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So, yesterday was the day when progressives went red in the face advocating the stripping of due-process rights for members of a disfavored minority.
TODAY REPUBLICANS BLOCKED LEGISLATION THAT WOULD STOP PEOPLE ON THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST FROM BUYING FIREARMS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) December 4, 2015
As Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum calmly pointed out Wednesday, "Keeping guns away from terrorists sounds like a good idea, but merely appearing on the FBI's list, which may result from unjustified suspicions or guilt by association, does not make someone a terrorist." As Sullum further pointed out last month (these proposals springing up as they do every time guns are in the news),
The American Civil Liberties Union, which estimates that the watch list includes more than 1 million names, calls it a "virtually standardless" dragnet that "ensnares innocent people and encourages racial and religious profiling." Although the list is supposedly limited to people "reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity," something like two-fifths have "no recognized terrorist group affiliation."
Since innocent people who end up on the list have little recourse, it is neither fair nor reasonable to strip them of their constitutional rights. While people convicted of felonies or facing felony indictments are barred from buying guns undercurrent law, not even an arrest is necessary to put someone on the watch list.
It is nice to see many conservatives defending due process arguments this week, at least as pertains to the 2nd Amendment. But here at Reason, we make those arguments just as strenuously when conservatives are in power, covering all the rest of the amendments as well.
The current GOP presidential frontrunner wants to close down mosques, deport 4 million U.S.-citizen children of illegal immigrants, deport legal Syrian immigrants, reverse the 14th Amendment's provision of birthright citizenship, and celebrate private-to-private eminent domain transfers, all while darkly threatening that
We're going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule. And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we're going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner, meanwhile, is using as a foreign policy template her illegal, ill-thought, instability-spreading Libyan war, setting as her Supreme Court litmus test whether prospective jurists agree with her that anti-Hillary Clinton documentaries should be censored, touting Australia's gun-confiscation as "a good example," and on and on. Reason's agin' all of it, all the time.
Over the past 15 years, in Nick Gillespie's memorable phrasing, we have lurched from one "National Pants-Shitting Moment" to the next. The bigger the excrement, the bigger—and worse—the policy response. It can be lonely work during such times of stress pointing out that unintended consequences are the rule rather than the exception, that "just do something" is every bit as "ideological" as a principled skepticism toward government intervention.
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Look around you: Everybody you know is forwarding dubious "mass shooting" statistics on their Facebooks and Twitter; Reason's Jesse Walker, nearly alone in the universe, is giving you the tools you need to understand why the competing datasets vary so wildly. When Democratic politicians were rushing immediately into the breach demanding tougher new gun laws in response to the San Bernardino massacre, Brian Doherty calmly told you what those existing California laws actually were. I know this sounds like Journalism 101 stuff, but it's exactly in moments of high national panic that the outlets known for their journalism go into high screech alert, spreading more emotion than tools for helping you understand your universe.
"Logic, not legends." That's what Reason founder Lanny Friedlander promised back in May 1968, when this whole shebang got started. It's a high ideal to live up to, but we're trying, Ringo, we're trying.