copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert
The Courts and Congress have come to believe there is reason for fear. Enemies are everywhere. Those who wish to do us harm are in our homes. They talk to us on our telephones. Some sashay in through our computers. “Evil doers” are ubiquitous in the United States. Our open society places the public at risk. We, the people, must defend ourselves. Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the government and us the means. The highest judicial body in the nation has made it possible for the common man to protect himself with a pistol; Legislators provided the President ethereal firearms. Indeed, individuals and the Commander-In-Chief were bequeathed more than either had asked for. In 2008, we have entered the Summer of Separation. In the United States we say, “Farewell to privacy. Hello to arms.”
Absorbed in fear, Americans have detached themselves from the original intent of the United States Constitution. We the people have embraced weaponry and rejected our right to privacy. The populace, with assistance from Congress willingly chose to forfeit the Fourth Amendment. authentic freedoms were disemboweled. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) stands, and there is no reason to think a Bill signed into law by the President of the United States and each House of Congress would not be fully implemented, the press and the people will no longer have unfettered access to information. Nor can they disseminate data without intense scrutiny. Chris Hedges, a twenty year veteran Foreign Correspondent for The New York Times, speaks to a truth that he lived and now fears will die.
The new FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance. It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The court will not be told specifics about who will be wiretapped, which means the law provides woefully inadequate safeguards to protect innocent people whose communications are caught up in the government’s dragnet surveillance program.
The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country. There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas. Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.
This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East. It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists, and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours. It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events. It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.
Trepidation has long been a tool for intimidation. A frightened fellow or female will happily adopt a policy or a pistol to relieve apprehension. Perhaps, that it why after the events of September 11, 2001, Americans, panicked and the power elite prospered. As the Twin Towers fell, the people cried out for protection. Congress gleefully approved the Patriot Act; and as a nation, we pursued a course of action that was and is contrary to Constitutional principles. Even early on, Americans said, “Farewell to privacy. Hello to arms.”
As the war thundered on, the public worked to avoid greater anxiety. People purchased more guns for personal safety sake. They feared the government might not be able to shield them from all potential harms. Indeed, this attitude has been ubiquitous in American history. The Wild West outlook often overrides logic or Constitutional law. In America, there have been many Summers of Separation.
When humans think weaponry is the solution, as they do in a country where there are ninety guns per every one hundred U.S. residents, they will grab a pistol when faced with any problem. The availability of petroleum has become a paradox. Prices for fuel and food are high. The cost for shelter is higher. Homes are in foreclosure. Job security is but a myth. Employer provided benefits are elusive. The cost for Health Care coverage is out of reach; yet, the gun that could end it all is close.
Immigration is also an issue that irks many in America. When migrants flee to the States in search of financial freedom, the native-born feel further threatened. The divide between the races causes much resentment. Income inequity offers reason for rage. Economic slavery causes tempers to rise. In 2008, the effect of all these predicaments troubles the populace. The American public is aggravated. Currently, people feel less safe, less strong, and more scared. Millions ponder. Force can seem the great equalizer. Hence, gun ownership is great. The Small Arms Survey, released in August 2007 reveals Americans have a ready arsenal.
With fewer than five per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35-50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
The report went on to state that the common folk are better equipped with weaponry than law enforcement or the military might be. Civilians who reside in cities, suburbs, and those who dwell in the countryside possess the vast majority of total firearms owned in the United States. Citizens in a country built on might will use firepower to retain what they believe is their right. If they are refused the privilege to pack heat, Americans will seek recourse by any means.
Special-forces policeman Heller, a resident of Washington District of Columbia certainly did. The lawman, aware that anyone on the street might be armed sought solace in a piece of hardware. Mister Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home; the District denied his request since, at the time, the District of Columbia forbade civilian handgun ownership. Disgruntled, and prepared for battle, as Americans often are, Officer Heller filed a legal suit. He stated his Second Amendment Rights were violated. The Supreme Court agreed.
A review of the actual Second Amendment which states Americans have the Right to “bear arms in times when a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State,” or research might have led the Justices to decide otherwise. Nonetheless, in a summer steeped with separation from acumen, the Supreme Court ruled civilian gun ownership is a right.
The Administration, policymakers, and pundits think the decision wise. After all, it is a dangerous world. Americans need to be prepared to fight the ominous foe Fifteen years ago, near half of American households understood this. People built arsenals. Thirty-one percent of adult Americans owned a firearm in 1993. Still, that armory was not enough to protect the citizenry from attack. Years later, the munitions stored, while likely larger, were no better protection.
- According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in 2005, 477,040 victims of violent crimes stated that they faced an offender with a firearm.
- The FBI’s Crime in the United States estimated that 66% of the 16,137 murders in 2004 were committed with firearms.
Crimes occurred outside the home, on the streets of any given community and , just as predicted, some transgressions traumatized those within four walls. Few Americans ponder the weightier aspects of artillery in the American home.
