Who guards the guardians?

The Roman satirist poses the question, “Who guards the guardians?” This addresses the fact that while governments can monitor people, they often are themselves without supervision.  Claims of American exceptionalism are made often and not so frequently thought through, but in this area, we early on adopted a standard of government that divides power among many groups to build in checks on unrestrained action.

But the system that we created and claim to value doesn’t always work.  One example of this is the terrorist watch list, a supposed database of people who are a threat to the United States that arose out of our knee-jerk reaction to 9/11.  A lot of bad law came out of that incident, but of interest today is a secret list of names which we can’t know we’re on until we try to fly.  If we believe ourselves to be improperly included, we’re offered appeal to the very same institution that maintains the list.  To show how muddleheaded this business is, consider that in 2004, Ted Kennedy was not allowed to board an airplane, leaving us to wonder why our government figured he would be safer driving a car.  The American Civil Liberties Union points out a number of structural flaws with the system, including the large number of names—over a million—with no clear due process to test the appropriateness of being on the list.

As always, we can count on advocates of gun control to jump in on the wrong side of any issue.  Given the homicidal attacks in Paris over the weekend, we’re now being told that the NRA has allowed terrorists to purchase guns in America.  Sarah Jones, a writer for PoliticusUSA, puts the number of nefarious characters that got armed thanks to the NRA’s stubbornness at over 2,000.

There are two key problems with this assertion.  The first of these is the wishful thinking on the part of gun control advocates.  What if we insisted that anyone in this country be denied legal purchase of a firearm while being on the terrorist watch list—would that save us? Look at the gun laws of France.  Ownership of firearms is not regarded as a right, carrying in public is regulated, ownership of fully automatic rifles is prohibited, and ownership of semiautomatic rifles is allowed only by license.  Are we then to believe that the terrorists who assaulted the French capital passed background checks and were licensed to have the weapons they used?  In fact, as conceded by The Daily Beast, the AK-47s used likely came from the former Soviet Bloc countries so recently in conflict.  Once again, we see that running checks for gun purchases is an article of faith, but stands on no evidence.

But more than this, the criticism of the NRA here puts gun control advocates—who are often on the political left—in the odd position of supporting one of the key policies of the Bush administration.  Their jeremiads about how terrorists can go to gun shows and buy “assault rifles” aligns them with the USA PATRIOT Act, one of the worst laws ever passed in this country.

My stance on gun rights comes from a deeper belief in the value of individual rights.  I recognize the danger of rights.  I will not attempt to dodge that reality.  If people who advocate for a terrorist watch list when the NRA is against it wish to be consistent, they should show us how they supported the same list during the first decade of this century.  And they should explain to us how they don’t really believe in due process, in the concept of innocence until guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  We must act on principle, not on whim.  To be intellectually honest, we have to state those principles up front.  Mine is that rights are fundamental.  Those of gun control advocates are difficult to know for sure.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.