“Never let a crisis go to waste.” Winston Churchill is often credited with coining this popular phrase. However, there remains some controversy over the true origins of the quote. No matter where it began, many a politician have used the concept to their advantage. For instance, the quote is also linked to Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff to Barack Obama and the current mayor of Chicago. Emanuel in 2008 gave his own version of the phrase to a Wall Street Journal conference of top corporate chief executives as the financial crisis was beginning to gain steam: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” As history has shown, politicians often view crises as perfect opportunities to push their agendas. This habitual practice is not limited to one party or ideology either. Terrorist attacks are often used by the right to advocate for more military intervention. We can see this in action today, as many Republican presidential candidates have pushed for more airstrikes and ground troops following the November 13th Islamic State attacks in Paris.
There are many who take issue with increasing our military presence in Iraq and Syria to combat ISIS. It’s a hot issue, and deserves much consideration before any action is taken. However, what does not and should not be debatable is the idea of stripping American citizens of their Constitutional rights because of the threat of terrorist attacks. Remarkably, Congressional Democrats are trying to build support to do just do that. In the wake of the Paris attacks, Democrats in both the House and Senate are trying to make a push for legislation to bar gun purchases by terror “suspects”. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, accused Republicans of “leaving every community in America vulnerable to attacks by terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosives purchased legally, in broad daylight” by leaving the “terrorist loophole open.”
On the surface, this bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, sounds like a superb idea. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get firearms out of the hands of terrorists? The problem with this disastrous, unconstitutional bill is that it treats “suspected” terrorists as already being charged or convicted. If this bill were to be passed, simply being placed on the terror watch list would essentially strip you of your Second Amendment right to bear arms. As the ACLU reports, the current terror watch list has over one million individuals on it. With the stroke of a pen, those individuals could lose a fundamental right without due process of law. It’s not unreasonable to make the argument that of those one million suspects that there are probably at least some who deserve to be watched. However, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept, 280,000 people on the Terrorist Screening Database have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” Over a quarter of a million people with no ties to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah would lose their fundamental right because they were placed on some “list.” This would be incredibly authoritarian and gives one flashbacks to Nazi Germany.
How does one get placed on the terrorist watch list? It’s not really clear, which adds to the arbitrariness of both the list and the bill being pushed by Democrats. If I were to offend powerful people in Washington, would I get placed on the list? What about if I organized a rally to protest something the government is doing that I disagree with? Or could I be placed on the terrorist watch list because of my religion? According to a story from August 2014 by WXYZ in Detroit, yes, yes I could. A federal lawsuit was filed in August of 2014 on behalf of five Muslims in Michigan who claim that they were placed on the government’s terrorist watch list without due process.
While the bill is almost certainly dead-on-arrival in the GOP-dominated Congress, it still illustrates the lengths that gun control advocates are willing to go to push their deranged and unconstitutional agenda. To be sure, the public has taken notice of the bill and the outrage has been palpable. Charles C.W. Cooke, a staff writer at National Review, recently commented on the proposed bill by saying that “anyone who would use terror as an excuse to subvert the Second Amendment should be tarred & feathered.” While I’m not ready to return to this colonial era form of public humiliation for fear of myself being added to the terrorist watch list, I think Cooke’s outrage is warranted. This bill is despicable, and is an extreme example of politicians not letting a crisis go to waste. Congressional Democrats should be ashamed. Perhaps the more appropriate quote should be: “Don’t let a crisis cloud your judgment.”