Defending liberties:
NRA should oppose ‘arbitrary denial’ of right across board

For those of us worried about government intrusion into our private lives - made possible by such anti-terrorism laws as the Patriot Act - the National Rifle Association (NRA) last week presented an eloquent defense of constitutional liberties.

At the same time it opposed a gun law sensibly aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

The NRA's position would set a precedent to support the idea than anyone, even a student with a history of mental illness, has the constitutional right to bear arms.

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA, is lobbying the Bush administration to stop the Justice Department from backing a bill that would keep terrorist suspects from buying guns and licenses to own them, according to the Associated Press.

His argument would make James Madison, the father of the Constitution, proud. Cox wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying that such a bill "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendments rights based on mere `suspicion' of a terrorist threat."

Cox added that as "many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word `suspect' has no legal meaning, especially when it comes to denying constitutional liberties."

Cox is right, of course, when it comes to the Constitution. Suspects are not guilty of anything until juries of their peers convict them of the crimes with which they're charged, under due process of law. Due process includes a probable cause for their even being suspects.

Still, if a person is under surveillance as a suspected terrorist, and if his movements are being monitored under a proper court order and legal warrants, why would anyone want to allow such a person the privilege of buying weapons?

On the other hand, what about all the unknown Americans who might well be under surveillance as terrorism suspects without formal court orders, under the jurisdiction of laws like the Patriot Act and statues that allow the President to jail anyone he deems to be an "illegal enemy combatant," denying due process, judicial oversight, and anything even remotely akin to normal judicial procedures?

Who's writing letters to the Justice Department to defend their rights?

Not the NRA.

I'd be more sympathetic to gun champions if they vigorously opposed any laws that allowed "arbitrary denial" of any constitutional rights, not just those of the Second Amendment.

How about the Fourth Amendment protecting us from unreasonable searches and seizures without due process and warrants issued by a judge?

How about Fifth, Sixth an Seventh Amendments protecting us from being jailed indefinitely without a chance to refute the charges against us and confront our accusers in a public trial, as is the plight of hundreds now in covert prisons run by our government?

Let's see the NRA defend "constitutional liberties" across the board.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
May 14, 2007