Who's Watching the Watchers?

Bob Barr
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Posted: Jun 22, 2016 12:01 AM
Who's Watching the Watchers?

To the typical liberal, nothing engenders greater panic and crippling fear than the sight of a firearm; especially the Mainstream Media’s self-defined posterchild for gun violence, the AR-15. The Left’s irrational reaction to the popular sporting rifle, enjoyed (safely and legally) by millions of recreational and competition shooters across America, is so potent the New York Daily News’ resident pansy, Gersh Kuntzman, claims to have suffered “temporary PTSD” from merely firing the rifle at a gun range.

Yet, in spite of its obvious and repetitive ignorance on firearm information, the Left considers itself capable of engaging in an adult discussion on the Second Amendment’s application to the problems facing our country in this early 21st Century.

Not really.

The folly of the Left’s opposition to any fact- or history-based understanding of an individual right to keep and bear arms was on full display following the terror attack in Orlando earlier this month. Rather than blame radical Islam that preaches gays are to be murdered, the Left immediately turned to blaming its usual suspects: gun manufacturers, Republican members of Congress, and anyone who supports the NRA or the Second Amendment.

Adding to their normal “gun control” hysterics following any high profile gun crime, leading Democrats – joined by some constitutionally squeamish Republicans like Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey – have proposed using secret government lists such as the FBI’s terrorist “watch list” and the TSA’s “No-Fly List” to serve as the basis for denying an individual the constitutionally-guaranteed right to purchase or own firearms.

As innocent individuals, from toddlers to U.S. Senators, have discovered since 9-11after being denied access to commercial airline flights due to their name being on a secret No-Fly List, anyone can mistakenly wind up in such databases. For those hapless individuals, their presence on such a list comes with no notice, explanation, or effective way to correct errors. Moreover, secret government lists that serve as the basis for limiting or denying constitutional rights, also provide the government with an extremely powerful tool for bullying and silencing disfavored groups and individuals.

Ironically, it was not but a few decades ago that the federal government used such lists to surveil, intimidate, and harass leaders of both black and gay civil rights movements. But, let it never be said that the Left permits history or facts to serve as a barrier to their vision of a gun-free country.

It takes but a few keystrokes to add a name to a list; and without any of the due process normally afforded those accused of crimes, there are no effective protections against lists being abused. For example, in what might otherwise be considered a comical example of database overreach, in 2008 the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), a “fusion center” that provided intelligence to local and federal law enforcement, issued a report on modern militias suggesting police should be on the lookout for supporters of then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and me, because such supporters could possibly be militia-influenced domestic terrorists. We were able to have the nonsense stopped, but the incident illustrated how easy it is for government functionaries to get carried away when it comes to data-basing bad information.

Consider the 15-year old USA PATRIOT Act, the use of which has expanded far beyond the scope of terrorism and is often used for drug-related and other investigations having nothing to do with terrorism. There is little to suggest that expanded government watch lists to target suspected terrorists attempting to obtain firearms would never be employed to target Second Amendment rights of anyone under suspicion by the government for whatever reason.

Consider as well that social media constitutes an even more devastating weapon of terrorists than firearms. Remember that both the San Bernardino and Orlando terrorists appear to have been radicalized online. Following the philosophy underlying the Left’s current drive to create and expand firearms watch lists, would it not be appropriate to use such a database to deprive those on watch lists from communicating by electronic means or accessing the internet?

If the Left is not comfortable with the idea that Donald Trump could just as easily be in charge of such lists beginning next year as Hillary Clinton, then perhaps they should pause to consider that granting such vast power to the government, affecting any number of constitutional rights, is an extremely dangerous proposition that should not be proposed as a safety blanket for an irrational fear of firearms.

Limiting or denying constitutional rights to individuals is a tremendously important decision, which is why our Bill of Rights demands due process be followed before any such steps are allowed. Creating shortcuts around due process does not make us more safe, but rather less secure; even if it prevents firearms-induced PTSD.