ACLU Says Gun Control Legislation Infringes on Civil Liberties

This is a man bites dog story. Chris Calabrese, a lobbyist for the ACLU, has said that the gun control bill pending in the United States Senate may infringe on privacy rights and civil liberties.

That’s the problem when you create a sociopath-producing society. You end up having to hermetically seal the whole population to try to keep these monstrous few from going into movie theaters and schools and killing people. Instead of punishing the guilty, you end up using police state tactics on everyone.

It doesn’t surprise me that the proposed gun control legislation raises questions about privacy rights and civil liberties. Anyone who’s ever thought about it for longer than five minutes knows there is no way to have effective gun control without doing exactly that. While I realize that other countries have gun control, I would wager that their citizens do not have the Constitutional guarantees of individual freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms, that Americans do.

What I find surprising is that the ACLU is willing to say it. After the HHS Mandate, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the ACLU is in the bag for politics, rather than defense of the Bill of Rights.

While this interview is a long way from an official ACLU position, it still surprises.

From Daily Caller:

As Senate Democrats struggle to build support for new gun control legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union now says it’s among those who have “serious concerns” about the bill.

Those concerns have the capacity to prove a major setback to Sen. Harry Reid’s current gun bill, which includes language from earlier bills introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, a top lobbyist for the ACLU announced that the group thinks Reid’s current gun bill could threaten both privacy rights and civil liberties.

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  • Manny

    I agree that it’s a surprise. There have been quite a few issues where you would think that the ACLU would take up the libertarian position, but haven’t. This could be a huge game changer in the debate (NRA was kicking butt anyway) over guns if elements of the left also support gun rights.

  • Theodore Seeber

    This is a serious enough issue that I’m not against removing civil rights from certain people for rational reasons; but I still think the only logical conclusion I can come to for a gun control bill is an anonymized web based instant background check system. Such a check should look at both law enforcement and mental health records, and within 30 seconds come back with a simple pass/fail report with no additional information available to the dealer. A pass indicates it is legal to sell the gun or ammo, a fail indicates that selling a gun and/or ammo to this individual would leave the dealer criminally liable for anything that happens next.

    The crazy stuff in the current federal senate and in several state legislatures like banning guns that look dangerous and large clips, will do absolutely NOTHING to prevent the types of shootings we’ve seen recently. Given a bad actor like the Sandy Hook Shooter’s mother, who apparently encouraged her son’s gun collecting *despite* his obvious mental problems, there would still be a huge loophole in the system.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Ted, the only way I know of to legally remove civil rights from people is to either have them declared incompetent/legally insane or to convict them of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment. Even then, only some of their civil rights will be abrogated. The right to due process and to petition the courts (as just a for instance, there are others) never goes away. You can’t just say that a large percentage of the population will lose their civil rights because you’ve decided they should. That is martial law, and I don’t think we have reason for that right now. :-)

      • Theodore Seeber

        “either have them declared incompetent/legally insane ”

        Which the last two mass shooters WERE. As well as several previous to this. As well as my cousin who legally purchased a pistol with a one week waiting period and legal background check and then killed himself.

        It is precisely the gap in the background check that mental health records are not normally included (thanks to HIPPA, they currently can’t be under federal law) that is the primary cause of several gun incidents over the last few years.

        “The right to due process and to petition the courts (as just a for instance, there are others) never goes away. ”

        And I’m not saying that a person who is red-flagged by such a system couldn’t petition to have that flag removed with evidence that he is not a danger to himself and others. I’m saying that for those who are tagged with a mental illness, such as myself, it might be a good idea to double check with a psychiatrist before owning a weapon or being allowed to purchase one.

        If a large percentage of the population is so clinically depressed that they’re likely to go postal at the local post office or mall, then we’ve got far worse problems than worrying about martial law being enacted.

