As an American citizen, according to our democratic system, all law-abiding citizens have a right to bear arms. The decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Heller vs. DC (2008) affirms the right of a citizen to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes. I have a Constitutional right to be able to defend my family, myself, and my property; whether this defense becomes necessary because of criminals, tyrants, or an over-zealous government. And it seems to me, now more than ever, I need this right to protect my family from criminals and terrorists.
Yet if I am on a terror watch list or a no-fly list, I will fail a background check and not be allowed to legally purchase a firearm. And there are nearly a dozen such lists being maintained by different agencies in the US government. While I agree that people who are terrorists or criminals should not be allowed to legally possess a firearm, being suspected of a terrorist act does not satisfy the requirements of due process explicitly stated in the 5th and 14th Amendments. And just being suspected of an activity, should not give state or federal government the power to take away my legally purchased firearms, or prevent me from legally purchasing a firearm for lawful purposes.
But what happens when an individual is mistakenly added to these lists? What is the due process that the government uses to justify removal of my right to bear arms? Where is my 6th Amendment right to confront the witnesses against me? Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) were on a no-fly list, and did not know about this until they tried to board a plane. While I may disagree with their individual views and policies from time to time, I can hardly find a valid reason to keep them off of commercial airplanes "in the interest of public safety."
And once placed on the list, where is the transparent appeals process to prove to the government that you are not the threat that these agencies think you are? Why does it happen that young children sometimes have problems flying with their families just because they have the same name as someone who is on the list? A mistake by the government should not allow agencies the ability to infringe upon the rights of citizens to this degree. Given the lack of a speedy and fair trial, or an equitable system of appeals; how is this setup Constitutional to the American people?
And consider the possibility of an 18-year-old making a wrong choice in a situation, which leads to felony charges. After prosecution and conviction, a judge will determine what sentence the individual must complete in order to repay their debt to society. Upon completion of the terms of the sentence, this individual will no longer have the right to possess a firearm for the rest of their life. This assumes that the individual will remain, at least to some degree, a threat to society forever. This excludes the possibility of an individual recognizing the malice of their crime and rehabilitating into a law abiding citizen. Where is the course of action which proves to the justice system beyond a shadow of a doubt that essentially you have "learned your lesson"?
While I think that citizens should be subject to a thorough and equitable background check before being allowed to purchase a firearm, as well as registering that firearm to the proper authorities; I also believe that before any law enforcement or government agencies should start taking away guns, the laws need to be changed to make sure that the rights of law-abiding citizens are fully protected. My right to possess a firearm to protect my family in these turbulent times should not be infringed upon because of the inefficiency of government agencies or inaction by a Congress that does not seem to care if they make any changes to our damaged justice system.