Saturday, June 20, 2009


An infuriating story from Eric Lichtblau in The New York Times:

People on the government's terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.

In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.

The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government's terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun....

Instapundit, of course defends the practice:

SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT: Terrorist watch lists are bad, and Orwellian, because they're full of mistakes and put together without due process.

Well, terrorist watch lists are bad and Orwellian when they're full of mistakes and put together without due process. And the one we've got, yes, is quite flawed. I've criticized it repeatedly for ensnaring people just because they have common names, or merely share names with people who are under suspicion. And there need to be much better procedures for appealing inclusion on the list. But if we're using it to keep people off planes, or for any purpose at all, why is the gun so sacrosanct that it gets a carve-out? Oh yeah, I forgot: this is America, and the gun is God.

... Well, the Supreme Court says that gun ownership is a constitutional right, and you’re not normally supposed to lose a constitutional right because some bureaucrat puts you on a list without any due process. One suspects that this Eric Lichtblau story in the Times is part of a PR effort designed to gin up support for doing just that....

Is that it? It is only if Lichtblau and his editors are extraordinarily naive. After all, this gun carve-out was brought to the public's attention a few years ago and approvals of watch-listed purchasers subsequently went up:

...From February 2004 through February 2009, the report found, there were 963 requests for gun purchases through the federal system by people on the list. Of that group, 865 purchases -- or 90 percent -- were approved after a three-day review by the F.B.I. failed to turn up any other disqualifying factors.

A narrower study by the G.A.O. in 2005 first drew public attention to the issue. The Justice Department took some limited steps to address the issue, centralizing the review of gun purchases by those on watch lists to ensure that all possible disqualifiers were being considered.

Nonetheless, the rate of approval for requests to buy a gun went up from 80 percent in 2005 to the new study's 90 percent....

And don't tell me it's different now because we have a Democratic president and Congress. All the gun-worship has to do is stamp its fight loud enough and Obama and the leadership in Congress will just back off. It's the NRA's country -- the rest of us just try to stay alive in it.

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