Marco Rubio Reintroduces Bill Barring Anyone Investigated for "Domestic Terrorism" from Buying Firearms

You cannot claim to uphold one right by sacrificing others

Senator Marco Rubio reintroduced legislation last week to prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. Called the Terror Intelligence Improvement Act, “The bill would also provide more authority for law enforcement agencies to go after suspected terrorists, while safeguarding law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment and due process rights.”

“After the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub, I made a promise to improve our laws to make it more difficult for evil people to get ahold of guns,” Rubio said. “This bill is a common-sense measure that would help ensure criminals, terrorists, and others seeking to take innocent lives are not able to acquire firearms, while also protecting the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans.”
The Terror Intelligence Improvement Act would:

  • Consolidate all federal terrorism investigation intelligence under the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), strengthening the FBI’s capabilities and making sure dangerous individuals do not fall through the cracks.

  • Require the FBI Director and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) be immediately notified of any request to transfer a firearm to an individual who was the subject of a federal terrorism investigation within the last 10 years.

  • When an individual who was the subject of a federal terrorism investigation within the last 10 years tries to obtain a firearm, allow the U.S. Attorney General to delay the purchase or transfer for up to ten business days and file an emergency petition in court to prevent the transfer. If the court finds probable cause that the individual is or has been engaged in terrorism, the Attorney General may arrest the individual.

  • Protect the due process rights of law-abiding Americans by ensuring emergency petitions filed by the Attorney General are only granted if the transferee receives notice of the hearing and has the opportunity to participate with legal counsel. If the court denies the Attorney General’s petition, the federal government is responsible for all reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees.

  • Require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IC IG) to conduct an audit of the federal government’s terrorism screening and watch list procedures, and identify any problems in the processes of adding or removing individuals from the system. Based on the audit, the IC IG must then submit a report to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees with recommendations for improving the system.

The bill can be found here. I’ve written extensively about the issue of watch lists and the exercise of rights. No one wants actual terrorists buying guns. I don’t want a terrorist out walking on the street much less buying a gun. Gun control advocates disingenuously argue that advocacy for the preservation of rights like due process is the same thing as wanting terrorists to buy guns. That’s the only talking point they care about:

“Every senator is now going to have to say, whether they’re for terrorists getting guns or against terrorists getting guns,” Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer told reporters on Thursday.

If lawmakers want to stop suspected terrorists placed on a watch list from buying firearms they need to indict them

I have no problem with this. I do have a problem with stripping someone of a natural right based on suspicion alone as a penalty without a conviction. Lawmakers want inclusion on the list to count as a conviction because it excuses them from bringing formal charges based on evidence. If you have evidence, bring forth charges. This expectation that the American people should bear the burden of the state's inability, or outright refusal, to prosecute suspected terrorists isn't constitutional.

We don't suspend the 5th Amendment rights of due process for American citizens based on (often faulty) suspicion. And what happens if you find yourself on the list? These lists (there terror watch list, no fly list, they rely on much of the same data) are also faulty, people are often wrongly included, and it takes great expense and time to remove oneself. I don’t see how Rubio’s bill addresses this beyond covering “reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees.” People like Teddy Kennedy, John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, journalists Leland Vittert and Stephan Hayes have all been erroneously included on similar lists. Recently James O’Keefe was incorrectly identified as a prohibited possessor, a classification discovered after he went to purchase a shotgun, corrected only after significant expense.

For years the defense of these secretive lists and their unknown standards was “if you’re not engaging in terrorist activities you’ve no reason to worry.” That was before sitting congressional members like Kathleen Rice began calling average Americans “domestic security threats.” It was before their party abused the FISA system to spy on private citizens and edited CIA emails to further their false cause. These lawmakers give no indication that Americans can expect the presumption of innocence in an era where elected officials zealously abuse their authority to punish political wrongthink — and considering that officials placed returning veterans and tea partiers on terror watch lists a decade ago, citizens are entirely justified in their concerns. It is especially troubling seeing as these same officials mostly ignore the violent rioting from Antifa and some BLM groups.

Rubio says he wants to “protect the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans.” By sacrificing one constitutional right for another? There is a way to bar terrorists from buying firearms while protecting due process and Second Amendment rights and that is called bringing charges. Inclusion on a list isn’t evidence, especially when the very things that define inclusion have proven to be arbitrary and often politically motivated. If the left was serious about terrorism they should have never sought to diminish the seriousness of the issue by using the classification to describe political opponents. If the issue is serious enough to start stripping rights, it’s serious enough to demand charges and a conviction.

It’s enough of an emergency for lawmakers to demand that you reduce the strength of your rights, but not enough of an emergency for them to bring forth charges. That isn’t protecting “the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans,” that’s you demanding that law-abiding Americans surrender them. Our rights aren’t forfeit if the state can’t make its case.

The Senator also cites the Pulse Nightclub terrorist as the motivation for his dedication to this bill but omits that Omar Mateen himself was repeatedly investigated by the FBI for months leading up to the massacre before being cleared. I wrote this after the attack:

– Omar Mateen had numerous terror ties.

– Mateen was registered to a political party

– Mateen was under FBI surveillance, the same government that missed the Fast and Furious-armed Garland terroristSeung Hui ChoJared LoughnerDylann Roofthe Tsarnaevs, and more. – Twenty minutes into his terrorist attack Mateen called police and pledged allegiance to ISIS.

– He was a wife beater.

– Mateen's father is a Taliban-supporting radical.

I’m curious why the FBI never acted on 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) regarding Mateen’s domestic violence so he could be convicted and declared a prohibited possessor. If this is about neutralizing the danger, why just remove the gun and leave the terror suspect? You only removed one variable, he can obtain a pressure cooker, fertilizer, or just use a vehicle if truly committed to murder. Terror watch lists don’t work in preventing suspects from buying guns. They don’t. Stopping a terror suspect from buying guns legally doesn’t stop them from buying guns illegally. It hasn’t worked with other criminals.

I fail to see why the penalty for the FBI’s previous admitted mistakes (or the mistakes made by other authorities) involving preventable tragedies must be borne by the citizenry at large. Why should we accept the erosion of our due process as punishment for acts we did not commit? Why should we accept the existence of “pre-crime” lists with vague, if not entirely secretive, means for inclusion as a substitute for evidence or formal charge?

Surely this downgrades Rubio’s A+ rating.


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