June 18, 2016 - 8:00 pm
The Democratic response to the Orlando terrorist attack is coalescing around the idea of repealing the Second Amendment gun rights of anyone on a government terrorism watch list.
The Democrats may want to be careful with this, because it might backfire in ways they haven’t fully thought through.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, introduced an amendment that would give the attorney general power to “deny the transfer of a firearm if the Attorney General determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the transferee represents a threat to public safety based on a reasonable suspicion that the transferee is engaged, or has been engaged, in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources therof.”
This may be a bad idea for a variety of reasons.
Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin who is running to return to the U.S. Senate, warned, “before Congress implements measures related to the terror watch list, it must make sure it’s not restricting the fundamental rights of American citizens without due process.”
The American Civil Liberties Union complains that “the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error.”
Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas, has an alternative amendment that at least would provide for swift judicial review of such Justice Department determinations. That would be an improvement for those of us concerned about due process. The NRA and Donald Trump have indicated some openness to proceeding along those lines.
The real underappreciated irony here, though, is that this Senate debate over denying guns to those who provide “material support or resources” to terrorists comes the same week as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the U.S. government identifies as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, announced its plans to purchase 100 Boeing jets. That deal was made possible by billions of dollars in sanctions relief provided by — wait for it — Sen. Feinstein, along with several other prominent Democrats, such as Sens. Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Those senators voted to allow the Iran nuclear deal and its sanctions relief to go forward, and now they are also sponsoring this amendment to prevent gun sales to terrorism supporters.
As Americans found out, sadly, on 9/11 a Boeing passenger plane in the hands of terrorists can be deadlier than an assault rifle. An honest reading of the Feinstein gun control amendment would put Sen. Feinstein herself, along with Sens. Reid, Durbin, Blumenthal, Booker, Markey and Gillibrand, on the no-gun list for their votes providing resources to the terrorist state of Iran.
In other words, the senators are sponsoring an amendment so broadly worded that it could deny even them the right to buy guns.
If “providing resources” to terrorists is sufficient to repeal someone’s Second Amendment right to bear arms, President Obama himself might be in jeopardy for championing the $150 billion in sanctions relief that was part of the Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State Kerry helpfully clarified earlier this year that some of that money would flow to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, “or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists.”
CNN usefully headlined that admission “John Kerry: Some sanctions relief money for Iran will go to terrorism.”
I’m not calling President Obama or Sen. Feinstein terrorists. But if they are making a list of those providing material resources to terrorists, the Iran-Boeing announcement is a timely reminder that they might want to place themselves on it.
The biggest counterterrorism vote of the Obama administration, after all, was one that didn’t have anything to do with depriving Americans of guns.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK Conservative.” His column appears Sunday.