Within hours of the tragic shooting in San Bernardino Wednesday, the political class was already clamoring to use the incident to push policies from gun control, to increased surveillance, to more militarized cops.
While none of these proposals will prevent the next tragedy, they could have profound ramifications on our day-to-day lives. Fear has a way of trampling common sense, and liberty along with it.
Thursday morning, a meme started circulating around Facebook. It featured a photo of several armored police vehicles in the aftermath of the shootout that ultimately resulted in the deaths of both suspects. The caption read, “Everyone talking crap about police being militarized? Understand yet?”
Unfortunately, many Americans will buy into this rhetoric. In fact, a person I know who previously claimed to support limiting police militarization shared the meme.This attitude may well stall efforts in several states to curb federal police militarization unless we stand our ground.
The meme-maker gets an A-plus for utilizing shock value. It even made me pause. Perhaps access to armored vehicles and other military hardware did facilitate law enforcement’s successful effort to stop these two shooters. Of course, we don’t know that it did or didn’t. But in a situation involving shooters armed with semi-automatic rifles and tactical gear, which could have included body armor, one can reasonably argue police needed every advantage they could get.
But the meme raises a much deeper question: how much freedom and liberty will we give up for what level of safety?
Clearly the militarized police didn’t prevent the shooting. They came in and killed the bad guys after the fact. More importantly, if in fact militarized police were actually necessary take down terrorists this is the first time I can think of.
In 99.99 percent of the cases, police deploy this military gear for everyday policing, primarily to fight the unconstitutional “war on drugs.” And they carry the mentality with them every time they put on the uniform. We can point to all kinds of negative effects that flow from militarizing peace officers. It changes the mentality from serve and protect to command and control. Just because proponents can now point to a single incident that police militarization was possibly beneficial in a terror situation doesn’t erase all of the negatives.
Here’s the central question: do you really believe whatever marginal increase in safety militarizing local police might offer outweighs the threat to liberty posed by creating what amounts to a domestic standing army?
The founding generation did not. In fact, they often warned about the dangers of standing armies.
James Madison asserted, “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” He also said, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”
George Mason wrote, “No man has a greater regard for the military gentlemen than I have. I admire their intrepidity, perseverance, and valor. But when once a standing army is established in any country, the people lose their liberty.”
And St. George Tucker, the author of the first systematic commentary on the U.S. Constitution wrote, “Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
Keep in mind, these men recently endured a long war against a military superpower. Despite the victory, the world was still a very dangerous place for America. The newly formed county was anything but safe from attack. And yet they resisted the temptation to sell out their liberty in the name of defense. They weren’t willing to put “security” ahead of liberty.
The founding generation understood the source of the greatest threat.
Federal militarization of local police is a bad plan. Wednesday’s shooting didn’t change that. Don’t let emotions sway you.
To find out how to stop your local cops from turning into a standing army, click HERE.
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