No fly, no guns, no due process

President Barack Obama’s proposal to ban people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns might make some sense at first blush, but a closer look at how the list works in practice and already violates the constitutional due-process rights of many innocent people, including U.S. citizens, illustrates how the Senate was right to shoot down this plan, and why the California Legislature should do the same when Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D., Los Angeles, makes good on his promise to introduce a similar measure.

First of all, the vast majority of those on the no-fly or other, broader terrorist watch lists are noncitizens who live overseas, and thus are already barred by federal law from purchasing guns.

The no-fly list also is not particularly accurate or effective, and notoriously sweeps up a lot of innocent people in its dragnet, including small children, veterans, journalists, even politicians. Many are put on the list because their names are the same, or similar to, the name or alias of someone legitimately suspected of terrorist ties, or because of simple clerical error. Such was the case with a Stanford University doctoral student who had to spend seven years in federal court battles to prove that an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form.

Some have alleged that they were placed on the list based on things they said or posted to social media, or because they refused to become FBI informants, as several Muslim-Americans contend in a federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The government places people on the no-fly list under the nebulous evidentiary standard of “reasonable suspicion,” and they then are considered guilty until proven innocent, which is a tall order. Those on the list are not able to present evidence, question witnesses or have their case adjudicated by a neutral party. As the case of the Stanford student illustrates, those who are ultimately successful oftentimes have to endure months or years of costly legal battles to clear their names.

It is a system in which people “are deemed too dangerous to go unsurveilled but not dangerous enough to arrest or investigate further,” where “hunches and gut feelings are elevated to places formerly occupied by Fourth Amendment protections,” Tim Cushing wrote in a 2014 post for Techdirt.

It would be a travesty to add Second Amendment violations to that list.

Reprinted from the Orange County Register

Distributed by Creators.com

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