause the police need to arrest a person. This suspicion could stem from something as simple as a satirical Facebook post that was misinterpreted by government agents.
If these seemingly arbitrary criteria weren’t bad enough, once you are on the list, it is almost impossible to get off. According to the FBI, the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) “does not accept redress inquiries directly from the public. Instead, members of the public should contact the relevant screening agency with their questions or concerns about screening.” That’s still not the worst part: An individual on the Terror Watchlist cannot even find out why they were placed on it because the entire database is classified. This constitutionally inadequate process would arbitrarily deprive law abiding citizens of their rights.
We obviously need to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, but using an unconstitutional system to do so is not the correct method. Before we consider our options, there needs to be a system in place that doesn’t require law abiding Americans to prove their innocence through a legally murky and difficult process. Maybe the FBI should consider moving their Terror Watchlist out of the shadows and into the federal court system before we can start discussing ways to prevent terrorists from getting firearms?
The NRA is not complicit in terrorism because they are standing up for our constitutional right to due process. There is no simple solution to this complex problem, and the New York Times is not helping solve it with their inflammatory rhetoric. Lawmakers have a duty to respond to their constituents, and that means protecting their rights.
We shouldn’t legislate based on reactionary fear. Instead, we need laws based on facts, reason, and available data.
In the video below Chris Cox,Executive Director of NRA-ILA ,sets the record straight on the NRA’s positions on watch lists and due process. He also sends a strong message to all those who seek to restrict our Second Amendment freedoms: “Make no mistake—the NRA will fight without apology to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves.”