Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Clear and Present Danger

At any rate, in May 15, 2007, then Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), now Chief of Staff for Obama Administration, spoke at DC's annual Stand Up For a Safe America event sponsored by the Brady Center *gag*, and said that if your name is on the terrorist no fly list you should not be allowed to own a gun.

On its face, that doesn't sound like a horrible idea, right? We don't want bad guys to be able to buy guns. Fair enough. But think about this:
  • How many violent crimes are committed with legally purchased guns?

  • Does anybody honestly believe that criminals are able to acquire guns illegally, through illegal purchase, like on the black market, or by stealing them? I don't generally tend to hang out with the violent criminal type, it's just not my scene, but I look at it like this:
  • Drugs are illegal. Nobody can go out and buy illegal
    drugs, right?
  • Surely nobody was able to buy alcoholic beverages during
    Prohibition, right?
  • A person planning to murder (a criminal act), or martyr
    himself by carrying out an act of terror (again, against the law), will
    obey the law not to purchase a firearm?

I shudder to admit it, but I actually agree with the ACLU on this issue:

Why are there so many names on the U.S. government's terrorist list? In September 2007, the Inspector General of the Justice Department reported that the Terrorist Screening Center (the FBI-administered organization that consolidates terrorist watch list information in the United States) had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 - and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month.1 (See also this new March 2008 report.2 )
By those numbers, the list now has over one million names on it. Terrorist watch lists must be tightly focused on true terrorists who pose a genuine threat. Bloated lists are bad because they ensnare many innocent travelers as suspected terrorists, and
because they waste screeners' time and divert their energies from looking for true terrorists. Small, focused watch lists are better for civil liberties and for security. The uncontroversial contention that Osama Bin Laden and a handful of other known terrorists should not be allowed on an aircraft is being used to create a monster that goes far beyond what ordinary Americans think of when they think about a "terrorist watch list."
This is not just a problem of numbers. The numbers are merely a symptom. What's needed is fairness. If the government is going to rely on these kinds of lists, they need checks and balances to ensure that innocent people are protected. (See ACLU
Backgrounder on Watch Lists
for more)

There have been significant issues with the watch list. People with similar names to suspicious individuals have found themselves on the list. Ted Kennedy, for example...wait, maybe not the best example... Again, from the ACLU website:

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown was blocked from flying while on his way home from an 8-month deployment in Iraq. He was listed as a suspected terrorist due to a previous incident in which gunpowder was detected on his boots, most likely a residue of a previous tour in Iraq.

There's no denying that this is a shining example of blatant stupidity.The point is, there are no clear standards published that indicate why you or I could end up on "the list," and it's even less clear how we would clear our names. Using that standard to deny American Citizens of their Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a mockery of justice.

1 comment:

  1. They will push their gun control one way or the other won't they?