Thursday, June 16, 2016

Laws That Sound Good At First

...but really are terrible.

As the insanity continues following the terrorist attack in Orlando, the inanity levels keep rising. Yesterday we had Democrats "filibustering"a mostly empty Senate chamber to force votes on two proposed laws that sort of sound smart:

Democrats were seeking a vote on two amendments to an underlying spending bill. One, proposed by Murphy, would expand background checks. The other, proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists.

Well that sounds great! Who wants a potential terrorist to get their hands on a gun like Omar Mateen?! At the outset let me say that this is just an incremental step by Democrats who really favor almost absolute disarmament. Juts like pro-life conservatives seek to outlaw abortion in little bites, liberals seek to disarm the people with more and more little laws since they can't get an outright ban through Congress.

There are two big problems. First there is that pesky thing known as due process which we find in a document called the United States Constitution that allegedly is the highest law of the land. The Fifth Amendment reads (emphasis mine of course):

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The right to bear arms is a Constitutionally protected right. Getting yourself on the terrorist watch list, as I understand it, provides no judicial review. You set off the right alarm bells and you get on a list. You can sort of appeal it but it is not the same process as a court hearing. In other words, and this is important, someone can land themselves on the terrorist watch list having never committed a crime that would warrant arrest and trial, and be deprived of their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms or more broadly their due process rights. According to the Fifth Amendment no person can be denied their life, liberty or property without due process of law but that is exactly what is being proposed with the gun ban. This would be like suspecting someone might shout fire in a crowded movie theater even though they never had and being banned from exercising their free speech rights. Even more chilling is this statement from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV):

Did you catch that at the end of the clip? Due process is what's killing us right now. Absorb that for a second. A sitting United States Senator is saying that the problem with terrorism like we saw in Orlando is that pesky due process. As a reminder, as the United States Senate website reminds us, all Senators take an oath of office kind of like the President. It says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Senator Manchin took that oath and here he is on TV complaining about one of the most important provisions in the Constitution he swore to support and defend. Due process is what's killing us right now? No Senator, Muslim terrorists are what's killing us right now.

The law proposed by arch-liberal Diane Feinstein would set aside the Due Process clause in the name of "stopping terrorists from obtaining guns".You cannot overstate how shocking that is. Get on a list without committing a single criminal act and you lose your Constitutional rights without so much as a hearing.

The second problem is related to the first. As of right now the only people on the terrorist watch list (I assume) are radical Islamists and random potential homegrown domestic terrorists of various stripes. I am not one of those (or maybe I am if you ask the wrong people) but there is nothing to prevent the government from adding overly zealous Christians to the terrorism watch list. They haven't so far, we assume, because of the potential outcry but look at the direction this nation is headed and you can see where it might become an issue. What the government can do to Muslims it can also do to Christians or Jews or Hundus or Mormons or worshipers of Odin.

I don't want radical Muslim terrorists to buy guns but I also don't want to deny a U.S. citizen their due process rights under the Constitution, first because the same thing could happen to me, and secondly and more importantly because the due process clause is one of the pillars of our free society. This is why it is so important to develop critical thinking skills because there are plenty of people in government, on both sides of the aisle, working every day to find ways to take away your liberty and replace it with government authoritarianism. Every time we lose a liberty, we never get it back so now more than ever we need to pull back the curtain and expose what is going on behind the scenes.
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