New Bill Gives the Attorney General the Power to Block Gun Sales to ‘Suspected’ Terrorists

Law Shield is concerned about due-process aspects of the just-introduced “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act,” which was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).

Purportedly, this bill would give the U.S. Attorney General the power to block the sale of guns and explosives to known terrorists, and also to anyone who is “appropriately suspected” of being a terrorist.

The pitch for the bill is hard to argue with: It makes no sense that people on the terrorist watch list, who are prohibited from boarding airplanes in the United States, are still free to buy guns and explosives.

“Federal law already prohibits nine categories of dangerous persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, including the mentally ill and criminals,” said King. “Yet, after almost 14 years, we still allow suspected terrorists the ability to purchase firearms. It’s time for common sense to prevail before it’s too late.”

Here’s the worry: The bill’s language says sales could be blocked to anyone known to be involved in terrorist activities, or anyone who is “appropriately suspected.” That term is never defined in the bill, and it gives the Attorney General too much discretion in deciding who is “appropriately suspected” of terrorism.

There are Constitutional concerns with giving someone like current AG Eric Holder broad power to define who is “appropriately suspected” of terrorism. One area in particular we could cite is the public display of open-carry rifles and shotguns in Texas. It’s common for opposing anti-gun activists to say they are “terrorized” by such displays of a legitimate, Constitutional right.

Would that be enough to trigger an AG decision to make Open Carry protesters “appropriately suspected” of terrorism? It shouldn’t, but without adequate language for deciding who an AG can put on the list, not to mention a way to legally challenge such an action, this is a proposal that begs to be misused against political enemies rather than actual terrorists.

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