Letter to the Editor: No-fly, terrorist watch lists really don’t work well

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 21, 2016 at 4:00 PM

To the Editor:

There is a great deal of discussion about whether people on the “no-fly list” or “terrorist watch list” should be able to purchase guns legally. This is one of those ideas that sound good if you say it fast, but there are some problems that I would like to address.  

First, let me get out that I simply have issue with “secret” lists. They sound too much like secret police sanctions. You do not know who is on the list or how you got there, or how to get off. You may not even know you are on the list until you are rejected for a trip or a purchase and then simply are told that you were rejected and no we don’t know why.  

We regularly hear of children as young as 4, 5, 6 or 7 being on the list, and no one knows how they got there.  U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list, but he was able to pull enough political clout to get off. You or I do not have that clout. If the no-fly list was more tangible or accurate, maybe, but do you really, really want to trust your rights to a vague list that no one knows how or why you got there or, perhaps more importantly, how to get off when a mistake is made.

The next bugaboo is the terrorist watch list. Now this one should actually have some muscle to it but apparently does not. The Orlando shooter was investigated twice with no results. Apparently making terrorist threats, threatening people’s lives over pork sandwiches, claiming that blacks, gays and other groups should be exterminated or having connections to groups such as the Taliban does not merit actually being placed on the watch list if you are Muslim. I guess not offending Muslims is more important than actually saving lives, because that appears to be the reason Mateen was not put on the list. If a good case can be made then put the guy on the watch list, political correctness be hanged. Some people are going so far as to say that if you are under FBI investigation or have been investigated then you should not be able to purchase a gun. But if you are going to follow that reasoning then shouldn’t being under active or prior FBI investigation bar you from holding federal or state office?

The third problem is one of “due process” under the Constitution. The Constitution states citizens can’t be deprived of rights or property without due process of law.  Simply being placed on a watch list does not constitute due process, especially if all it takes to be put on the list is someone saying, “Hey, let’s put this guy on the no-fly list,” and all it takes to keep you off is someone saying, “No we can’t do that. It might offend someone.” We need a sound, logical system for putting people on these lists and a sound expedient method to get folks off who have been put on the lists wrongly. Right now we do not have that.

Perhaps the NRA’s solution is the best in the short term. Under current background check regulations, the FBI and TBI are notified when someone attempts to purchase a firearm from a dealer. These agencies have three days to approve or deny the request. Let them take that time to determine if there is a valid reason to deny the application. If no real, valid justification can be found, then approve the request.

Roy Denney


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