Friday, April 19, 2013

Certain Unalienable Realities


OK. After the craziest week of professional and peripheral experiences I have experienced in a very long time, we are back to examining the fundamental freedoms and rights that are inalienable versus privilege we take for granted as Americans. On Monday, during the Boston Marathon, New Yorkers like me were flashing back and working through our Local and National PTSD regarding explosions and injuries and responders being killed or injured, limbs falling from the sky and 3 fatalities that are still being resolved as I write this. As Americans, we have simultaneously been reminded as one people, that our freedoms don’t come free of any cost. With freedom comes responsibility (whether you like it or not).  These responsibilities are what our laws are for and our laws and their enforcement require us to work together as one country.

As the ATF, FBI, Massachusetts State Police and Boston PD arrest “Suspect #2”  in connection to the bombing Monday at the Boston Marathon; we as Americans can, (and should) continue to have a discussion about our rights. What about the rights of our newly arrested terrorist suspect regarding ammunition and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or automatic weapons? While a terrorist event unfolded, our House of Representatives voted down a regulation that would require background checks. Both Republicans and yes, some Democrats, chose instead to see if they could just ignore their roles and responsibilities and hope it would lose traction and finally die down. President Obama noted, “All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer.” While we can continue to determine if utilizing background checks will work (provided it also becomes equally illegal and equally prosecutable for law enforcement should they abuse the data in any way whatsoever). We also need to examine all of this happening while even the most politically extreme groups acknowledge the incredibly high percentage of 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association members who support universal background checks. Instead, “they claimed that it would create some sort of ‘big brother’ gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry.” 

Jon Stewart provides a very cogent perspective on how we the people must weigh the tenuous needs for both the unalienable rights we have with the laws required for us to keep them. He answered the congresspersons who argued that background checks were pointless because criminals didn’t follow laws:

“Right,” he said. “But people who steal guns do not submit to our rules about stealing, but we still have them.  Here’s what so crazy about this. The people in our country who spend millions of dollars to get elected to a legislative body known as the Senate are making the argument there is really no point in making laws because criminals are just going to end up breaking them.”

We can try to worry about having a militia and our government not killing random Americans with drones, but when you should worry more about whether they have gun registration similar to the registration of other lethal weapons like automobiles. When Senator Cruz tap-danced around the issue with Senator Schumer, “It is not currently proposed, but if the bill that is being considered were adopted it would put us on that path,” even onlookers didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. While on some future path, there is potential for my registering a weapon I own, then my selling it to someone. If I let authorities know that I sold my weapon to someone, if that protects me from litigation and/or punishment for what the purchaser does, how is that any different from the laws regarding an automobile? After all, if we own or drive a car, truck, RV, motorcycle or even a Vespa, we have already agreed to legally register our vehicle, insure it, have a license indicating we know how to operate it, etc. As citizens and taxpayers, we even allow ourselves to be watched by radars and fall into traps if we speed. We chose this because it potentially decreases the danger of driving on common roads where there are no rules and where everyone goes 100 miles an hour with no signals and where there is no incentive not to run red lights or run over pedestrians.

While we are reeling from these issues (all packed into 5 days), a massive explosion occurred in West, Texas where state and federal officials now need to determine the rights and repercussions West Fertilizer Co. may or may not experience or if they will be able to further to evade maximum fines and will be paying merely $2,300 again like in 2006 when fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for not having a risk management plan.  Are their rights to profit and economic power more vital to the American way than the rights of the 14 dead to be alive or the 200 injured along with the owners of the 500+ homes that have been completely annihilated? How will they think through that while they continue the search and rescue efforts for more that 60 they still have not accounted for who may be injured or deceased?

All of these crazy whirlwind events made this a more cluttered, clunky and speculative news week than I have seen ever before. But we still need to realize that choices we make as a people to maintain our government “by the people for the people” requires us to determine if any rights are more unalienable than others. If so, are the constant security photos taken of our faces in public reasonable? (Provided law enforcement and or government don’t go after a person until there is a burden of proof making it warranted?) Is anyone culpable if we own a weapon and give it to someone who commits an act with it, or can we be covered for litigation and arrest as long as we have a record that the weapon, car, chemicals, explosives, photos, ammo, etc. are accounted for? At least then we are somewhat safer from potential crimes of passion. We may even lessen rampant suicide by civilians and decommissioned soldiers (which would be a plus).

All require thoughtful discussion and action. Even so, the most pressing need (that butts against every one of these) is to no longer focus on only foreign terrorists, and notice our increasing population of potential terrorists from within. Sadly, a small number of these people who call themselves Americans honestly feel entitled to mail ricin or anthrax to government officials (or more accurately, the unfortunate mailroom attendant at a Service Processing and Distribution Facility who is the highest level person that will ever be harmed by such an envelope); without consequence. Unless we make a national, cohesive effort to address this, Americans who truly do seem to feel at liberty to assault, maim, mutilate or kill will simply continue to do so.