We release murderers and rapists if law enforcement fails to follow due process. That's because we are a nation of laws. Not a mob that demands action... any action... "let's hang the first one who comes along!"
On Wednesday, Assembly Democrats formally adopted the Trumpian position in respect of the Bill of Rights. Donald Trump said. "Take the guns first, go through due process second," and the Assembly Democrats said, "Yes, Sir."
Trump made his comments at a meeting with congressional leaders on school safety. Trump was responding to comments from Vice President Pence that families and local law enforcement should have more tools to report potentially dangerous individuals with weapons.
Pence was taking the Bill of Rights into consideration, when he said: "Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons." To which Trump responded: "Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court."
And about the same time as Trump was playing the authoritarian card, the Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee were passing Assemblyman John McKeon's "Extreme Risk Protection Order" (Assembly Bill 1217), which suspends due process based on a simple accusation. A no-knock warrant could be issued, the door of a home or place of business kicked-in, and the property of someone who hasn't been accused of breaking any law seized -- just because a "family member" or "member of law enforcement" believed he or she posed a risk.
Steve Lonegan offered the following testimony on Assembly Bill 1217:
"In 1971, a group of possibly well-meaning but misguided politicians imposed the Civil Authorities Special Powers Act, which allowed government to take away peoples' rights without charging them with a crime. It was meant to be a response to violence, but only made matters worse in Northern Ireland.
In considering Assembly Bill 1217, the New Jersey Legislature should recall the words of George Will, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, who reminded us of the dangers of 'overcriminalization.' After the death of Eric Garner, which was the result of the New York Legislature sending in the police to enforce a state tax on cigarettes, Will warned legislators that there are potentially grave consequences every time they make a new law and then send in men with guns to enforce it.
Will said: 'Overcriminalization has become a national plague. And when more and more behaviors are criminalized, there are more and more occasions for police, who embody the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence, and who fully participate in humanity’s flaws, to make mistakes.'
Assembly Bill 1217 is open to abuse and has the potential to create many more situations with violent outcomes than those it seeks to prevent. And, as written, there is no recourse or penalty if the law and its potentially violent outcome was triggered by a simple misunderstanding or a false or malicious report."
No president likes to give up power. The last to do so, voluntarily, was Jimmy Carter -- and he did so under the shadow of the official criminality connected to the Watergate scandal. President George W. Bush, President Obama, and President Trump have all expanded the state's power over the individual citizen. The action by the Assembly Democrats reeks of the British government's desperate move to bring the Irish Republican Army to heel in the 1970's. Instead of achieving their aim, they made victims out of innocent people and destroyed the reputation of their country's criminal justice system.
As a former IRA supporter himself, Assemblyman McKeon should know what he's done. Perhaps this will refresh his memory...
Let's not create victims like the Guildford Four or Paterson Eleven or Metuchen six or Cape May seven...