Earlier this year (1997), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a mind-boggling report showing that the U.S. firearm-related homicide rate for children was 16 times higher than the combined rate for children in 25 other industrialized countries. Meanwhile, the U.S. child rate of firearm related suicide was 11 times higher. . .
Last year, Congress nearly slashed the budget for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which collects and monitors firearm injury data and funds related research as part of its mission. As a result of new funding mandates, CDC this year has been forced to dramatically reduce its firearm-related injury research, and CDC-funded gunshot injury surveillance programs will come to an end in several states.
All this comes at a time when gunshot injuries are expected to soon outstrip automobile accidents as the number one cause of injury death in the U.S., costing an estimated $20 billion yearly in medical costs and lost productivity. Surprisingly little medical research monitors the kinds of firearm injuries that occur or the types of guns used. While the CDC samples unshot injury data from 91 hospitals around the country, there is no comprehensive national surveillance system to accurately track how many people are wounded by guns each year..
Surveillance is the sham used to explain what Federal officials think a greater priority. Those who have more power than a weapon might wield understand the statistics on civilian gun wounds would not please or appease Americans. Information on gun injury might shift the fear factor. If the people are to remain focused on foreign forces, then FISA, the Bill that keeps on giving to the politically powerful, will remain safe, and after all, is that not the truer issue. As foreign correspondent Christopher Hedges reminds us . . .
It (the law) is about using terrorism (at home or abroad) as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.
Thankfully, when prized pistols are in question, it is easy to silence voices of dissent. Physicians were not asked to speak before the Supreme Court shot down a ban on gun sales. Had they had the opportunity Americans and the Justices might have heard . . .
Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling
By Maggie Fox
Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT
Washington (Reuters) – Last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a strict gun control law in the U.S. capital will lead to more deaths and accidental injuries, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine said on Wednesday.
They joined a growing clamor from medical doctors, especially emergency room physicians, who fear a surge of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides if handguns become more easily available than they already are.
The ruling struck down a law in Washington that forbade personal ownership of handguns. The court made explicit, for the first time, that Americans had rights as individuals to own guns.
It won praise from President George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and guns rights advocates (and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama)
Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the 5-4 majority on the decision, said citizens may prefer handguns for home defense because they “can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”
Perchance, Justice Scalia would be comforted to know, that with thanks to his cohorts in the Legislative Branch, when a city dweller or a rural resident telephones for assistance, he or she can be comforted by the thought the authorities are very close by. Indeed, public officials may be plugged into the individual’s phone, and computer. In the Summer of Separation, as powerbrokers in one part of Washington said , “Hello To Arms,” those on the other side of the Hill proclaimed, “Farewell To Privacy.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established thirty years ago was all but rescinded. The court system created to help public officials in a crisis is no longer needed to swiftly serve warrants when an investigation is requested. The Constitution has been compromised.
Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers, and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.
It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.
The President is abundantly pleased. The present Commander-In-Chief is now assured ultimate power. Future potential Chief Executives, one of whom voted to support this conciliatory commitment to telecommunication companies, will forever retain the “right” to be spy on the citizenry. In the Summer of Separation, cognitive and Constitutional dissonance is secure. Congress and the courts assured us of this.
Congress cast aside the Fourth Amendment, The Supreme Court rescinded the essence of the Second Amendment. Our countrymen are now be free to carry a gun, and chat on an open line with the trigger cocked. Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told us “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.” Perhaps, the prominent predecessor could not have predicted a day when citizens would be convinced to embrace fretfulness, to forego freedom, and to sing, “Farewell to privacy. Hello to Arms.”
References and Rights . . .
- U.S. Constitution: Second Amendment. Find Law.
- U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment. Find Law.
- H. R. 3162, Patriot Act 107th Congress. October 24, 2001
- Stop the new FISA; Allowing the new surveillance law to stand would seriously cripple our free press. By Chris Hedges. Los Angeles Times. July 11, 2008
- pdf Stop the new FISA; Allowing the new surveillance law to stand would seriously cripple our free press. By Chris Hedges. Los Angeles Times. July 11, 2008
- U.S. highest in gun ownership, By Christi Brua. The Daily Collegian. September 12, 2007
- Completing the Count. Chapter 2. Small Arms Survey. August 2007
- Americans have right to guns under landmark ruling, By James Vicini. Reuters. June 26, 2008
- Gun Ownership. Just Facts.
- Firearms and Crime Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice.
- The Gun Battle Over Science. By William Kistner, Frontline. May 1997
- Rates of Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm-Related Death Among Children — 26 Industrialized Countries. Center For Disease Control. February 7, 1997
- Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling By Maggie Fox. Reuters. Wednesday, July 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT
- Supreme Court shoots down D.C. gun ban, By Michael Doyle and Dave Montgomery. McClatchy Newspapers.
- Compromising the Constitution. Editorial. The New York Times. July 9, 2008
- George Bush’s latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress, By Glenn Greenwald. Salon. June 19, 2008