It’s a treat when our citizens come out in numbers and with passion in the defense of one of our rights, just as they consistently do with the second amendment. We’ve seen this again in spades following the Las Vegas massacre; gun owners took to social media and the airwaves to decry any attempts to take away all their firearms, whether or not that bogeyman is real.
Despite all of those efforts and concerns, the activists may not be as sincere as they put on. All of them to a man consistently highlight the importance of the Constitution -- our formative document takes center stage in all debates associated with gun rights. Even those folks with just a passing interest in the Constitution can cite verbatim the entire Second Amendment.
But that is where their constitutionalism seems to begin and end.
If the Constitution is really that important to so many Americans, then where is the uproar when our other rights are infringed?
I’ve hear nary a peep and have not seen one lawn sign or bumper sticker expressing disdain – and there should be lots of it – over the federal government’s elaborate domestic spying programs that we’ve always assumed existed post-9/11 and were finally brought to light by Edward Snowden a few years back.
It sometimes seem that no one cares about high-volume eavesdropping on cell phones, maintenance of phone records, scanning of email messages, and other surveillance endeavors against suspected terrorists and all innocent Americans alike, tactics that are all in defiance of the Fourth Amendment and could be argued are far worse transgressions than anything that the SAFE Act or any other gun regulations have done (and that’s saying a lot).
To see this constitutional selectivity perfectly played out locally and in the form of one high-profile individual just look south across the county border.
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard gained notoriety and accolades a few years back for his stance against the SAFE Act and its un-constitutionalism. He went so far as to say his officers wouldn’t enforce that law. To this day, if there’s a gun rights rally or proposed pro-gun legislation, he’s front and center.
Despite his care for the Second Amendment, his obviously doesn’t give a hoot about the Fourth. For years his department utilized cell phone spying devices known as Stingray and Kingfish until the media and the ACLU caught wind of its illicit use. The equipment indiscriminately intercepts cell phone transmissions and can capture and eavesdrop on conversations and text exchanges. These are activities that need a warrant (which the Sheriff’s Department lacked) and pinpoint accuracy (Howard has admitted to the press that they tune across multiple transmissions to find the one they want).
Despite this patently obvious abuse of the Fourth Amendment, Howard still remains something of a constitutional folk hero with conservatives.
Taking into consideration what’s happening at the federal and local levels with the Fourth, Americans should be storming the Bastille over such transgressions. But we’re not. We’re not even raising a minor stink. Most of us might not even care.
And that’s what makes America so easily manipulated by the politicians. They know that most folks are single-issue voters and if they can tug at something near and dear to them – such as guns – they can turn that focused passion into a vote.
We shouldn’t be that way. We should be fighting for every part of the Constitution, not just one. No part is more important than another. The entire document carries meaning, weight and importance: The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were devised as a set of laws to recognize and protect some of the most basic of natural rights while creating a framework for just governance.
If we spend too much time and effort focusing on just one part of the Bill of Rights, we could lose our rights to free speech, self defense, privacy, due process of law and self government just by being too selective or self-centered in our needs.
Continue to fight for our rights…but fight for all of them.
From the 16 October 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers