I must give a major hat tip to Van Buren for that comment in my diary about the 4th Amendment earlier in the week. Frankly, it is (to me) one of the best analogies I have heard with respect to talking about the power grab and erosion of rights the past six years in the name of “security”.
How many times have we heard the entirely irrelevant, factually incorrect and short sighted comment from someone when it comes to the illegal spying and warrantless wiretapping (not to mention the upcoming expanded use of spy satellites within the US) that “they have nothing to hide so who cares if the government is spying”?
Besides the fact that there is the massive collection of personal data by companies which has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised – leading to identity theft and countless hours (and money) spent by individuals to deal with this, and there is the use of this data for nonstop bombardment of targeted marketing campaigns, it is the slipperiest of slopes to argue this position.
But, as Van Buren so aptly noted in his (or her) comment, it is the excusing of basically every OTHER right under the first ten amendments that are being shrugged off in the name of a false sense of security, while the one amendment that is completely taboo to talk in any reasonable or rational manner without the NRA or other interest group to blow the entire argument out of proportion, take comments out of context and generally lose the ability to have any rational conversation.
And that is precisely why the counter argument should hit on the right to bear arms. Certainly this is an issue that generates a lot of passion, and I see two benefits here of using this counter argument: (1) it exposes the sheer hypocrisy of so easily giving up a basic right – whether it be free speech, religious freedom, habeas corpus, or against unreasonable search and seizure – while vehemently dismissing outright (rightfully so, I might add) even the thought of taking away the right to own any gun that anyone wants to own, with as little restriction from regulation as possible; and (2) it raises the specter that, if the government can chip away at or flat out take away any other rights, then what is to stop it from taking away the right to protect yourself?
The bar keeps getting moved when it comes to other rights. Free speech zones are a perfect example. Censoring what Pearl Jam did in the Lollapalooza show is another example. Pre-screened “town hall meetings”, secret data rooms, spy satellites, expanding the authority of the Attorney General or President way beyond any plausibly rational or Constitutional authority when it comes to torture, spying or whatever else they want to do are some other examples.
And for those who don’t think that it happens all the time, or has been happening for longer than you may know, I will refer to a line that struck me from Jesselyn Radack’s excellent book, The Canary in The Coalmine that almost knocked me over when I read it. She was talking about her first contacts with Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff and how the government was able to get certain information related to this without either party having any idea. This is from the Columbia Journalism Review and is titled “Who’s Tracking Your Calls?” (emphasis mine):
So who traced Isikoff’s calls? In the final analysis it really doesn’t matter whether the justice Department did, and shared the information with Hawkins Delafield, or whether the firm did, and shared the information with the department. Either way the government got a record of Isikoff’s calls to an important source on an important story, without either party’s knowing about it. It’s a quick lesson on how far an irate government may go to burn your source.
Now, imagine that the government bursts into your home, and instead of taking your computer, files and other personal information, it takes away your guns, ammo and license. Just because they (1) have a suspicion that you may have done something wrong or may eventually use them in a crime (even though there is no real basis for that suspicion) and (2) because they can. And, let’s also say that this was happening with regularity, was relatively random, and generally didn’t result in anything other than the wrongful confiscation of guns and ammo. Somehow, I don’t think that the NRA or the population of gun owners will be too happy about this development.
But it’s no big deal, right? You probably weren’t going to use the gun anyway, so who really cares?
Suddenly, the argument shifts and it is a bit more offensive than just the right to a fair and speedy trial, to hear evidence against you, to face your accuser, to exercise free speech and to not have unreasonable warrantless spying on you, confiscation of your computer and bugging of your phones.
Strange where peoples’ priorities are.