GOP House members say a gun ban for Americans on govt. watch lists would be unconstitutional

Tuesday, December 22, 2015 by

( It doesn’t much from President Obama or many in Congress these days, but for some Republican lawmakers, the Constitution is not only relevant but ought to be more widely respected and honored.

In recent days some GOP House members have taken on calls by the Obama White House and many Democrats to deny anyone who has been placed on a government terror or other watch list from legally owning a firearm. That, in essence, violates both the letter and spirit of the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ due process requirements.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, some House GOP members proposed a resolution last week that points out the unconstitutionality of such watch lists. The web site reported further:

The idea of banning weapons from people on a watchlist has come up for the last few weeks, as a Democratic plan aimed at reducing gun violence. While Republicans have said the government should be trying to keep terrorists out of the country, Democrats have said a better answer is to deny potentially risky people access to guns once they arrive. 

But the resolution from Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., warns that federal watchlists are just that: lists of people who may be suspect, but who haven’t been convicted of any crime yet.

“The terrorist watch list is simply a tool for law enforcement,” she said. “However most recently, the Terrorist Watch List has conveniently served as a shiny object, or distraction, utilized by Democrats to divert attention away from their president’s failed foreign policy plan to defeat ISIS.”

“To prohibit American citizens — who have not been accused of a crime, yet remain on the Terrorist Watch List — from partaking in their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, without due process, would be unconstitutional,” she added.

Ellmers’ resolution would express the sense of Congress that it “runs contrary to America’s values” by taking away constitutional rights just because they were placed on a government list without due process.

“[T]he ‘Terrorist Watch List’ is a tool for law enforcement, and not a list of criminals or terrorists that have been afforded any due process,” the resolution says. “[T]he ‘Terrorist Watch List sometimes includes American citizens that have not been accused of any crime.”

The resolution concludes by saying any legislation prohibiting gun ownership by people solely because they’re on the watchlist “would be unconstitutional and should not be considered.”

Even some liberal media agree on the premise of Ellmers’ resolution. Bloomberg News noted Dec. 18:

President Barack Obama is trying to put Republicans on defense in the U.S. debate over gun rights with a call to ban people on the government’s no-fly list from buying firearms. The trouble is his proposal may be unconstitutional…

“What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terror suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?” Obama asked in an Oval Office address on Dec. 6, responding to the California assault and an attack last month in Paris that have together set Americans on edge. …

The short answer is: the Bill of Rights. While there’s no constitutional right to board an airplane, the Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own firearms. Courts have held that the government can suspend that right in certain cases — for felons and people who are the subject of restraining orders, for example.

“It’s hard to see how a constitutional right could be limited based only on suspicion,” Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, told Bloomberg News in a phone interview.

Lawmakers specifically basing their legislation on the Constitution should not be as rare as it is.

See also:

Washington Examiner

Bloomberg News


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