Earlier this month, a House Judiciary panel killed a bill that would have prevented a person on the Terrorist Watch List from purchasing a firearm. The decision is controversial. On the one hand, one questions the reasonable nature of the decision to hand a gun to someone we suspect is plotting to damage our country and willing to commit acts of mayhem and random violence. On the other hand, though, this is an enumerated right, one of the Bill of Rights and agreeing to this measure would mean suspending such a right based not upon a conviction, but on a concern.
The Terrorist Watch list is notorious both for the little it takes to get on it and the difficulty one might have getting off of it. Per an article published after the "Underwear Bomber" failed to detonate his shorts, all it takes is "a single tip about a terror link". The list exists outside of due process; even finding out that you're on it is impossible until you attempt to do something prohibited. Many people have been put on it that have never demonstrated having any real ties to terrorism.
But as we are talking about weapons here, for many, the uncertainty and vague standards involved with this tool in the War on Terror are accurate enough to suspend 2nd Amendment rights.
The question this raises, for me at least, is what other rights would we be okay suspending? Search and Seizure? Free Speech?
Imagine you step into your local high school one Tuesday in November to cast your vote for President or a Congressman. You show your ID, give your name and are told that you can't. They can't tell you why. They can't tell you how to fix it. And yes, they understand that today is the election.
But you're on a list, you see, so some of your rights must be suspended.
A vote is just as dangerous as a bullet, in the right circumstances. There are elections easily swayed enough that all it would take is a few hundred people doing nothing more violent than checking a box to influence the voice of our government. And that's not the sort of power we'd want terrorists to have, is it?
If the above paragraph makes you uneasy and want to argue, then good for you; you're prepared to defend your rights. But what, if anything, makes the right to vote different from the right to bear arms? There is nothing special, in terms of legal protections, about the 2nd Amendment. If it can be denied to you based mostly on a rumor, then why would any other right you have be more secure?
Rights are legal fictions that exist for exactly as long as you can defend them. They should neither be granted nor stripped without good reason and demonstrable cause. We take away the rights of criminals to carry guns as well as vote because we, as a society, do not wish those who have displayed a capability of being a danger to our society to have the power that comes either with arms or a say in who runs things.
So if we are willing to do the same in regards to firearms to a person on the Terrorist Watchlist, who is to say one day we might not do the other? Are you willing to give that power to every administration to come?
Personally, I think it's a bad idea.