Through their protest, Democrats are trying to force a vote on gun control legislation that includes banning gun sales to people on various terrorism watch lists.
Now, while Congressional action on gun control is indeed long overdue, the idea of regulating guns based on a watch list system is a huge point of concern for many, and perhaps rightfully so.
Why? Because it gives further legitimacy to the terror watch-listing system, which by the way, has proven to have ridiculously high rates of error. Also, it is a well-documented fact that these lists disproportionately target minorities, especially Muslim-Americans and Arabs.
Equally worse is the process of the stigma attached to the inclusion in the list, which, of course, could be a nightmare for people who are innocent — and there have been quite a lot of them. According to The Intercept, nearly half of the people on no-fly lists have "no recognized terrorist group affiliation."
And as far as removal of an erroneous entry is concerned, well, that is another ordeal entirely.
Case in point: Rahinah Ibrahim is the only person since 9/11 to file a court challenge that eventually removed her name from the watch list, but it took nearly a decade-long struggle.
Ibrahim was innocent and the reason her name was blacklisted was not even based on a loose suspicion. It was, in fact, a result of clerical error by an FBI agent.
In April, a group of Muslim-Americans, with the help of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, filed a class-action lawsuit against the United States’ use of a terrorist watch list, which they say has created “an injustice of historic proportions”.
There case was filed on behalf of 18 plaintiffs, including a 4-year-old, who claimed their constitutional rights were violated after being placed on the federal terror watch list.
“There’s no constitutional bar to Congress’s reasonable regulation of guns, but what’s so problematic about this current debate is that it relies on and presumes the validity of a broken terrorism watch list system,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project, said of the legislation gun control advocates are fighting for.
“As we have long documented and warned, the watch listing system is error-prone, unreliable and unfair. It uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place people on watch lists, and it denies them a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names.”
The Democrats’ fight for tighter gun control measures is an important one. However, fighting that fight while tacitly ignoring the plight of countless innocent people on the flawed watch lists — and many more who would be included in the future — is not OK.