Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism Watch List’

The Second Amendment and the terror watch list

May 10, 2010

Sometimes it seems as though there are two schools of thought about the U.S. Constitution. One is that the only part of the Bill of Rights that matters is the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. A good example of this was Attorney-General John Ashcroft in the early George W. Bush administration. If he had upheld the Constitution as a whole as he did the Second Amendment, civil liberties in this country would be in better shape than they are.

The other school of thought is that the Second Amendment is the only part of the Constitution that doesn’t matter.  A good example of this is a recent proposal to forbid the purchase of firearms whose name is on the federal government’s terrorism watch list.  Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina came in for ridicule when he said that was a violation of a Constitutional right.

But like it or not, the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, and the Constitution – all of it – is the law of the land.  And there are more than a million people on the terrorism watch list, many of them in error. The list has included dead people, an eight-year-old boy, government officials with security clearances, Nelson Mandela and Senator Edward Kennedy. Moreover people have gotten themselves removed from the list by the simple expedient of changing their legal names. Will prohibiting people on the list from buying legal firearms really make the country safer?  Is it so ridiculous to fear that a list may be misapplied?