The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Vast Injustice of Linking Gun Purchases to the No-Fly List

So, Obama wants Congress to make it so that people on the No-Fly List can’t buy guns.

This is a terrible idea, and if you are for it, you are a terrible person.

The No-Fly List itself is a terrible idea. The basis of justice is that you cannot be punished without being found guilty of the  charges against you. You wind up on the No-Fly list without ever having a trial where you can see the evidence against you and face your accusers.

The details are shady as hell, with any number of government apparatchniks able to put you on the list with no review…but I don’t want to get into them, or into how many people are on it, or any of the rest of that.


Because it doesn’t matter. It’s a punishment enforced without conviction in a trial where you can face your accusers and see the evidence against you. Ideally, in Common Law countries, this should the option to be tried by a jury of your peers.

I am willing to make an “imminent harm” exception, which lasts for a few days, at which point a person must be charged or released–and, if charged, a trial date must be set in a timely manner.

The No-Fly list is only one part of the American justice system that is corrupt if held to this standard. Another example is Civil Forfeiture, in which police can seize your property without ever proving you committed a crime. This practice is now responsible for more property loss than actual theft. The fact that the Treasury Department is able to freeze assets due to RICO statutes before a trial is unjust. The same goes for anti-terrorism statutes that freeze assets.

All of this stuff is evil as hell. Want to punish someone by taking away their rights, whether it’s to own a gun, fly on a plane, or have money? Prove it in a court, with a sufficient preponderance of legal evidence, the ability to see that evidence, to face those who accuse you, and so on.

Obama is wrong on this, but then Obama arrogates the right to kill both foreigners and Americans without trial, so this should hardly be surprising.

This is fundamentally evil; it is one of the main things that America was founded to oppose and it is vastly unjust.

The entire American “justice” system needs to be overhauled. Plea bargaining needs to be removed entirely (yes, the system can run without plea bargaining), trials must occur in a timely manner, and everyone must have competent counsel (which would mean barring rich defendants from paying any more for private counsel than public defenders receive).

These are the requirements for JUSTICE.  It is something America, and a depressing amount of Americans, don’t even understand any longer.

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  1. hvd

    To your list should be added a number of destructive civil penalties adopted by regulation, purportedly “liberal,” but used as both a shield and a sword by the wealthy and their lawyers, while used to attack the unwealthy. An example is consumer fraud regulations requiring written contracts for home contractors, most of whom are unaware of such regulations and further without the means to create competent contracts. Wealthy homeowners then use the lack of written contract to avoid payment despite fact that there had been a verbal agreement. Of course, wealthy contractors who can afford lawyers use the contract to limit the rights of homeowners in the contract.

  2. realitychecker

    Bravo, Ian. Right on target in all respects. That’s the considered opinion of a lawyer. 😉

  3. gfdd

    This is fundamentally evil, it is one of the main things that America was founded to oppose


  4. Peter*


    What you highlighted is an example of the power of the myth of Amerikan founding principles that never really existed except for those with power and influence. The Alien and Sedition Acts were early examples of this tendency and they were politically motivated security measures also.

    Obama’s concern trolling about these dangerous but unidentified or legally excluded threats is pure electioneering, standing on the dead bodies of the victims in SB to sell more Liberal gun control and show that his Party is trying to protect the rubes and this clown claims to be a constitutional scholar.

  5. nihil obstet

    The entire American “justice” system needs to be overhauled to get rid of this, to remove plea bargaining entirely (yes, the system can’t run without plea bargaining), to ensure timely trials and to make sure that everyone has competent counsel (which would mean not allowing private citizens to pay any more for private counsel than public defenders receive.)

    In order to do this, we would need to reduce radically the number of actions that we define as “crimes.” That is, we’d have to stop using the criminal justice system to deal with social issues and control. Until then, our leaders will patronizingly explain to us that reform sounds nice, but we just can’t afford it. We need to ask and keep asking, “Why the hell is this a crime?”

