Earlier this week four different gun control bills were predictably voted down in the Senate. Now, as Matt has reported, Senators will vote on yet another piece of legislation introduced by Maine Republican Susan Collins.
"The bipartisan 'Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016' would prevent people who are on the No Fly List or the Selectee List from purchasing firearms. If our government has determined that an individual is too dangerous to fly on an airplane, that person should not have the opportunity make a legal firearm purchase," Collins office released yesterday in a white paper. "Due process principles require that Americans denied their right to purchase a firearm under this provision have the opportunity to appeal this denial to a federal court."
"To ensure appropriate oversight and transparency, the Attorney General would be required to report to the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate on the number of persons denied a firearm, the number of appeals filed, and number of persons who prevailed in their appeals under the provisions of this Act," the memo continues.
By Collins' own admission, this proposal still strips due process and takes away Second Amendment rights before an appeal, boiling down to an absolute bureaucratic nightmare. Although Collins' effort to prevent terrorists from purchasing firearms is noble, her amendment is an absolute nightmare for innocent Americans who end up on these secret, government terrorism no-fly and "selectee" lists.
First, let's look at the details:
What the Amendment Does:
1. Gives the AG the authority to deny firearms sales to individuals who appear on the No Fly List or the Selectee List.
2. Provides a process for Americans and green card holders to appeal a denial in U.S. Court of Appeals and to recover their reasonable attorneys fees if they prevail.
3. Sets forth a procedure for protecting classified information during the appeal.
4. Protects ongoing FBI counter-terrorism investigations by giving the AG the discretion to allow gun sales to go forward to individuals covered by this Act.
5. Includes a “look-back” provision that ensures prompt notification to the FBI if a person who has been on the broader Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) within the past five years purchases a firearm.
And the rebuttal:
1. The Attorney General will now determine who is or is not a terrorist and incapable of purchasing a firearm? Doubtful. The No-Fly and Selectee list are already poorly managed, are full of Americans in addition to foreigners and the Attorney General doesn't have the resources to analyze 109,000 people individually in order to deny or approve a gun sale.
2. After being stripped of their Second Amendment rights for landing on a No-Fly list, Americans can retroactively seek due process through appealing a denial in court. Further, attorney fees can be recovered so long as a a defendant wins their case against the U.S. government? After hours, days, weeks and potentially years spent buried in paperwork, government bureaucracy, missed work, stress and thousands of attorney's fees to prove innocence? How generous....Americans can't even get through the DMV in a timely fashion, not to mention getting through a court appeal with the federal government after being improperly placed on a secret list.
3. If classified information is involved in an appeal and must be protected, it will be impossible for a regular, every day American who is innocent but on the lists to make their case and quickly win an appeal.
4. Again, the Attorney General does not have the resources to get involved in the minutia, especially with a list containing thousands of names.
5. This is the best part of the proposal, but the problem of innocent Americans being on the list again strips due process.
The bottom line is that until Congress can clearly define a process and standard for which people are placed on the terror No-Fly list, Terror Watch list or Selectee list, innocent Americans will be punished and stripped of their rights due to a bloated, bureaucratic system. The lists must be cleaned up and tailored to fit those who are truly associated with terrorism before we can prevent them from legally purchasing firearms.