The No-Rights List
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, there was a clamor for “someone to do something about guns.” There is nothing new with this response, which ignores facts to target heartstrings. Gun laws – some of the strictest in the nation, and passed under the premise of “doing something” – were no hindrance to these jihadists. They obeyed some, including initial background checks, when those laws posed no threat to their mission. They ignored others, including federal laws prohibiting modifying a semi-auto gun into a machine gun, when necessary for their purposes.
The laws stopped nothing, yet many political leaders who have long opposed private ownership of firearms clamored for more – but their calls appeared to fall on deaf ears. Not only were their sound bytes not being echoed, the American people were flocking to purchase firearms for their own potential defense.
Rather than acknowledge this public sentiment and back off, many doubled down, culminating in President Obama suggesting something that should have the rest of us aghast in horror – using the federal “no-fly list” to deny the legal purchase of firearms. Even more horrific is that someone has decided to try it.
In Connecticut, Governor Daniel Malloy announced his intent to sign an executive order prohibiting anyone appearing on the federal “no fly list” from legally purchasing a firearm or ammunition. If that sounds reasonable to you, you might want to know a few things about the federal no-fly list.
There are no defined standards for getting on this list – there is no legal or scientific methodology behind it, making it the definition of arbitrary and capricious. The list has erroneously included senators, grandmothers, and children. People and groups have been included for peacefully protesting government policy. I might get on it – or already be on it – for writing this. You might land on it for reading this.
You don’t know you’re on it until you attempt to fly. You don’t know why you’re on it when you are prohibited from boarding a plane. Since it does not involve any criminal offense, trial, or conviction, there is no appeal for your inclusion on the list. You can’t dispute evidence because no one has to tell you what it was. You can’t confront witnesses because there aren’t any.
Being on the list supposedly means you are “too dangerous to board a plane.” Yet not so dangerous that you can be imprisoned. Or fired from a job that puts you near public food and water supplies. Or prevented from driving a school bus. Or having any firearms and ammunition that you already own confiscated (yet, anyway). Just dangerous enough, based on some secret knowledge, that you can be denied a Constitutional right for reasons unknown to you.
And now, the elected executive of a state government wants to wave his hand and give an order - without the input of the state legislative body or the approval of the people of that state – to inflict this on the citizens he is purported to serve. That order will deny a Constitutionally-protected right – the same kind of right that protects our freedoms of speech, religious expression, voting, and our right to due process – to anyone who appears on the list described above, compiled in secret, based on... something... somehow... by someone. But I'm sure it's fair and accurate.
Does it still sound reasonable to you? Does it even sound like America to you?
If this is allowed to stand, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when the same method is used to deny the rights we all enjoy.