So in the wake of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Obama’s curiously limp Oval Office speech, the latest call — by everyone from (pardon me while I laugh) “conservative” Donald Trump to “progressive” Big O himself — is to deny gun rights to anyone on the no-fly list.
Or is it the terrorist watch list? Even the politicians screeching most stridently in favor of this latest political fad don’t seem to have any idea that the no-fly list and the terrorist watch list are two different things.
Two very similar things, granted. Two lists created arbitrarily out of the fears and fantasies of bureaucrats. Two lists filled with flawed, incomplete, and often irrational data. Two lists that often produce laughably awful injustices.* Two lists it’s nearly impossible to get removed from. Two lists that are maintained in undemocratic secrecy. Two lists that are worlds removed from the due process protections of the Bill of Rights.
But different. Really.
One state governor — unsurprisingly it’s Dannel Malloy of Connecticut — has even vowed to issue an executive order ensuring that none of those pesky terrorists in his state can buy guns. Which list of terrorists he plans to use remains muddled.
Malloy is, of course, not the only one promising to sling orders about. Valerie Jarrett reports that Obama is finalizing his long-awaited executive order on guns. That should be exciting. And ineffective.
Because that’s the thing
All these faddish measures won’t work. You know that. But it’s the ways in which they won’t work that are fascinating.
They won’t work to prevent terrorist attacks of course. (The San Bernardino murderers weren’t on these lists, and the female of the pair had even been vetted and passed by immigration officials despite the fact that she and her future hubby were already merrily chatting away about jihad and mayhem before the fedgov welcomed her to the USA.) But they also won’t work for their real purpose, which is to keep us from buying guns.
AND — most telling of all, I think — they won’t even work for their political/PR purpose, which is to display the peacock feathers or sound the rooster crows of politicians.
Other than a few diehard fanbois and grrls is anybody — anybody? — the least bit impressed with Obama or Malloy? In your wanderings about town (or about the Internet) do you hear anybody saying, “Yeah, boy, they’re really gonna stop those dirty, rotten gun owning terrorists now?” or do you hear gun owners lamenting, “Oh no, this time my guns and I are really done for! I’m so scared!”
Sure, all this order-slinging is anti-constitutional, dictatorial, and in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Bill of Rights. Sure, arbitrarily putting people on government lists to be punished is creepy. Sure, using those lists to deny basic rights is everything bad you might ever want to say about it. And potentially dangerous.
If politicians get away with this, it will inspire them to treat us even more ill. Conceivably, there would be very little, at some future moment, to stop an anti-gun politician or bureaucrat from data-dumping the whole U.S. census into some list and declare in the fashion of the Soup Nazi, “No rights for you!”
All true. And effectively already in process.
But they’re only doing it because they’ve already lost. Not only lost the gun-rights battle (because, if nothing else, 3D printers are about to nullify every gun law on the planet). But because they’ve lost us. Our respect. Their credibility. Our belief that governments “represent” us or even can represent us. Their power to control us. This is increasingly true on both right and left. It’s been true in the libertarian center for decades.
We are watching not political peacocks displaying their grand feathers or roosters strutting about the chicken yard. We are watching political fish flopping about on a dock, hooks in their mouths, eyes wide with panic.
* Although it’s sadly not true that 72 employees of the Department of (Achtung!) Homeland Security are on the lists. Because surely thousands of these agents are a greater danger to both our liberty and our security than many of the people who actually are on the lists.
Ed. note: This commentary appeared first on TZP’s weekly email alert. If you would like to be among the first to see new commentary (as well as to get notice of new polls and recaps of recent posts), please sign up for our alert list. (See sidebar or, if you’re on a mobile device, scroll down). Be sure to respond when you receive your activation email!