Y’know, as a conservative, I have a bent toward law and order. With an emphasis on “rule of law” and “general order”.
We’ll come back to that.
One of the knee-jerk memes from those on the left who try to play at legal scholarship in re the Second Amendment is “the founders were talking about muzzle-loading muskets, not assault rifles”. It’s balderdash, of course; a founding father might not know what all the parts are and all the buttons do, but the stock and the tube on an M4 Carbine aren’t that different from the ones on the founding fathers’ Brown Besses and Kentucky Long Rifles.
But on the flip side, there is something out there affecting our freedom – potentially – that the founders wouldn’t know if they saw it.
One of the reasons we have a Second Amendment is that our founding fathers were very afraid of the idea of the standing army, and wanted the people to see to their own defense. The alternative, the Founders saw, was a standing military that would unthinkingly carry out the wishes of the rulers, at the expense of The People. Their model was the armies of Europe – professional forces who served the King, not the “country”, and who frequently weren’t even from the country; kings knew that mercenaries who weren’t from the area would have fewer compunctions about opening fire on rambunctuous locals; “never station a soldier among his own people” is still a standard practice among dictators.
This was, of course, at a time when “police forces” were almost unheard of. Towns might employ firewatchmen; sheriffs might gather posses for any particularly trying tasks. But the “police force”, the full-time professional law-enforcement that we know today, didn’t become common until well into the 1800s.
And the the police of the 1800s, or for that matter the 1950s, might not recognize some of what they see among police forces today.
Paul Szoldra writes for Business Insider. He’s also a Marine veteran of the War on Terror. And he comments on what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri:
Troops in full “battle rattle”, equipped not one degree behind the Airborne Ranger fashion curve are out on the streets in not-remotely-metaphorical-or-rhetorical force:
When did this become OK? When did “protect and serve” turn into “us versus them”?
“Why do these cops need MARPAT [Marine Pattern] camo pants again,” I asked on Twitter this morning. One of the most interesting responses came from a follower who says he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.”
I’ll leave that to the actual veterans (I haven’t seen any “Ma Deuces” or “Two Forty Golfs”), but the “show of force” is really emphasizing the ‘Force”.
Let’s be clear: This is not a war zone — even if the FAA banned flights under 3,000 feet. This is a city outside of St. Louis where people on both sides are angry. Protesters have looted and torched a gas station, and shots were fired at police, according to The Washington Post.
The scene is tense, but the presence of what looks like a military force doesn’t seem to be helping.
The amount of “us against them” – we the people are apparently “them” – from the police seems to be accelerating.
“Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it,” one police officer was caught on video telling protesters. In Ferguson and beyond, it seems that some police officers have shed the blue uniform and have put on the uniform and gear of the military, bringing the attitude along with it.
It’s a tense situation. I get it. The cops want to go home at night.
But then so do the rest of us. We scarcely go a day without some story of the police, somewhere, busting down the wrong door; throwing flash-bang grenades into rooms of sleeping children; making innocent people lie on the floor with guns in their faces, handcuffed, as the police tear the house apart looking for something to justify the raid (and as many laws as there are, everyone’s broken some kind of law or another); of cops shooting family pets that growl at them; of police manhunts shooting up all sorts of innocent people along with the perps.
And worse than all of that, the tendendy among some police to assume that peoples’ constitutional rights are an impediment.
I’ll repeat the usual disclaimer; most cops are good cops.
But it’s not the individual cop in the street that worries me. It’s a police culture that is becoming more and more aggressive; more militarized, and militaristic. A culture that, more and more, thinks everyone that’s not in blue (or black, or camo) is a potential danger to be pre-empted.
The US Military, nearly alone among world militaries over the centuries, has kept itself almost completely out of civil politics and government (outside of lobbying for funding). They have followed Posse Comitatus – the separation of military and civil power in this country – pretty scrupulously. I personally have little doubt that if a US President were dumb enough to toss out the Constitution and try to usurp control of the country, the military would at least refuse to carry out the order, and at best side with The People.
But the police? They are the enforcement arm of “the civil power”. And you don’t have to see too many stories about local police departments getting mine-resistant armored cars and the latest assault rifles, of federal agencies buying up tractor-trailers full of ammunitiion, of cops strutting around the city in full battle rattle to arrest petty drug offenders, to wonder if the Founding Fathers weren’t worried about the wrong standing army.