YOU too could be a “terrorist.” And you don’t have to do anything violent or even vaguely threatening to earn that status. In some cases, merely being an ordinary prepping, gun-owning American is enough to brand you a potential terrorist.
Since the 1990s, it’s been becoming ever easier to fall under suspicion of being a potential terrorist.
In the future, if some members of the U.S. House and Senate have their way, mere unfounded suspicions that you are a potential terrorist could cost you your right to purchase a firearm.
But first let’s have a laugh (a bitter one, but still a laugh) over the sorts of things that can get us labeled potential terrorists. According to a pamphlet issued by the Phoenix, Arizona, FBI office in the early 2000s, anyone in the community should call the Joint Terrorism Task Force if they encounter any (repeat: any) of the following: people who defend the U.S. Constitution against the federal government or the U.N., anyone who asks a police officer why they were stopped, all animal-rights advocates, anyone who appears to have a Marxist viewpoint, anyone practicing “Christian identity,” and let us never forget the notorious “lone individual” (hey, that’s ME!).
But that was nothing. In 2011, the FBI issued a whole series of brochures to different types of merchants—from surplus stores and pawn shops to farm supplies, hotels, motels, and of course gun shops—warning them to report to the government such terrifying customers as: those who pay cash, those who object to showing ID, those who make bulk purchases of Meals Ready-to-Eat, anyone who makes large purchases of flashlights (actually “night flashlights”) or waterproof matches, customers who are missing fingers or a hand, travelers who ask for specific rooms or locations at a hotel or carry “too much” luggage, motel guests who park in isolated areas of a parking lot (Don’t want your new car scratched? You must be a terrorist!), folks who get tattoos identical to their friends’, people who enter or leave a storage facility at “unusual times,” those who loiter in shopping malls (yes, your teenager is a terrorist too!), anyone interested in techniques for using concealed weapons, or anybody who “refers to” military manuals.
Any useful information in that series of brochures was drowned out by the bloody, bigoted nonsense and stereotypes about “domestic terrorists” all being racist, Christian, Constitutionspoutin’, fertilizer-buyin’ rednecks with missing fingers. Therefore most of this alarmist information probably ended up where it deserved to be—in the round file. But governments take it seriously.
In Massachusetts, just before the Tsarnaev brothers blew up the Boston Marathon, law enforcement agencies were—remarkably—planning an exercise based on terrorists leaving backpack bombs around the city. But their fictional terrorists weren’t young Muslim men (that form of stereotyping would be insensitive, you know). According to the Boston Globe, the hypothetical terrorists would be the “Free America Citizens, a home-grown cadre of militiamen whose logo would be a metal skull wearing an Uncle Sam hat and a furious expression.”
Such scary nonsense keeps coming, from the states as well as the feds. Law enforcers in Missouri were warned that anyone sporting a Ron Paul bumper sticker on a vehicle was potentially dangerous. In Tennessee earlier this year, an official informed citizens at a public meeting that they could all be “terrorists” for complaining about the quality of their local water. (In a rare showing of common sense in government, that official was demoted. But how many other times have you heard of an official being punished for being overly quick to define someone as a terrorist?)
When Tea Party politicians proved balky in the most recent fight over raising the federal debt ceiling, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) pouted, “We have negotiated with terrorists. This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.” Vice President Joe Biden echoed Doyle, calling the Tea Partiers “like terrorists.”
Yes, all this bigotry and overkill could be laughable. If it were mere rhetoric. If specious charges of “terrorism” weren’t actually becoming the official policy of too many law enforcement agencies.
Earlier this year, Texas teenager Justin Carter spent five months in jail for making “terroristic threats” on Facebook— which were obviously nothing more than a sarcastic response during an argument with a fellow gamer. As of this writing, he still faces up to ten years in prison.
In 2012, two middle-aged pacifists and an elderly nun cut through a chainlink fence at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear weapons plant (“the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry”).
Were they committing a crime? Sure, but after originally charging them with misdemeanor trespassing, charges were ramped up until the three antiwar activists today stand convicted of multiple “violent” and “terroristic” acts that could put them in prison for up to 35 years.
And then there are the no-fly and terrorist watch lists, which as of this year contain a stunning 896,000 names. Such secret lists can be used to make an ordinary person’s life hell. Yet you’re not allowed to ask if you’re on such lists or what criteria (if any) are used to put people on them.
Babies have been put on them. At one point, people named John Smith were being turned away from flights or sternly questioned as suspected terrorists. Even the uber-powerful late Senator Ted Kennedy found his name on a terrorist “no-fly” list in 2004. It took him three weeks to be removed. How long would it take Joe Blow?
Which brings us back to the headline issue. If some prominent people in Washington, D.C. have their way, yet another arbitrary secret list will be created. This list will have the sole purpose of denying anybody (repeat: anybody) the ability to purchase a gun. Specifically what they want is to give the U.S. Attorney General the power to name anyone a terrorist suspect and to forbid that person to buy firearms.
Two years before he died, notoriously anti-gun Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced S. 34, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011.” Later that year, fanatical but powerful Rep. Peter King (R-NY) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 1506, in the House. These bills never made it out of committee.
But as with so many other anti-gun bills, that doesn’t mean they died. On the contrary, support and rhetoric appear to be heating up this year after gun banners failed to get other anti-gun laws passed.
Once again Lautenberg, virtually on his deathbed, sponsored the same bill with the same number, and King reintroduced the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2013” with 20 co-sponsors, as H.R. 720. As recently as July, Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and David Price (D-NC) tried to sneak this provision to “close the terror gap loophole” (yes, they actually talk like that) into a Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill.
They were defeated—this time.
But remember, this is a proposal to give one man or woman unilateral power to declare absolutely anybody a “terrorist” for the sole purpose of denying that person the ability to buy a firearm. You don’t have to be convicted of anything. You don’t have to be accused of anything. Or arrested. You don’t even have to have done anything. The mere word “terrorist” spoken about you by one powerful person would be enough. You will be On A List. Your rights will be denied.
Of course this is not democratic. Or republican. It would be tyranny, impure and simple. We can hope it will never come to pass. But the way things have been deteriorating in D.C. (under various regimes, no matter what party), don’t be surprised if one day the very act of gun ownership is decreed “terrorism” and all of us are marked as guilty without charges, trial or recourse.
Well, that’s not quite true. There is always recourse. But to mention the only realistic recourse under such circumstances … that would be terrorism.