- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2016


It’s common sense not to allow terrorists the right to buy arms.

But the practical application of restricting suspected terrorists the access to gun purchases is a lot more murky. And the Democratic legislation aimed to do just this may deny Muslims — who are peaceful, legal, innocent U.S. citizens — their second amendment right to bear arms without any due-process.

On its face, it’s anti-Muslim and anti-American.

Let me be clear: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to give the Justice Department more power to intervene if someone on the terror watch list wants to buy a gun. But the terror watch list is not infallible and needs reform if it’s going to be the tool used to help prevent homegrown, lone-wolf terrorism.

The ACLU agrees and argued in federal court its challenge to reform how the list works.

“The standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU national security project, wrote in the group’s suit. “Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating.”

The ACLU filed the suit in 2010 after 10 U.S. citizens and permanent residents were banned from flying to or from the U.S. — among them were four U.S. military veterans — who were never told why they were on the list, or given a hearing before a neutral decision-maker to get off of it. That’s called due process.

Moreover, many on the list are never prosecuted in court, or ever convicted of a crime — meaning they’re innocent. Still others, like Omar Mateen, the Orlando terrorist, may not even be on it.

From the investigation so far, we know that Mateen was placed in the FBI Terrorist Screening Database, but it’s not clear if he ever was on the no-fly list, a smaller subset of the database.

As a side note: The terrorist screening database and the no-fly list are not the same thing. The no-fly list has about 40,000 names on it, many of whom are not U.S. citizens. The terror watch list is much broader, including more than a million names. Democrats are pushing for legislation that denies gun ownership to this much larger group.

Still, there are no guarantees that if the Democrats’ legislation had been put in place before Sunday’s atrocities that it would have prevented Mateen from being able to buy an assault-style rifle and handgun in the days leading up to it.

When the FBI ended its inquiries of Mr. Mateen, he was removed from the terror watch list.

The GOP is looking for compromises. As I said before — no one wants terrorists buying guns.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn has proposed legislation that would notify the Justice Department if someone on the watch list tries to purchase a gun. There would then be a special court proceeding where the Department of Justice would have 72 hours to investigate the individual. A judge could then deny that gun purchase if the government could provide probable cause a terrorist act may be used with it.

Democrats argue the “probable cause” bar is too high. I say it might just be the ignition the federal government needs to thoroughly investigate these individuals — to not let another Mateen slip through the cracks or give power to the government to deny innocent Americans their constitutional rights.

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