In the news yesterday is an alarmist article titled “People on terrorist watch list allowed to buy guns”. It should, more accurately, read “Innocent people allowed to buy guns”. Today CNN is running a poll asking if we think people on the watch list should be allowed to buy guns. Overwhelmingly (89%-11%) the answer is no. This is the wrong answer. A senator is introducing legislation to remove the right of these people to buy guns. But these people haven’t done anything wrong. They are not terrorists. They are suspects, but they are not even suspects of crimes committed, they are suspects of possible future crime. They are being denied their rights because of what they might do.
To put it in context: let’s say you are put on a list of those likely to have a fatal car accident, so you are forbidden to get a driver’s license, or buy a car. Is that right? Would that be acceptable if the list was 95% accurate? What if it was 50% accurate? How about 5% accurate? What percentage of the people on the terrorist watch list have actually committed or attempted to commit terrorism? I doubt those figures are public, but I can assure you the number is closer to 5 than 95. And for the record: car accidents kill far more Americans than either terrorists or guns do.
The ban would make no sense at any rate. Who is committing terrorism with guns? Planes, yes. Bombs, yes. Guns? Not so much. Guns are not the weapons of terror. Well, unless one is pointed right at you. But the point of terrorism is to scare people who are nowhere near the scene of the actual event. So clearly, if we’re taking freedoms away from innocent people in the name of fighting terror… the terrorists have succeeded. We are literally terrified beyond reason.
People on the list are an interesting group. As Bruce Schneier sums it up: They are too dangerous to let fly in an airplane, but too innocent to prosecute in a court of law. Where is the sense in that? Even some of our elected politicians have wound up with their names on the terrorist watch list. Of course, being well connected as they are, their names don’t stay there long. What about yours? And did you know that simply speaking out against the government can get you labeled a terrorist?