We need a leader who’s serious about fighting terrorism

According to a recent Washington Post poll, only 40 percent of Americans approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing handling terrorism — a new record low. That’s no surprise, given comments that he’s made ranking climate change ahead of terrorism as a national security threat, and that after the San Bernardino attack his first reaction was to push for more gun control. Indeed, the surprise is not that approval of his handling of the issue has dropped that low: the surprise is that it’s that high. When an American president talks about climate change and gun control instead of defeating terrorists, it’s no wonder that the public overwhelmingly loses faith in his handling of the threat.

Unfortunately, Obama is not alone in this approach; the Democrats running to succeed him have mostly followed his lead on the issue. Hillary Clinton also argued for more gun control following the San Bernardino attack. Like Obama, she wants to impose new gun control policies that not only would be unlikely to stop any terror attack, but would make it harder for law-abiding Americans to defend themselves — which could create more victims.

The latest scheme of the gun-control crowd to curtail Americans’ civil liberties is to link the federal no-fly list and/or terrorism watch list (many of them seem not to know the difference between the two) with the firearms background check system. The argument, from Obama on down, is that if you can’t fly, you shouldn’t be able to buy guns. There are, of course, a multitude of problems with this approach, which is why it was easily defeated when it came up for a vote in the Senate.

First and foremost, there is no right to fly guaranteed in the Constitution; the right to bear arms is, of course, explicitly mentioned and has been recognized by the Supreme Court. The terror watch list and the no-fly list are not judicial processes. The government does not go before a judge before it adds someone to the list. The person does not get a chance to defend himself. People are not even notified when they are added to the list. There have been many incidences of individuals being barred from flying because his or her name was similar to that of someone on the list. That’s alarming enough, but restraining someone’s constitutional rights just because he has a name like a potential terrorist is blatantly illegal, and would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Of course, even if these lists could be used to prevent firearm purchases, they might not stop terrorists from acquiring the weapons they need. In the San Bernardino attack, neither suspect appeared on the no-fly list; neither did Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the attack on Fort Hood.

The fact is that proposals to use terror watch lists or no-fly lists are more political responses designed to pressure the other party than they are serious proposals to fight terrorism. Jihadists who are committed to killing as many people as possible for their cause are going to find a way to get the weapons they need. Background checks won’t stop them.

If we are to successfully defeat terrorism, it is not going to be done by abandoning the ideals that make this country great. Policies that offer that aren’t serious proposals. We will not beat terrorism by living our lives in fear, creating a new surveillance state, and abandoning our constitutional rights. Just as we shouldn’t be targeting people for investigation because of their faith and trampling all over the First Amendment, we shouldn’t trample all over the Second Amendment either. A victory over terrorism that leaves us less free is no victory at all.

It’s time America had a president who realized this and had real strategies to fight terrorism, rather than one who focuses on scoring political points.

Jim Fossel

About Jim Fossel

Originally from Alna, Jim Fossel has volunteered with a number of campaigns over the years, including for Peter Mills for Governor in 2006. He previously worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.