Assemblyman John McKeon is beginning to sound like British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. McKeon has lifted his latest missive from the former P.M.'s press office:
"Tragically, we have seen far too many 'what ifs' when it comes to these mass shootings, often centered around the question of why didn't somebody do something to take guns away from someone who is mentally unstable.
A-1217 makes it easier to accomplish that goal, and ultimately, protect our communities and our children. The status quo doesn't work. We need to take new approaches that allow authorities a real chance to remove guns from the hands of individuals who pose a threat to us all."
In other words, the Bill of Rights gets in the way of our "goal" -- which is a nice sounding "goal" -- like the Law for the Protection of the People and the State, or the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. So we will suspend the Bill of Rights in order to give authorities a real chance to achieve their "goal" and take those rights from individuals who pose a threat to "us all" ("us all" being a euphemism for the collective or "the state"). And as every individual poses a potential threat to the state, these rights must ultimately be taken from everyone.
If you ask some inner city youth, that potential threat from a firearm includes the police. And if you ask some college students, the threat includes Free Speech. So it will be interesting to watch where this goes. To accomplish it all, the state will send in men with guns... and let the carnage begin.
Sure, civil liberties are a pain in the butt. It is a lot easier for government to accomplish its "goal" without them. But where would we be -- as individuals and a society -- without them?
Under McKeon's proposal, you don't have to be accused of committing a crime to have the police knock at your door to search your home or business for legal firearms and seize them. You just need to have someone pissed-off at you.
John McKeon's fellow Democrat, Joe Cryan, had a girlfriend who was practically part of the Cryan clan. Now this gal was mightily pissed-off at him. Should her word alone have been enough?
Cryan later had his girlfriend busted for stalking, but not before she secured the release of more than 150 emails he had sent her that, according to the New York Post, "graphically spelled out his kinky proclivities." The Post noted: "The emails were written when the pol (Cryan) presumably would have been at one of his government jobs — either his $49,000-a-year Assembly gig or his $111,000-a-year post as Union County undersheriff."
Well that was business-as-usual back before Harvey Weinstein made the front pages and the Democrats got consciousness. And it still is. Only now it's gone underground. Nevertheless, should the bruised feelings and raw anger that arise out of such behavior -- abhorrent as it may be -- should it take the place of due process?
Curiously, Democrat John McKeon is lending support to Republican President Donald Trump. Last week, Assembly Democrats in New Jersey formally adopted President Trump's position in respect of the Bill of Rights. Donald Trump said. "Take the guns first, go through due process second," and the Assembly Democrats agreed, passing A-1217 out of committee.
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."
About the same time as Trump was making his controversial statement, the Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee were passing the "Extreme Risk Protection Order" (A-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 for law enforcement" believed he or she posed a risk.
Conservative Republican Steve Lonegan offered the following testimony on A-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 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.
Let's not create a new set of victims like the Guildford Four -- only this time with names like the Newton Eleven or the Metuchen six or the Cape May seven...
This is how Republics perish. This is how democracy dies.