  6. Dan Lynch

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this! For the past few days I have felt very lonely explaining to my “liberal” friends why no American should be treated like a 2nd class citizen merely because of a vague accusation.

    And of course the hypocrisy of Democrats calling for the expansion of the Bush-Cheney watch list is stunning, but hardly surprising. Democrats stand for absolutely nothing.

  7. S Brennan

    Clearly, like his predecessor, President and Constitutional “scholar” Obama doesn’t see the value trials…before, depriving citizens of their rights.

    Meanwhile, Gitmo and the other secret prisons of the US’s gulag archipelago are still going full bore…sheesh. Obama’s people are worse than Bush’s people…or are they, let’s argue about the “lessor of two evils” shall we?

  8. EGrise

    Clearly, like his predecessor, President and Constitutional “scholar” Obama doesn’t see the value trials…before, depriving citizens of their rights.

    Also like his predecessor, he doesn’t believe in letting an opportunity go to waste.

  9. Peter*

    I also need to thank Ian for this post because it made me realize how I have been conditioned to accept the idea of the No Fly List, as somehow justified, when it is just another Authoritarian tool of control just as our Surveillance Industrial Complex and TSA enforcement/conditioning programs are.

    The idea that we can somehow deflect or reverse this conditioning/control vector that is gaining magnitude and has a set direction is a failure to realize that we, the few people who even discuss these issues, have or will ever have the power to demand justice or liberty or any of the other freedoms we foolishly thought we once had.

  10. Ian — EXACTLY!
    My comment from Dailykos when this ugly idea reared its head again last week:

    The “No-Fly” list needs to be abolished as it currently exists.

    Discussing gun safety and gun safety laws, in the context of the “no-fly” list, only gives credence to a dubious governmental program (the “no-fly” list) that lacks oversight, justification, due process and a constitutionally valid enabling act by Congress.

    There are many people who should never be allowed to buy a gun. However, there is no place for adjudicating any citizen’s rights or privileges relative to that person’s standing on an arbitrary “no-fly” list. It doesn’t matter whether the right or privilege relates to receiving a stormwater discharge permit or buying a firearm, the starting point must NEVER be a bungled, unreliable and insidiously corrupt program such as the Federal Gov’t’s “no-fly” list.

  11. Bruce Wilder

    Democrats, who roll their eyes at Donald Trump, or fake outrage at the way he talks like a 3rd grader, need to realize that this is the same fascist “thinking” coming from Obama — the same spirit of disrespect for other people and their interests, the same unwillingness to be responsible for civic authority, which is making democracy impossible.

    I do not think that partisans of either of the two Parties are responsible alone. There is a third Party of journalists and pundits, who should be providing a check on truth, reason and good will, but abdicated that responsibility 40 years ago.

    We talk in cliches and conventions, with no referents for the abstractions in our slogans. Critical thinking is routinely suspended on every political topic. It is deeply frightening.

  12. Jerome Armstrong

    Amazingly in its implications. This passing would be the straw that leads me to flight.

    “Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun,” Obama said. “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.”

    And nothing to stop that argument to be made against these so-called terrorist suspects from being able to have free speech either. They are not going to let this go silently either. The Pentagon would love to have this power in their hands. Pelosi is starting a discharge petition. Ayotte is saying she’ll support it if some sort of “due process” is inserted into the process (yea, right).

    This is the Democrats playing their strong terrorism card, to claim that the Republicans are weak on fighting it. But all it really shows is who among them leans toward a state fascism.

  13. Jerome Armstrong

    And this:

    “it’s reasonable to wonder whether the current list would be effective as a gun-ban database — or whether the government would start aggressively adding “domestic terrorists” to the list to prevent them from buying guns rather than flying.”

    What a slippery slope this list becomes, as it’s not difficult to imagine how anti-corporate or environmental-activism behavior, for example, gets categorized as domestic terrorism under the next Republican administration (or hell, even Democrat).

  14. fdvf

    “That’s what ‘Due Process’ means…it means there’s a process that you do.
    –Stephen Colbert

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