The Orlando shooting at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12th reignited the never-ending movement for increased gun regulation. While most proposals solely attacked the Second Amendment, one surreptitiously violated the Fifth, the right to due process, as well.
This was the proposal to bar individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. That sounds reasonable enough: no one wants a terrorist to have a gun. However, in order to be include someone on such a list, the government doesn’t need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. They just need to find that person suspicious.
Of course, this flips due process on its head. If the government can take away someone’s right and make them appeal to get it back, that individual is essentially presumed guilty until proven innocent.
The proposal also leaves significant room for error. There are tens of thousands of Americans on the watch list. Are these all terrorists, or is it more likely that many are innocent? The question answers itself.
Liberals have typically argued on the side of due process, as in the case of the left’s general opposition to Guantanamo Bay. However, many have either forgotten or chosen to willfully ignore this inconsistency while trying to eliminate the right to bear arms in the United States.
Such inconsistency will lead to a Pyrrhic victory. Even if leftists are successful in battering the Second Amendment, they will set a precedent of weakness on due process that will come back to bite them.
This is for two reasons. First, an argument to take away due process of one enumerated right can also be used to take away due process for another. Second, and more importantly, the legal precedent to disregard due process for one right can in the future be used as justification to disregard it for another. Friendly tip: you might not care much about the Second Amendment, but I guarantee there are other amendments in the Bill of Rights you’re fond of.
Now what if this wasn’t entirely theoretical? What if there was the possibility of an incoming president that you had criticized as being racist, sexist, xenophobic, and insane? What if you had very seriously compared this candidate to Adolf Hitler? What if one of your main arguments against him was “Would you give this guy power over the nuclear arsenal?”
I have one more for you: would you give this guy power to take away the rights of American citizens without due process?
That (along with a video of Trey Gowdy from 2015) got me thinking: Could a President Donald Trump plausibly attempt to take away other rights by abusing the terrorist watch list? Let’s dive in.
1) Freedom of Speech:
Embedded in the First Amendment, the freedom of speech is held in high esteem by many liberals and conservatives alike. Trump, however, has already shown a lack of respect for the opener to the Bill of Rights. On Dec 7, 2015, he stated “We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
Should terrorism suspects have to get their name cleared before they can set up a Twitter account? Should terrorism suspects have to file an appeal before they can make a website, use their phone, or send a letter? Trump could argue in favor of such restrictions along the same lines as his argument for shutting down the Internet: to stop conversions to ISIS’s cause and to stop communication between terrorists. Why would we allow terrorists to communicate with each other?
But remember: the terrorist watch list uses subjective criteria and the government can add people incorrectly. At the end of the day, these are just suspects, and innocent individuals will be added to the list. On top of that, massive potential for abuse exists. We might applaud an actual supporter of ISIS losing their First Amendment rights, but how about someone who merely opposed war with ISIS? Or someone who criticized the government for killing innocent civilians overseas? Or someone who criticized Trump?
Sorry, the government is going to censor you, but if you show good behavior for a few years, they might give you your rights back!
2) Freedom of Religion: Trump has already called for a ban of Muslims coming from overseas, basing policy on faith, violating the spirit of the wall of separation. Liberals want to take suspected terrorists rights to buy guns away, but what about Muslim Americans’ right to worship? Should we require Muslims to prove they aren’t terrorists before we let them open a mosque or engage in prayer? It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where all Muslims are seen as potential terrorists; something liberals surely would not support.
3) Cruel and Unusual Punishment: During the Republican debate on Feb. 6, Trump stated “In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians. We have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before. I would bring back waterboarding. And I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
The Eighth Amendment protects Americans from “cruel and unusual punishment.” However, Trump might argue, if someone is on the terrorist watch list, do they really deserve this privilege?
Again, we’re talking about suspects. Would liberals be comfortable taking away this right for mere suspects? Hopefully so, because such a precedent used against the Second Amendment could also be used against the Eighth. Sit back, relax, and pray you’re not a Muslim.
It’s okay though! After you’ve been cruelly and unusually punished, you can file a suit to get back your rights! But you might not get a lawyer until you prove you’re not a terrorist.
Hopefully, this serves as a reminder to liberals that power can be abused. Even if a President Trump didn’t eliminate rights in the ways we’ve speculated, someone else down the line could. Not every leader or representative will use their authority for good, and it’s therefore important not to create a precedent for additional authority without first understanding the potential consequences. By attacking the right to due process, liberals could get what they desire temporarily. But a Pandora’s box would be opened, leading to results even they wouldn’t appreciate in the future.