By Claire Wolf, republished from jpfo.org with permission:
If Thursday’s news reports are accurate, hysterical fear of “terrorism” has just reached a new low. Two dozen middle schoolers were suspended because they commented on or shared a Facebook post urging mass resistance to their school’s dress code. This is the kind of small act of resistance adolescents have indulged in forever — particularly in the heady last week before summer vacation . . .
Whether they deserve punishment or not is in the eye of the beholder. But according to at least one of the students and one parent, the principal of Cowen (I’m tempted to write “Coward”) Road Middle School in Griffin, Georgia, accused participants in the FB discussion of making “terroristic threats.”
I’ll wait a moment while your eyeballs stop rolling.
Now, you might laugh at the idea of a school official being so diaper-wetting petrified of a conspiracy to commit sartorial infractions that he or she feels terrorized and threatened. The situation is less funny to the honor student who got kicked out of school merely for typing, “I’m in!”
But the situation is really, really, really unfunny when you consider how the growing misuse of the concept of “terrorism” is damaging both the future of freedom and the future of one of freedom’s essential protectors, the right to own and use firearms.
Words have meaning
Wikipedia defines a “terroristic threat”” as: “a declaration of intent to commit a crime of violence against another with the intent of threatening a person, building, facility, or public or private habitat.”
I’ve never heard of anybody violently threatening to wear an outfit, have you? Even with rising fear of kids wearing gang colors or pro-gun tee-shirts, it’s hard to imagine how someone could “violently” wear a skirt or pair of pants.
But it’s still worse. The very concept of “terroristic threat” only entered the U.S. lexicon after 9-11, and that panicked school principal is far from the first to misuse the term and stretch the concept past its limits. Legalmatch.com notes that many states are increasingly redefining all manner of violent criminals as “terrorists.”
The concept of “terrorism” legitimately applies only to “those violent acts that are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (e.g., neutral military personnel or civilians).”
So never mind said school official’s alleged “terror” of defiantly dressed 12-year-olds. Even a genuinely violent person shouldn’t be called a terrorist or be said to make “terroristic threats” unless he or she is using or threatening violence against innocents with ideological goals in mind.
But (you may be saying), why should we care if a word is being misused? We live in an age when terrorism — no matter what you call it — is a genuine threat; quit being petty about definitions, Claire!
If you’re saying that, I’ll refer you to Mr. Orwell for discussion on the importance of the meaning of words and the perils of their political abuse. But if you’re wondering something more along the lines of, “What does all this have to do with guns and gun-rights?” … follow me.
What “terrorist” hysteria has to do with gun rights
There is this abominable piece of legislation that’s been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate repeatedly since at least 2009. Its title is the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act” (of 2009, 2011, 2013, etc.). According to the bill’s summary:
Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2013 – Amends the federal criminal code to authorize the Attorney General to deny the transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearms or explosives license or permit (or revoke such license or permit) if the Attorney General: (1) determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be engaged in terrorism or has provided material support or resources for terrorism; and (2) has a reasonable belief that the transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism. Allows any individual whose firearms or explosives license application has been denied to bring legal action to challenge the denial.
Extends the prohibition against the sale or distribution of firearms or explosives to include individuals whom the Attorney General has determined to be engaged in terrorist activities. Imposes criminal penalties on individuals engaged in terrorist activities who smuggle or knowingly bring firearms into the United States.
Authorizes the Attorney General to withhold information in firearms and explosives license denial revocation lawsuits and from employers if the Attorney General determines that the disclosure of such information would likely compromise national security.
In other words, if this bill ever became law, one unelected official (currently that paragon of honesty, openness, and fairness, Eric Holder) would unilaterally decide who would be “allowed” to own a firearm. The process would be completely arbitrary, based solely on the AG’s subjective “determination,” and the process could be kept secret based on an equally subjective (and unverifiable) claim of “national security.”
Lucky you, though, you’d still have the right to sue after being denied your other constitutional rights. Maybe after five or six years, half a million dollars in legal expenses, and constant denials of needed information in the name of “national security” you might even win.
Fortunately, so far, this “terroristic threat” of a bill has never made it out of committee. At the same time, it’s not just one of those little “hobby horse” bills that certain lone legislators submit over and over and over again without either hope or co-sponsors. Given the right moment — the most handy crisis — this one could eventually pick up and go somewhere. And that would be a very bad thing.
The bill’s authors have never explained the difference between a “dangerous terrorist” and a harmless terrorist. Perhaps it’s the sort of tee shirts they wear. (Dangerous terrorists in red? Harmless terrorists in blue? It’s quite the mystery.) But the authors and co-sponsors are the heavyweights of authoritarian anti-gunnery.
They include: Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer (of course) and Sens. Boxer, Gillibrand, Levin, and other usual suspects in the Senate. Signing on to this bill was one of the last legislative acts of Frank Lautenberg before his misspent (but very long and powerful) life ended. In the House, sponsors have included: Charles Rangel, Peter King, Henry Waxman, and others of their ilk.
But okay, maybe this bill will never, ever become law. We can hope. Still, it represents and reflects the very same trend that’s going on at Cowen Road Middle School — crying “terrorism” to justify every overreaction of authority. Not only is the language changing (through political manipulation), but so is the legal landscape of the U.S.
Don’t forget that according to the FBI, businesses should already report you as a suspected “domestic terrorist” if you do such innocuous things as pay with cash, buy MREs, get the same tattoo your friends have, talk about your constitutionally protected rights, or even park in the “wrong” parking space at a hotel or motel.
The Obama administration even cried “terrorism” to cover up a nasty paperwork error.
“Terrorism.” It’s so handy! So convenient!
Don’t think for one minute that this administration — or any other in the future — would hesitate to call all gun owners “terrorists” if it suited their political purposes. Don’t think power-seeking authoritarians would hesitate to declare gun ownership itself a “terroristic threat.” Maybe not this year or next. But when the word “terrorist” can be applied to anyone who challenges power, and that person so-labeled can be punished accordingly — then eventually powerful people will use that “wonderful” control tool to fulfill their rapacious aims.
They haven’t succeeded yet, but already there are people in Congress who want to hand exactly that power over to unelected, secretive, gun-hating bureaucrats.