Maybe this is worth stating again. The “FBI terrorist watch list” and the “no-fly list” are ad-hoc aggregations of prejudice and random error with no rules and no oversight. They are not fit for any public policy purpose. (They are not even fit for their declared purposes.)

The line “terrorists should not be allowed to buy guns” implies that the FBI terror watch list is actually a “list of terrorists.” Other than people actually convicted of terrorism, the government maintains no such thing, and indeed cannot. Barring precrime, such a thing cannot exist. If this is your line on the gun debate, you’re plumping for a racist farrago and a huge expansion of ideological surveillance and racial profiling.

And if this, what else will these lists be used for? The Republican nominee is a guy who wants to put big red Xs on the doors of every Muslim. And the Democratic nominee is not far behind in her willingness to pander to the “radical Islam” discourse.

After all, what’s being argued-for here is the expansion of the use of a watch list from one domain into another. So you can’t say it won’t happen, when that’s what you’re already advocating.

And as for the mental-health list: I think many people reading this have taken an antidepressant (or a mood stabilizer, or an antipsychotic, for its labelled purpose or as an antidepressant adjuvant) at one time or another, or gotten a fancy number-coded Diagnosis from a psychiatrist, or even been hospitalized. You know you’re liable to go on the list yourself, right? (Or your loved-ones will.)

It’s not sufficient to say you’ve not been violent, as there is no known useful definition of the “mentally ill person likely to commit violence.” The mentally ill are all capable of violence, as all people are; the greatest majority will never commit a violent act against another person, as most people won’t. (The mentally ill are, after all, just people.) Nobody knows who is going to be dangerous, and there’s no way to construct a list that won’t be used to profile /you/ six ways from Sunday.

Not to mention how utterly politicized the business of mental-health diagnosis is. Can you think of a minority that was wrongly subjected en-masse to mental-illness diagnosis in the recent past? Can you think of one that still is? I bet you can.

This is very dangerous, and it’s surprising to see avowed liberals loudly asking to see themselves and their friends put on these watch lists. You don’t want this. You really don’t.