Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Problem with [a lack of] Trust (and Due Process)

One of the recent hot-topic issues in the news has been how to address gun violence in the United States. From cops shooting unarmed people, to the uncounted number of civilians murdered every year by "law enforcement", and with the extremely rare instances of mass shootings perpetrated by civilians getting hugely disproportionate media coverage, everybody seems overtly concerned with trying to do something to fix the problems. President Obama had an overtly emotional televised announcement that he was going to once again ignore the Constitutional limits of power imposed on his office to try to make it more difficult for people to acquire guns in the United States. Everybody is interested in reducing gun violence in the US... or are they?

You see, there's actually some contention on that last point. President Obama is certainly intent on reducing gun possession in the US... but only for civilians; he's actively funneling military ordnance and equipment to the domestic military organizations (aka "the police"), and is responsible for the ATF gun running operation which caused large numbers of assault rifles to be distributed to criminals in the US. With the Democrat party's frequent attacks on private gun ownership in the US from all potential angles, you could be excused for thinking Obama's action was more about restricting gun ownership rights than actually reducing gun violence. This is reinforced by the reality that none of the unilateral and unconstitutional actions would have actually helped with most of the situations being touted as the nominal excuses and justifications for said action.

What about his previous suggestion, though: to prevent people on the no-fly list from buying guns? Surely that's a relatively controversial-free suggestion... right? Well, it might be, but for one niggling issue: the no-fly list is kinda an unconstitutional power-grab in the first place, which totally ignores rights and due process. It's been accepted by the mainstream as a necessary "compromise" to fight terrorism, but some people (read: anyone who understands what rights are) are understandably somewhat reluctant to allow the government to expand its arbitrary, "we take your rights away when we want" program to more things beyond travel, warrantless search and seizure, and indefinite detention without habeas corpus. So while it sounds like a reasonable idea at first blush, the real problem is that the fundamentally unconstitutional nature of the underlying program makes it untenable for expansion into other areas without controversy, even though people otherwise might be in favor of it (ie: in concept, not allowing terrorists to buy guns seems like a perfectly reasonable idea).

Getting back to the gun violence issue, though, it's reasonably apparent that parties on all sides would like to find ways to reduce gun violence. The problem is not the desire... and I'll assert that the problem is also not the plans. There are plenty of reasonable plans which have been suggested, which would be fine in theory (eg: "don't let terrorists buy guns", and "don't let people ignore background checks by going to gun shows"). The real problem, it turns out, is the lack of trust: trust in the parties, trust in the motivations, and trust in the fundamental basis of the system.

Republicans don't trust that Obama is sincere in his desire to reduce gun violence, and not just ban guns, and for good reason: his party is constantly trying to ban guns, and their laws and regulations are constantly running afoul of the Constitution (Obama's executive actions being no exception). Obama can't use the no-fly list to preclude people from buying guns, because people don't trust that the TSA programs respect rights and due process (again, for good reason, since they absolutely and definitively do not). People shouldn't trust Obama's expansion of background check requirements and mental health qualification, because they are quite arbitrary, and could be used to backdoor blanket prohibitions on gun ownership (as denying carry permits were used by Democrats for such in California, to some success). It's not that there are not good plans there; it's that the people do not (and should not) trust the Democrats to not have ulterior motives in implementing them, and fear for their other rights being confiscated as a result.

The problem with lack of trust goes beyond gun control, of course. The government is currently struggling with damage control from the Snowden revelations, as they attempt to preserve the ability to conduct blanket unconstitutional surveillance on everyone, and the nominal appearance of some oversight and legality of their programs (the former being easy and automatic, but the latter becoming more challenging with every new revelation of gross misconduct and abuse). There's a justified lack of trust in police organizations across the country (primarily because they kill lots of people and cover it up, collectively). There's a lack of trust in government itself (because of the rampant corruption at all levels, but especially at the highest levels), and the system itself (because the people have effectively no say in government). Each of these deficits of trust, at all levels and seemingly with respect to most facets of the government, make it increasingly more difficult for the government to implement what would, in some cases, be reasonable ideas to make society better.

The crux of the issue, if you will, is that someone who is trusted to not be corrupt, not have ulterior motives, and be actually interested in solving the actual problems, be the one proposing the solutions. Unfortunately, that sort of person doesn't really exist in Washington DC in today's day and age, and the current situation is the result.

1 comment:

  1. Point of note: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/07/president-obama-isn-t-taking-people-s-guns-but-maybe-he-should.html

    This; this is why Obama will fail to produce any tangible improvements for the problem of gun violence in the US. Because of people like this, we cannot arrive a reasonable compromises to address the real problems, because this undermines the trust in the government to respect people's rights. People like this are part of the problem which is killing real people, and when we don't have any improvement this go around, people like this are the people to blame.