A ‘No Buy’ List for Guns Is a Bad Idea

I do not generally think of The New York Times as being in any way shape or form a supporter of gun rights.

On the other hand some positions must take the form of: “If you believe in freedom and the Constitution of the United States then you must stand up for_______.”

The “No Fly List” along with other TSA measures have become gross violations of personal freedoms.  Putting one’s carry on luggage on a scanner and walking through a metal detector is one thing but some measures such as full body scans are extremely invasive of personal privacy.

Add to that the common place stories of people finding themselves denied the right to fly based on a shared, sometimes common name.

Add to that the inability to seek redress of these designations without employing expensive legal assistance and one sees how these minor insults add up to a gross violation of the rights and freedoms of all of us.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/opinion/a-no-buy-list-for-guns-is-a-bad-idea.html

AFTER the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., some legislators are seeking to create a “no buy” list to block certain people from purchasing guns. Last month the Senate considered (but voted down) measures that would have prevented gun sales to anyone in the federal Terrorist Screening Database, a.k.a. the terrorist watch list. And while a proposal by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, to deny sales to anyone on the government’s no-fly list did not pass last week, it was not voted down either, offering supporters hope.

But Senator Collins’s proposal, like the earlier effort to create a no-buy list, ought to fail. Such measures would have a much smaller effect on gun sales and do much more harm to civil liberties than people realize.

Very few people on the terrorist watch list, which is estimated to include at least 800,000 identities, are buying guns. According to a report in March from the Government Accountability Office, out of the 23.1 million background checks conducted last year in accordance with federal gun laws, only 244 involved people on the watch list. That’s 0.001 percent of checked sales.

As for the no-fly list: According to an estimate provided by the director of the Terrorist Screening Center in 2014, about 9 out of 10 identities on that list are neither United States citizens nor lawful residents. Thus, they are already largely unable, or not permitted, to buy guns here.

Since the no-fly list is created from the larger watch list, presumably an even lower percentage of people on it are seeking guns. (The Collins bill would also cover people on the so-called selectee list, who are subject to additional airport screening, but the effect on gun sales would seem to be similarly small.)

Of course, you might think that eliminating even just one gun sale to a suspected terrorist is worth the effort. But that assumes these lists should be trusted in the first place. And they shouldn’t be.

The threats that the terrorist watch list and no-fly list pose to civil liberties — indeed, to the very idea of citizenship — are enormous. Watch lists are designed to circumvent the protections of due process and the separation of powers. They subvert a principle of our free society: Our rights aren’t held on loan until a government official labels us suspect, at which point they are easily stripped away; our rights are ours unless and until a court concludes that we have violated the law.

This is not the case with a watch list, which relies on the predictive judgments of anonymous analysts predisposed to err on the side of caution. Their job is to stop something horrible from happening. Why would they be inclined to err the other way? Their decisions require no judicial approval, and their standard for labeling someone a suspected terrorist to be watch-listed is very low, a mere “reasonable suspicion.”

As one federal judge noted in a case involving a plaintiff’s challenge to being placed on the no-fly list, “an American citizen can find himself labeled a suspected terrorist because of a ‘reasonable suspicion’ based on a ‘reasonable suspicion.’ ”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/opinion/a-no-buy-list-for-guns-is-a-bad-idea.html

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