Main Menu

Be Careful With Those Secret Watchlists, Congressman


The horrifying June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando is just the sort of tragedy that demands government action. The death toll – whether it was the worst mass shooting in US history depends entirely on your definition of the former – was 49 people; around 50 were injured.

Government rode into action after Omar Mateen’s savagery. The people, such as they are, followed with demands that we do something, and do it quickly. No matter the tragedy – real or bizarre moral panic – elected officials and their constituents demand a fix. Unfortunately, quick government fixes for serious problems tend to look like alcohol and drug prohibition, the dangerously flexible Afghanistan invasion’s Authorization for Use of Military Force, or the PATRIOT Act.

And on Wednesday, some 40 House Democrats decided to sit on the floor and protest the lack of a vote on gun control legislation that they support. Parts of this legislation is a disturbingly bipartisan support for a denial of Second Amendment rights if someone is on a watchlist.

Regardless of your stance on the broader issue of gun control (I’m against it), the dismantling of gun rights without due process via a would-be buyer’s status on the no-fly list, or other terrorism watchlists should be something of concern to all Americans. It is in fact so concerning that the good people at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) don’t support this legislation. It has also been critiqued by the left-leaning folks at outlets as diverse as The Intercept and Gawker.

The day of representative civil disobedience was brought to you by Congressman John Lewis, who was once placed on the no-fly list himself. It took him a good while to get off of it, thereby proving that it takes a concerted effort for even the most privileged among us to affirm their innocence. (Lewis was joined by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, so insert your no-drive list jokes here). It’s a bit harder for nobodies who go to the airport, and learn that they mysteriously can’t be allowed on an airplane, but don’t know why.

More frustratingly still, Lewis also was a bona fide Civil Rights era bad-ass, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and who was a Freedom Rider that was beaten for his trouble. (It doesn’t hurt to remind people that King himself had guns and armed guards for part of his career, and his application for a concealed carry permit was rejected.) Lewis, it seems, should be able to remember that once upon a time, gun control was a purposeful effort to disarm minorities, and now those minorities are more likely to be Muslims, but the principle of due process should still be upheld.



Read more…