Earlier this month, Congress rejected a proposal to bar those on the terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms.
Needless to say, Congress failing to enact meaningful gun control after yet another mass shooting angered many Democrats – politicians and voters alike. This proposal, however, violates the principles necessary for a liberal and free society.
The Constitution gives us all the right (affirmed by the Supreme Court in DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago) to own and carry guns. Whether we agree with the Second Amendment or the decisions does not matter – a liberalized society premised on the protection of rights cannot take away those rights without due process of law (enshrined in the Fifth Amendment).
Rights are paramount to our society. We wouldn’t eliminate the right to free speech or free religious practice without going through the judicial process; the right to bear arms is no different. Preventing those on terrorist watch lists from buying guns mocks the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”
Being put on the no-fly list is, in itself, injudicious. People unknowingly find themselves on the list without a clear appeal process. The government does not judicial approval to add someone to the list. Only “reasonable suspicion” is needed, and that can be derived from social media. Agencies use “predictive judgments” – or guesses – to capture those who may commit, or be prone to commit, acts of terror. That’s hardly innocence before guilt, but it works for the no-fly list because no one has a right to fly on airplanes (there is a basic citizen right of interstate travel, but there are means of travelling between states that don’t involve airplanes). Gun ownership, though, is a fundamental right and to preclude it from those unceremoniously placed on the no-fly list (former Senator Ted Kennedy appeared on the list multiple times) would be a violation of justice and a deprivation of the rights that define our nation.
Gun research implies that America’s gun abundance leads to gun deaths. Congress and the government need to find ways to limit the number of guns available to us all, but they must do so in a judicious manner. Neither side – Republicans and Democrats – universally protects all rights, but together the two party system successfully holds our society’s rights in tact. We have to give credit where credit is due: Republicans protected a liberal society in this case.