By: Peter Suciu
Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is a nation whose laws are built on the presumption of innocence, and even suspected criminals are granted a great deal of protection under said laws. Search warrants are often required for police to conduct an investigation, and wiretaps are far harder to obtain than most movies or TV shows might suggest.
There was great outrage – and rightfully so – over the National Security Agency's MYSTIC surveillance program that collected metadata and other content of American citizens’ phone calls. Many liberal lawmakers saw the program as an abuse of power by the intelligence community and a violation of personal freedoms and privacy of American citizens.
When it comes to the "no fly list" and firearms, however, many of those who saw government overreach with MYSTIC and other law enforcement efforts saw this as common sense. The "no fly list," after all, is a compilation of suspected terrorists who are likely to do our country harm. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it might even seem reasonable that those who are on the no fly list shouldn't be able to buy a gun.
Except, there is the fact that the no fly list is terribly flawed, as it contains false positives, and more importantly, includes those who have never committed a crime. Imagine if being on the no fly list meant you couldn't get a job, a credit card, or were automatically denied when it came to buying or renting a place to live.
Perhaps then those liberals would understand why the no fly list remains a serious problem.
As John R. Lott and Thomas Massie wrote this week for The Washington Times, "Being on the watch list doesn't mean that you are guilty of anything. You can be on the list simply because the FBI wants to interview you about someone you might know. As of 2014, about 40 percent of people on the watch list were under 'reasonable suspicion' despite having 'no affiliation with known terrorist groups.' People can get nominated for the list by various government agencies, and no oversight agency exists to ensure that these additions are justified."
It is a myth that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Mass. was ever on the list – he technically wasn't on the list, but he and the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) did face greater scrutiny at the airport due to those with similar names being on the list.
In the case of conservative journalist Stephen F. Hayes, he actually found himself on the United States Department of Homeland Security's Terrorist Watchlist, which meant he received additional scrutiny on several airline flights. In Hayes' case, he likely ended up on the list for flying with his wife on a one-way flight into Istanbul, and then flew out of Athens for his return trip back to America. Apparently, such a trip landed him on the watch list, as one-way trips to Turkey were being made by potential jihadists going to Syria.
It took great effort for Hayes, who had been a regular fixture on Fox News, to get removed from the list. For Hayes, who traveled frequently, it was a headache.
For some trying to buy a firearm, it has been a far bigger issue, because many Democratic lawmakers have suggested that anyone – regardless of whether they might be on the list by mistake – should automatically be denied their Second Amendment rights. It certainly made sense to former President Barack Obama.
"Right now, people on the no fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun," Obama said during his weekly radio address. "That is insane."
Instead of considering that the president was going too far with his hyperbole, Sen. Dianne Feintstein (D-Calif.) even tried to add a ban as a budget amendment in 2016. Fortunately, it was blocked by Republican lawmakers.
Now imagine if any lawmaker suggested that those on the no fly list should be denied their First Amendment and perhaps 14th Amendment rights as well. In the former, we could ponder that if someone were so dangerous, should we allow them the right to spread their message, especially as it could be dangerous speech that threatens the government?
Of course, no lawmaker would suggest that, as even criminals are granted a right to free speech. It is understandable that criminals lose their Second Amendment rights, but that only applies to convicted felons or those convicted of violent misdemeanors. In other words, only actual criminals or those whom the court deems unfit to own a firearm are denied their Second Amendment rights, whereas some liberals feel anyone suspected of a being a terrorist shouldn't have their rights striped away.
And to that point, imagine if anyone were to suggest that being on the list should deny one their 14th Amendment rights to due process; there would no doubt be great outrage. That is literally what banning those who are on the list from their Second Amendment rights is doing.
Yet, to the same individuals who support it, banning someone from buying a gun for being on the no fly list makes sense.
Now that is what is truly insane.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.