Terrorist watch list bill back

You all probably remember the bill that was introduced a while back, that would block people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.  It never really gained a lot of traction in Congress, which was a good thing at the time.  Unfortunately, it refuses to die, and according to Sen. Lautenberg it now has the traction to pass.

Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC is endorsing more federal legislation, because it serves his greater purpose of gun control.  It doesn’t surprise me that Mayor Bloomberg would get behind this bill – “terrorism” has been jammed our down our throats by the media and become synonymous with “scary men”.  As most gun control is based on appeals to emotion (for the children, streets running with blood, etc) being able to conjure images of terrorists running around buying Uzis really does work for the anti-gun bunch.

The problem with that mental image is that like most other gun control arguments, it’s a baseless appeal to emotion, and it ignores the larger ramifications of the bill.

“There’s no one more opposed to terrorists acquiring guns than the 4 million members of the N.R.A., but just because you’re on a watch list doesn’t make you a terrorist,” said Chris W. Cox, the association’s chief lobbyist.

Mr. Cox said the process by which the terror watch lists are devised is not subject to the due process guarantees that criminal defendants are afforded at trial. He noted that the watch lists often result in significant errors: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, was blocked from boarding flights because his name triggered a similar name on the government’s no-fly list.

“To give a political appointee the arbitrary power – and it is arbitrary — to decide who gets to own a firearm and who doesn’t, with no due process, is bad policy,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Cox is quite correct; NRA members do not want terrorists buying firearms.   He is also correct in that giving a political appointee arbitrary power to decide who owns firearms is a very, very bad thing.  The problem with the “terrorist watch list” is two fold.  First, it’s secret.  Secret government lists can be a good thing, when they’re not abused.  However, that also means that they’re not subject to oversight, so they’re easily abused.  The second problem with the terrorist watch list is that it’s inaccurate.  Of 20,000 people flagged by the list last year, less than 3% were handed over to authorities.  3%.  For the people in the cheap seats, that means that 97% of the people flagged by the terror watch list were let to continue about their business for whatever reason; presumably because they’re not terrorists.

I don’t like entrusting my Constitutional rights to secret government lists maintained by political appointees.  Please contact your Senators and express your opposition to S. 1237.


  1. If we assume that most terrorists are in the country illegally, then most would not be able to legally purchase a weapon anyway.

  2. That should read, “If we assume most terrorists would enter the country illegally, …”

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