About a year ago, several congressional Democrats pushed a measure that seemed pretty reasonable. If you’re on the FBI terror watch list, you should be ineligible to buy weapons in the U.S. Law enforcement has long supported the proposal, but Congress keeps rejecting it. Last year was no different — the NRA told lawmakers to kill the bill, and they did as they were told.
This week, the effort died again in the House.
Republicans on the House Judiciary panel shot down a proposal Thursday to prevent weapon sales to suspected terrorists.
In a party-line vote of 21-11, the committee Republicans killed an amendment from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) that would have blocked firearm purchases by those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. The vote came during the markup of legislation renewing certain provisions of the Patriot Act that are slated to expire later this month.
Quigley accused the Republicans of limiting certain civil liberties for the sake of fighting terrorism in the underlying Patriot Act bill, but refusing to restrict Second Amendment rights for the same purpose.
And that seems like a more than fair point. The Republican line when it comes to suspected terrorists is that rights are a luxury we cannot afford. Miranda? Don’t bother. Due process? That’s pre-9/11 thinking. GOP officials think nothing of empowering law enforcement to tap phones, read emails, and in some cases, even engage in torture, with little or no oversight.
But if you’re on the terrorist watch list and want to stock up on automatic rifles, conservative Republicans will do whatever it takes to make sure you can do just that.
As Gail Collins noted a while back, “There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.”
In fairness, I should note that the terrorist watch list is admittedly flawed. For that matter, we can have a reasonable discussion about whether the proposal would be as effective as proponents hope. Existing law prohibits gun sales to illegal immigrants, felons, the severely mentally ill, and those convicted of domestic violence, but some of these folks have been known to get guns anyway.
But GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee still said Second Amendment rights are paramount here.
We’re left with a remarkable conservative line: if you’re a suspected terrorist, Republicans don’t want you to be able to buy an airplane ticket, but they’re comfortable with you being able to buy loaded firearms.