Typically, the hoplophobes in society make their loudest and most emotionally-charged pleas for yet more so-called “gun control” following an advantageously cherry-picked mass shooting of some sort. Despite the fact that these incidents are so rare as to fit the very definition of being statistically insignificant, these are nonetheless the events which garner the most media attention (certainly as compared to self-defense uses of firearms) and whip the mass hysteria the greatest. It is no coincidence that terrorists target these types of shootings for the same reason the media does – to invoke wide social emotional responses. As the old saying goes, “if it bleeds it leads.”
My response, particularly of late, has been to avoid as much as possible the emotions and illogical “we must do something” tack for substantive analyses and merit considerations of policy, how they (do not typically) square with the Supreme Law of the Land and/or existing federal law(s), and whether or not they will likely be effective. I usually start by asking the gun control proponent in question the following: what gun control law(s) do you want that would have prevented [insert catalyzing event here]?
To date, I have not yet been presented with a practicable or realistic law that would reasonably achieve the stated aim(s). Indeed, I usually get the figurative “deer-in-the-headlights” look, or perhaps occasionally a law proposal that is already on the books, owing to the near-universal trend of societal ignorance on the subject. I have found that the citizens, politicians, and pundits largely in favor of gun control generally have close to no idea at all what they are talking about, quite frankly. The vast majority of America’s hoplophobes have no clue what laws are already established, how firearms function, or how various firearms differ from each other. They typically know nothing whatever about ballistics and do not even bother to acquaint themselves with the particulars of the given shooting they are using as their respective basis for “action.”
And to that end, it is fairly childish to see so-called political “leadership” in this country stage a “sit-in” on the House floor, especially when they do not even have the determination to last much more than a single day. At least some reporting indicates this was meant more as political gimmickry than actual substance. Either way, this serves as a prime example of what I like to refer to as an “eye roll” moment. I mean, really, give me a break.
But enough of that. Let us examine the actual substance of the policy currently (as of this writing) under consideration and debate in the Congress. The Senate is reportedly discussing some form of a bill in response to the now-infamous Orlando Pulse Club shooting which would prohibit people who are placed on either the federal government’s so-called “no-fly” list or separate “selectee” list from purchasing a firearm. The colloquial marketing name for this legislation is “no-fly, no-buy.” It remains to be seen if Republicans will risk the probable electoral wrath of their constituents to pass such legislation, but suffice it to say I find it to be very problematic and borderline nonsensical policy.
First and foremost, the Second Amendment infringements involved in this case are clear enough. I do not need to go through this portion of the argument in any great detail here, as it would unnecessarily repeat substantive points and counterpoints already succinctly detailed throughout the Gun Politics section of this blog.
But in keeping with already mentioned trends, this proposed legislation in question does nothing whatever to address what actually happened in the Orlando shooting. That shooter was on neither of these lists (despite reportedly being investigated by the FBI), so as per usual this particular gun control legislation is either a) poorly written as it does nothing to address the specific factors involved in the incident used to justify its construction, or b) is a disingenuous smokescreen for a different agenda altogether. Either are unacceptable bases for legitimate legislation.
Worse, such a law is in clear conflict with the explicit due process requirements laid down in the Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (emphasis added). Additionally, the Sixth Amendment, as part of this due process requirement, guarantees
…the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed… and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses [and evidence] against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [sic] (emphasis added).
Obviously, secret lists by their very nature, and perhaps all too conveniently beneficial for the State, circumvent the accused’s right to challenge the evidence and accusations levied against him. It is difficult to say the least to redress grievances when one does not even know why they are being denied their rights and liberty in the first place.
But since hoplophobes are apparently not concerned with due process as such, and given that roughly 97.5% of folks on the two watch lists of concern are reportedly foreign nationals, why not just deport them altogether? If constitutional protections and requirements are not a concern, and the subjects in question are too dangerous to allow access to firearms, then surely they should not be in America at all? And for the ~2.5% (~2,700) that are Americans, put them in jail already. Again, the Supreme Law of the Land is clearly not a concern so we should just remove them from the streets outright so as to not only deny them access to firearms but also prevent them from making bombs, driving vehicles, and wielding knives and such in public.
It seems clear to me that such wanton disregard is not meant to protect Americans against terrorism as much as it is mean to give the government the means to easily and expeditiously avoid constitutional protections of certain potential “undesirables” going forward. After all, why prove that someone is evil and dangerous when you can simply assert that they are and never give them a reasonable chance to defend themselves? Such a policy is a win-win for the State. Regardless of where one stands on this point ideologically, one cannot deny that the very nature of such a policy reaps the net effect of infringing people’s documented, constitutional rights due to thoughtcrime, vice actual commission of a crime or subsequent conviction in a court of law (the latter outcome itself already bars firearms procurement under federal law).
Ironically, during the aforementioned sit-in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated the following:
One of the things that makes our country strong is our institutions. No matter how bad things get in this country, we have a basic structure that ensures a functioning democracy. We can disagree on policy, but we do so within the bounds of order and respect for the system. Otherwise it all falls apart (emphasis added).
Violating the Constitution in fact ignores the institution that gives the federal government its basic structure and charter. Infringing constitutionally protected rights in fact disrespects the system. These sorts of policies, which pick and choose when the Constitution is meaningful, such as when it grants Congress its legislative authority, and when it is not, such as when individual rights go ignored, are what cause “it all [to] fall apart.”
Sadly, you would think that given the very nature of America’s own independence movement from Great Britain, we would better understand that “do as I say, not as I do” does not work in a federal system that is expressly instituted to secure the unalienable individual Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.