New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is beside himself. He cannot understand how a federal loophole could allow terrorists who are on the no-fly list to still be able to purchase guns, ammunition, and explosives.
Perhaps he should talk to some Republican lawmakers. Apparently, the right to bear arms, in their minds at least, extends even to those whom we deem the most dangerous with respect towards preserving our national security.
Bloomberg thought the idea reprehensible, and told a Congressional committee recently that he had great difficulties coming to terms with it. “Shouldn’t FBI agents have the authority to block sales of guns and explosives to those on terror watchlists, and [those] deemed too dangerous to fly?” he asked rhetorically.
The New York City mayor, and independent, is absolutely right -- and in light of the recent terror plot that failed to come to fruition, thankfully, it would make sense to disallow these enemies of our country the right to purchase weapons and explosives. In the past six years alone, in 91 percent of all cases (over 1,100 instances), people who were on terror watchlists were allowed to proceed with their purchasing of dangerous weaponry or explosives because there weren’t any legal reasons to stop them at that time.
But some Republican lawmakers -- like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME) -- disagree, believing that Second Amendment rights outweigh any right the American people may have to feel at least some sense of security.
“None of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun, but neither should we want to infringe upon a Constitutional right of law-abiding Americans,” Collins said at the same hearing as Bloomberg this week.
Graham agreed. “We’re talking about a Constitutional right here,” he said, adding, “[the bill would force] innocent Americans to pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back.”
As far as Constitutional rights goes, the GOP seems pretty inconsistent on the whole matter. They maintain that terrorists don’t deserve a trial by jury, a right preserved under the Bill of Rights (Faisal Shahzad, the admitted terrorist behind the bomb plot in NYC, is a naturalized citizen of the United States). Because terrorists are part of the “war on terror,” say many Republican leaders, they must be treated like enemy soldiers.
But when we detain these “military combatants,” Republicans insist that their rights as soldiers in that war can be withheld because they aren’t ACTUALLY soldiers. So which is it? Do we decide to try these criminals for what they are, as people trying to achieve a destructive purpose either in a civilian court or military tribunal? Or do we decide that certain people, American citizens included, can be held indefinitely by the government, a direct affront to our primary governing document that we hold so dear, the U.S. Constitution?
Add this latest bit of news to the mix, and the inconsistency gets even more complicated. Republicans now insist that the right to bear arms extends to terrorists. Really? Look at what Republicans are saying: the GOP is ignoring important provisions in the Constitution guaranteeing a trial (or tribunal in cases occurring within the military field) but promoting FOR TERRORISTS the right to have weaponry.
Why would some Republicans promote the idea of arming our enemies? Certainly there are some limits to our rights -- even the starkest libertarian would agree that free speech rights don’t protect a person who tells military secrets to our enemies. So why should the Second Amendment protect gun rights for them?
Conservatives like to argue that the Second Amendment is absolute, but then try to curtail other privileges protected within the Bill of Rights. If anything, the one right that shouldn’t be absolute is the right to bear arms. If protected to the extreme, it would (and is) undoubtedly arm people who would have no qualms with attempting to destroy the United States. If we are to allow the arming of the very people who are trying to kill us, who are trying to destroy our country as we know it, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the right itself, at least in a way that will allow all Americans to be safer in the process.
Certainly the right exists; a free people deserve to feel protected in their own home, and arguably elsewhere, through the right to own some weaponry. But there should be limits on who can obtain a weapon if we determine certain people would do something destructive with that right. We treat every other right that way: why not the right to bear arms?