Senator Heitkamp Wants to Deny People Their Gun Rights by Putting Them on a Government List


Senator Heidi Heitkamp at Cirrus Aircrafts' celebration Tuesday, December 20 in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

No doubt under fire from her left-wing base on the gun control issue, Senator Heidi Heitkamp has decided to trot out a bad idea she’s backed previously.

Namely, denying people their civil rights simply because the government puts them on a list Which, to be fair, is not far off from President Trump said gun owners should get due process rights only after their guns are seized.

He’s wrong too.

Specifically, Heitkamp is backing legislation that would deny gun rights to people on the federal government’s no-fly list:

A bipartisan group of nine senators is reintroducing legislation that would prevent individuals on terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

The proposal, led by Maine Republican Susan Collins and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, was rejected by the Senate in 2016. But after the Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people, the senators say it’s a common sense bill with broad support.

Collins said, “If you are considered to be too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you should not be able to buy a firearm.”

That sounds good, until you realize how easy it is for perfectly innocent people to end up on one of these lists. But don’t take my word for it. The ACLU – hardly some right wing organization – opposes this legislation. “We have deep concerns…about legislative efforts to regulate the use of guns by relying on our nation’s error-prone and unfair watchlisting system,” the group wrote about the 2016 iteration of this terrible idea.

In a letter the ACLU sent opposing this legislation in 2016, they argue that it’s far too easy for Americans to end up on a government watch list without any due process at all:

The government contends that it can place Americans on the No Fly List who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of conduct that the government concedes “may or may not occur.” Criteria like these guarantee a high risk of error and it is imperative that the watchlisting system include due process safeguards—which it does not. In the context of the No Fly List, for example, the government refuses to provide even Americans who know they are on the List with the full reasons for the placement, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker.

The federal no-fly list is shrouded in secrecy. A leak in 2013 showed some 47,000 people on it (though only 800 Americans), and many of these people have no idea they’re even on the list. “The government sends no official notification to those on the list; many times, people don’t find out until they’re denied boarding at the airport,” Fox News reported in 2015.

“There is this black box procedure which operates purely behind the curtains and no one is able to part those curtains and find out what really goes on,” airline industry analyst Robert Mann said at the time.

The mechanisms for ending up on the no-fly list are a secret, though there has been speculation about the criteria. Controversial social media postings can land you on it, as can travel to certain parts of the world or even just having a name similar to someone the government thinks should be on the list.

These are the thin justifications we would use to deny someone their 2nd amendment right?

Can you imagine telling someone they didn’t have the right to speak, or write, or peacefully assemble, or protections against unwarranted searches and seizures because the government put them on a list without any warning or due process?

In a 2016 op/ed Senator Heitkamp tried to explain these due process concerns away by pointing out that the legislation would allow people to appeal their inclusion on the watch list if they’re denied their rights. Only, that’s not how due process works. The government doesn’t get to just take your rights away until you prove you’re allowed to have them.

That’s guilty until proven innocent, a concept which has no place in a free society.