When our blood is boiling, we love to cheer on our causes and shout down the opposition. Is this you? “Guns — bad! Gun control — good! U.S. House of Representatives staging a sit-in to get a vote — very good! Periscope streaming to C-SPAN — great!” But hang on a second — have you really thought about what you’re cheering for?
Here’s the logic behind the filibuster in the Senate that will led to a vote on gun-control measures, and the sit-in in the House with the same aim:
- Republicans leaders have blocked any vote on gun-control.
- Democrats, in the minority in both houses, used these measures to force a vote.
- Legislators get to vote on whether to stop terrorists — on the “No Fly List” — from getting guns.
- When Republicans vote against these measures, Democrats get to say, “See, Republicans would rather preserve gun rights than block terrorists from getting guns. They’re controlled by the NRA.”
Hang on a second, how does that No Fly List actually work?
- Include anyone the government suspects, regardless of any due process.
- Profile Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in a discriminatory way. For example, there are more people on it from Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a large Muslim population, than any other city except New York, even though no one from Dearborn has ever been prosecuted for terrorism.
- Include 680,00 people. Are there really over half a million suspected terrorists in the United States? Or is this list, out of an abundance of caution, full of false positives?
- Are secret, and have no feature to appeal. Are you on this list? There’s no way to know. And if you are, why are you there? How can you fix it? You can’t know, and you can’t get off.
Imagine for a moment that this bill were to pass. We would have enshrined this extra-judicial watchlist into law. And having done so, we would have given the FBI and many other law enforcement agencies the ability to target anybody they want, with no recourse. Why not use the same list to restrict who gets opioid pain killers in the hospital? Who gets food stamps? Who gets credit from financial services companies? An arbitrary list like this has no place in legislation; it’s not a valid criteria for anything.
Which argument are you using to justify your support?
If you’re sharing the pictures of the Senate filibuster and House sit-in, which of these arguments are you supporting? Pick one (or more).
- I’m for Democrats and I’ll ignore their flaws. This isn’t perfect, but at least it’s something, and with Republicans you’ll get nothing.
- I’m for humiliating NRA-controlled Republicans. We need to shame these people! If it takes supporting a bill based on a questionable list, that’s ok — it’s not going to pass this session anyway. But it does allow us to say Republicans are so pro-gun rights that they’re soft on terrorists.
- I trust law enforcement here. If they say somebody shouldn’t have a gun because they’re a suspected terrorist, that’s good enough for me. Even if there’s no way to challenge things if you’re on the list in error.
- I’m for any gun control we can get. Civil liberties concerns are less important than stopping shooting. Even though nearly all the mass shootings are from people who aren’t on the list.
- My support is selective. I like the bills that ask for background checks and waiting periods, not the watchlist bill, but it’s hard to make that subtle point in a Facebook post.
Which is it? Are you a Democratic partisan, a Republican hater, a backer of unfettered law enforcement power, a believer that gun control justifies discrimination, or a backer with some subtlety that’s hard to spot? If you’ve got some other reason I missed, I’d like hear it.
If you want to control guns, let’s get real
You know what, I’m against shootings. I’m against anything that makes it easy for a single wacko — a religious nut, or any other kind — to easily and quickly shoot lots of people.
You want to propose restrictions on the types of guns people can buy or huge bullet magazines? I’m for that. Restrictions like that have worked pretty well to stop the spread of fully automatic machine guns.
You want background checks and waiting periods? Go for it.
You want to allow the CDC to conduct research on guns and repeal the Dickey Amendment? You’ve got my vote.
You want to tax bullets? Allow people to sue gun makers for safety issues? Require training and liability insurance, as we do with cars? Excellent.
You want to have a real discussion about repealing the Second Amendment? Let’s have the discussion.
But I’m not willing to give law enforcement the ability to create arbitrary lists and use them to restrict rights — even gun rights. Because once those lists are in the law, we’re all in trouble. And I expect the people I vote for to protect me from that, the same way they should protect us all from nuts with assault weapons.
A note about comments: Please be civil. I’ll delete comments that include personal attacks, fail to address the issues I’ve raised, or are based on emotion only. This is a space for reasoning, not screaming.