Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stop and Frisk - Life in a Second Amendment Nation

Up Against the Wall you Redneck Mother
There's very little doubt that Thomas Jefferson would speak out passionately against New York's 'Stop and Frisk' policy, that Patrick Henry would rally his fellow citizens against such an affront, and that very likely George Washington would respond with his fists.  Everything that makes us American, every shred of the values we are inculcated with, every last drop of our understanding of freedom, liberty, civil rights, human dignity and privacy cries out at the outrageous overreach of such an authoritarian policy.  Certainly we are offended by its racial components, but on a much deeper level it brings us into contact with some of our deepest fears about unchecked government power and the ultimate fragility of our national compact with our political leaders.  How far can it be, we wonder, from a nation that allows its law enforcement personnel to simply detain and physically search anyone they deem suspicious and those classic black and white scenes of scowling men in suits on the train, demanding to see your "papers, please"?

But Americans, primarily due to some kind of weird loathing for any sort of compromise solutions, have built a box for themselves here.  Because it has become received wisdom that ANY attempt to control the availability and distribution of firearms, particularly handguns is an unacceptable assault on the integrity of the US Constitution, we find ourselves faced with a most agonizing Hobson's choice:  We find a way to ensure that people in our community are not carrying lethal weapons, or we live in an increasingly violent environment where gunfire in the streets is commonplace, and people die needlessly every day.

I agree that I am uncomfortable with the extra-constitutional nature of these searches, with their arbitrary nature and the opportunity for abuse and discrimination they represent, but at the same time this is the sort of outcome you get when, as a society, we surrender to the lunatics and let them run the asylum.  We could have a viable Second Amendment and still limit the availability of firearms.  We could support lawful gun ownership and restrict when and how they could be carried and transported.  We could impose market based limitations on manufacturing, sales, and transport.  But insanely, we not only refuse to impose the most basic controls and limitations, we have a barking mad political leadership who seek to encourage the ubiquitous possession and even the USE of firearms in our communities.  How can we allow that?

But as long as we do, we have to take SOME kind of action to prevent this flood of deadly weapons from being unleashed on our communities.  It is impossible to consider ourselves an advanced civilization when any idiot, criminal, madman or irresponsible child might be carrying the most lethal, high capacity combat handguns in the world.  So we need to swallow our medicine.  Sure, Stop and Frisk needs close oversight.  It needs to be carefully managed, it needs to be as fair and efficient as possible.  But I understand why a community would impose this sort of law enforcement solution, and as long as we continue to refuse to address the big problems, we're going to be faced with a series of unpleasant choices.


  1. But Americans, primarily due to some kind of weird loathing for any sort of compromise solutions...

    Is that what's going on?

    Seems to me you could easily fit both "gubbermint has no right to restrict my guns!" and "stop and frisk those people" into solutions supported by right wing authoritarians.

    So, Americans, primarily due to the fact that there is no right-wing idea that they can't be sold or have foisted upon them by their politicians (as long as enough money is invested in it)...

  2. Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. But it seems to take the position that there's nothing we can do to protect our communities. I'd very strongly disagree. And the point about compromise refers to compromising on gun laws - you'll notice you needed to completely overlook that for your point to hold together. Americans will ultimately refuse to let everyone in their community run around with guns - and if they won't solve the problem on a national level, communities will solve it on their own. So you're utterly wrong - it's not a "right wing" solution, although it IS an authoritarian one that should not be necessary...

  3. And the point about compromise refers to compromising on gun laws

    I did not realize that you were limiting your point about compromise to those.

    So you're utterly wrong

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been hearing that for a long time. If only it were true, we'd all be better off.

  4. The deadliness lessens when people are happy enough not to use the guns. Canada didn't have any meaningful control on a lot of weapons until relatively recently.

    But now with the Tories in charge on come the prisons...