When It Comes to Gun Control Heidi Heitkamp Says Guilty Until Proven Innocent


Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The Senate is expected to vote later this week on a gun control measure backed by, and apparently lobbied for, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

“We need to reach a bipartisan compromise that truly aims to address the issue of keeping guns out of the hands of potential terrorists, while protecting Americans’ constitutional rights,” Heitkamp said of the proposal.

The problem is this legislation doesn’t protect our constitutional rights. Not only is it an affront to the 2nd amendment, but it’s problematic in light of the 5th amendment as well.

As I noted yesterday, this legislation would allow the government to remove a person’s civil rights – gun rights, specifically – simply by placing them on a threat list. To any reasonable person that would not pass muster for the “due process” required by the 5th amendment, but Senator Heitkamp says it does because you’d be able to appeal the government’s decision after the fact.

I’m not kidding you. That’s actually what she said:

Supporters of the bill said it provides due process by allowing individuals to appeal the decision to block gun purchasing rights, Heitkamp’s office highlighted in a news release. The bill would reimburse court costs accrued by anyone who succeeds in being removed from the list.

Here’s what the 5th amendment actually says about due process: “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The order of events seems pretty clear to me from that text. If the government wants to deny someone their liberty – i.e. their right to keep and bear arms – there must first be due process. What Senator Heitkamp is suggesting is that we can first deny someone their rights, and then give them due process after the facts.

Sorry, but that’s pretty clearly unconstitutional, even to a legal layman. Which Senator Heitkamp, a former Attorney General in our great state, most certainly is not.

Heitkamp has said it’s “pretty terrifying” to be backing legislation as deeply controversial as gun control. That’s an acknowledgement that Heitkamp knows what she’s doing, going up against the 2nd amendment, is politically risky.

It should be all the more risky because this is a 5th amendment issue as well. If we set up a process through which the government can deny you your 2nd amendment rights, charging you with gaining them back only through a process in which you are guilty until proven innocent, how long until they’re applying that standard to, say, your 1st amendment rights?