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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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So much for innocent-’til-proven-guilty

Suppose there were some ultra-classified list maintained by the authorities — sort of a double-secret probation register for the government — and you had no way to discover whose name was on it (yours could be there, for all you know), what constituted a triggering incident, or how the innocent could be exonerated.

If such a thing existed, how would we feel about authorities stripping those on the list of their constitutional rights? I mean, it’s one thing to keep such people out of airplanes — no one has an absolute right to fly commercially — and otherwise to maintain a wary eye on their activities. But, remember, we’re talking about mere suspects; they haven’t been convicted, or arrested, or even accused of anything. They’re simply people who might, based on unknown — possibly sketchy — evidence, be up to something.

Should they still be able to worship where they please, or gather with others to criticize the government? Should we allow police to stop and frisk them anytime, anywhere? Should they be allowed to insist on a search warrant before a SWAT team barges through their front door? Would it be OK if we jailed them for months at a time without specifying charges, or setting a trial date or allowing them to consult a lawyer?

If none of that would be OK, if all of those constitutional guarantees we hold dear for anyone presumed innocent — as, ostensibly, suspects of all crimes are — should remain intact, then why is anyone even listening to Democrats and some addle-headed Republicans who want to suspend the Second Amendment for those whose names are on the FBI’s terror watch list?

I know. Because guns.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer calls the ability of “suspected or known terrorists” to purchase firearms “an appalling loophole.” In reality, it’s called the “Fifth Amendment,” which staunchly defends individuals from being denied “life, liberty or property” without due process.

If folks are “known terrorists,” to borrow Schumer’s presumably flawless insight, what are they doing mingling among us? Let’s haul them in. Let’s get the wheels of justice turning. Arrest, arraign and set their bail. While we await their trials, confiscate their weapons, block their access to gun shows (but do we really think the Paris killers — the impetus for this fresh assault on the Constitution — obtained their weapons by exploiting a “loophole”?), monitor their conversations and debrief their pals and pastors.

As precautionary measures, that’s all fine and dandy, as long as the government is willing to put its cards on the table, to make a public accounting of why fundamental rights should be denied this or that shady character. Otherwise, what Ben Franklin said about the liberty/security trade-off applies.

Believe this: Once gun-control enthusiasts are able to deny otherwise legal firearms purchases to “suspects” of “terror” whose names are on a deeply secret list with little recourse for removal, mischief is sure to follow. Definitions of terroristic activity will expand, followed closely by the number of names among the suspicious.

Is it beyond imagining that those guilty of nothing more than improper outspoken thoughts will land on the no-guns-for-you list? Of course it isn’t. As the record on this regarding almost anyone affiliated with the tea party makes clear, you can count on it.