June 20, 2009

NY Times Buries Important Detail In Promoting Another Law Limiting Second Amendment Rights

At first it seems like a common sense proposal -- those on the federal government's terrorist watch list should not be allowed to buy or possess firearms.

People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.

In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.

The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.

Gun purchases must be approved unless federal officials can find some other disqualification of the would-be buyer, like being a felon, an illegal immigrant or a drug addict.

Of course, this little detail gets buried much deeper in the article.

From February 2004 through February 2009, the report found, there were 963 requests for gun purchases through the federal system by people on the list. Of that group, 865 purchases — or 90 percent — were approved after a three-day review by the F.B.I. failed to turn up any other disqualifying factors.

A narrower study by the G.A.O. in 2005 first drew public attention to the issue. The Justice Department took some limited steps to address the issue, centralizing the review of gun purchases by those on watch lists to ensure that all possible disqualifiers were being considered.

Nonetheless, the rate of approval for requests to buy a gun went up from 80 percent in 2005 to the new study’s 90 percent. Officials were searching for explanations for the increase, which might reflect the overall growth in both the number of people on the watch list and of gun purchases.

All possible disqualifiers are being considered -- and these folks are not disqualified. And yet the New York Times and some members of the legislative branch want to prohibit the exercise of a right guaranteed under the US Constitution based upon inclusion on a secret list. And remember -- no foreigner has a right to a visa to get into this country, and no individual has a right to board an airplane -- but the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution, and has since the earliest days of our Republic.

Now one may ask why I am sticking up for suspected terrorists. I'm not. But what we have here is a list that is made by bureaucrats, with no review by the courts. Is one included on the list based upon a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard? Preponderance of evidence? It is really unclear -- and since individuals on the list may not even be aware of their inclusion, it is eminently possible that the legitimate exercise of a civil right by an innocent American citizen could occur based upon bureaucratic bungling or outright error,

Or worse.

Remember -- only a few weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that classified veterans and holders of conservative political opinions as potential terrorists. Only a few days ago it was disclosed that the pentagon has classified political protests as a form of terrorism. In the hands of a regime hostile to gun rights (such as, for example, the current one), it would not be at all difficult to vastly expand the terrorist watch list to include all sorts of innocent American patriots who have done nothing more than exercise their First Amendment rights to express mainstream political opinions.

But even more than that, I have an aversion to any limitation on Second Amendment rights -- one every bit as strong as my aversion to laws limiting the exercise of First Amendment rights. Just as we would never accept limitations on the rights of Americans to speak or publish controversial ideas, to petition the government regarding controversial positions, to peaceably assemble with like-minded individuals to advocate for those positions, or to exercise a religious faith that holds extreme views based solely upon their inclusion on a list by government bureaucrats, we should similarly reject the idea that the government can limit the right to keep and bear arms (or any of the other rights included in the Bill of Rights) based upon such a bureaucratic diktat. After all, SHALL NOT BE ABRIDGED is a pretty clear directive to the government -- for all that the gun-grabbers try to obscure its meaning.

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