Today the Senate is expected to vote on a revised amendment offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) which would strip Fifth Amendment due process rights away from law-abiding citizens and threaten their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
Pitched under the guise of “no fly, no buy” — a liberal talking point trying to imply that all this legislation would do is stop terrorists on the “No Fly List ” from buying guns — the Collins Amendment directs Attorney General Loretta Lynch to deny a lawfully purchased firearm to any person who is on the “No Fly List” or the “Selectee List.” While national security should be a number one priority in the wake of the Islamist terrorist attack in Orlando, these lists are unreliable, making them a terrible standard for stripping constitutional rights away from law abiding citizens. According to The Heritage Foundation’s Legal Scholar, Hans von Spakovsky, and National Security and Homeland Security Expert, Cully Stimson,
“Let’s be clear—we don’t want terrorists buying guns in this country. Nor do we think that they have a Second Amendment right to do so. But this blunt instrument is not the right solution.
We don’t know what evidence is required by the government or what the standards are for the government having a “reasonable suspicion” that would place any American citizen on the no-fly list. And more than one court has held that the procedures for an American who may have mistakenly gotten onto the list to get off are inadequate. The ACLU complains that the government often fails to “provide meaningful notice“ and to explain why an individual is listed.”
Under the Collins Amendment, if an American is denied their right to purchase a firearm, they then have to file an appeal and go to court against the U.S. government to “get their rights back.” But this process can be an expensive and lengthy fight – with no guaranteed victory for the innocent Americans who were put on one of these secret lists through no fault of their own (the lists have even flagged Congressman, infants, U.S. Marines, federal air marshals, and college students). Michael Hammond, the Chief Legal Counsel at Gun Owners of America, says:
“The “right to review” is triggered by an official notice of denial issued by the Attorney General. But [Collins] gives the Attorney General the written statutory right to refuse to assign a unique identification number, apparently indefinitely. And most large retailers refuse to sell a firearm until this unique identification number is received, even if they are legally entitled to do so.
Collins may not understand that ‘legal fees’ provisions have been in place for people fighting the government since the Buckley amendment in 1976. But these provisions have had little impact for non-wealthy litigants forced to pay the costs of litigation up-front and faced with, at best, a slight chance of reimbursement at the end of the process.”
Senate Republicans should reject this attempt to undermine due process rights and attack the Second Amendment in the name of safety and security, and instead begin a real debate on policies that would protect our homeland. As Genevieve Wood noted on Tuesday,
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Orlando—the largest in the United States since 9/11—lawmakers on Capitol Hill have yet to introduce one piece of legislation that would actually fight terrorism. Not one.
Instead, the Republican-controlled Senate has not only allowed Democrats to define the debate and make this an issue about gun control, but they’ve joined the tour de farce.”
The four failed votes on gun control measures that the Senate took earlier this week should have been enough. But the continued effort by Senator Collins to attack constitutional rights must be opposed as well. Even in the wake of Orlando, there is no need to trade away our liberties piece by piece for misguided policies that do nothing to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.
Heritage Action opposes the Collins Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scored.