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May 16, 2011

Commonsense and Due Process Prevail Over Anti-Gun “Terror” Legislation

In a party-line vote (21-11),  the House Judiciary Committee killed an amendment from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) that would have blocked firearm purchases by those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list.

If passed, this amendment would have given the attorney general unfettered discretionary power to deny firearm sales to American citizens on the terrorist watch list, thereby denying their constitutionally protected right to bear arms, without due process. In order to strip this fundamental right, the attorney general would only be required to appropriately suspect the individual was engaged in conduct related to terrorism.  And according to a 2010 Department of Homeland Security report, returning military veterans and those individuals that are proponents of states rights and firearms freedoms are already considered to be likely extremists.  The report states, “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

No one, including those in the firearms industry, wants to see terrorists obtain firearms. Yet before anyone considers denying American citizens their constitutional rights, it’s important to first examine the law enforcement requirements currently in place that enable law enforcement to protect Americans from terrorism.

Anyone attempting to purchase a firearm from a retailer must first undergo an FBI background check. The prospective buyer’s name is also cross-referenced against government watch lists. If there is a match, the law enforcement agency that placed the person on the list is immediately contacted and provided an opportunity to determine any legal basis to deny the transfer of the firearm and to take whatever law enforcement measures they deem appropriate. This includes requesting that the firearms retailer decline to sell the firearm, or to delay the sale so law enforcement can monitor the person. These measures properly balance and respect both national security and the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans who might wrongly be on the list.

If legislation moves forward denying any individual on the “watch” list the right to purchase a firearm, the FBI background check would also become a terrorist notification system. If the sale were denied and the customer were not otherwise disqualified, the suspected terrorist would know instantly that the government was monitoring him.

As it stands, most people have no idea if they are on such a government “watch” list, why they might be on it or how to get off of it if they are wrongfully listed. This should ring alarm bells within any individual or institution that values constitutional protections.

Using terrorism as an excuse to deny constitutional rights to law-abiding citizens is un-American.  If those on the terrorist watch list are so dangerous, why aren’t they in custody? Because being on an unreliable list for unknown reasons does not negate one’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights …

It also doesn’t negate one’s Second Amendment rights.

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