        • Sus

          Who tags the person as insane and who decides if the person’s tag should be removed? I don’t disagree with you. I’m just wondering about logistics.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            This is mostly a state issue. Here in Oklahoma, the process of declaring someone mentally incompetent due to insanity is lengthy and the results are limited and subject to review. It’s almost impossible to get someone permanently declared incompetent due to insanity if there are medications which will treat them. What almost always happens if that the person becomes a danger to themselves or others (the legal criteria) and they are taken in mental health custody for treatment. This can happen without a court order, based on a physician’s judgement, but they can only be held for … I think … three days without court order. After that, they are (if the court decides) adjudicated in need of treatment. This is reviewed on a regular basis, and as soon as treatments get this person where they are no longer a danger to themselves or others, they are released. These laws are not paper tigers. They are followed rigorously.

            The other way would be to be declared criminally insane. This usually happens after some great tragedy involving the death of another person or persons. I know of a couple of cases, but they are far too grisly to discuss on this blog.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Rebecca is correct, though I’d go a step further and in the case of buying a firearm, the officer doing the background check should really check with the person’s psychiatrist and pharmacist to make sure that the reason they want the gun isn’t just because they’ve gone off their meds. Such an individual, SHOULD be red-flagged in the gun purchase database (and I say that as just such an individual, with many, many family members that I don’t want to have access to weaponry).

            Under current Federal HIPPA regulations though, unless it is somebody who is *criminally insane* (which requires an actual act of violence, followed by a trial, in which the person pleads insanity and is remanded to the custody of a mental institution) this information is hidden in many states from a normal law enforcement background check.

            If you had tried to commit suicide as a teen, and were a man, and your wife was in the process of divorcing you and maybe committing adultery, shouldn’t you be kept from owning a weapon? There were 7 murder-suicides in the last 10 years in my metro area due to this exact sequence of events.

  • Becky

    We manage to have a national drivers’ license system without infringing on civil liberties. There’s no reason we can’t ask as much of gun owners in the interest of public safety — that is, gun owners should be subject to a system of licensing that becomes more stringent/restrictive with the increased deadliness of the sought weapon, just as more training/testing/licensing is required to drive a semi truck than a passenger vehicle.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Are you referring to America? I don’t know of a national driver’s license. Can you explain further?

      To just address the underlying issue for a moment, the ability to be licensed to drive a car is not a Constitutional right. It is a privilege afforded (so far as I know) by individual states, which set their own requirements. If there is a national driver’s license of some sort, I am unaware of it.

      Also, training/testing/licensing is required to obtain a license to carry permit for a gun or a hunting license in Oklahoma. I think many other states have something similar. This has not in any way that I can see stopped these mass killings by what are predominantly privileged young men.

      Also, so far as gun control goes, your analogy is at best weak. Driver’s licenses do not affect car ownership in that you may buy as many cars as you want without having a license to drive them. What gun control has historically sought to limit is gun ownership, not gun use. From what I’ve read, I think the legislation in question probably does the same thing. That is a clear-cut Constitutional issue.

  • Bill S

    “Given a bad actor like the Sandy Hook Shooter’s mother, who apparently encouraged her son’s gun collecting *despite* his obvious mental problems, there would still be a huge loophole in the system.”

    I agree. It’s like truth is stranger than fiction. Who could even come up with a hypothetical scenario like the real life situation with the Lanzas? You just can’t make this stuff up. No amount of contingency planning could have ever prepared to deal with a mother’s poor judgement. There could never be a law that would have prevented the Newtown tragedy.

    • Theodore Seeber

      At least, until we can diagnose mental illness well enough to identify such bad actors as well.

      I still don’t quite understand the concept of “I enj0y shooting guns. My son enjoys shooting guns, but is mentally ill enough to be prevented from buying guns, so I’m going to buy guns anyway and give them to him as a present”. GOT to be insane to even entertain that train of thought.

  • FW Ken

    If it’s still in print, Dr. Scott Peck’s The People of the Lie is worth a read on this topic. He tells of a family who’s soon committed suicide with a hunting rifle. For his next birthday, their younger son was given that same rifle for a present. It’s this sort of evil insanity that we are fighting in the current situations. Laws might help, heaven knows we need to think as a community about folks with mental illness and how we handle those folks. But, honestly, if we ignore violence in the media, we are engaging in the sort of evil insanity of which Scott Peck tells.