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Is domestic law enforcement paranoia turning the US into a police state?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on November 7th, 2013)

Judging by the way the Department of Homeland Security is spending your money, domestic unrest may be coming soon to a city near you. The DHS has been making purchases lately that seem to signal a federal fear of riots across the nation in the coming months. The obvious question is, what do they know that they American people don’t? A more enduring and chilling question is what will be the end result of America’s increasingly militarized police force?

PressTV reported this morning that the DHS has stated its intentions, via the Federal Business Opportunities website, to spend half a million dollars on 240,000 pepper spray projectiles, 100 pepper spray launchers and 36 “riot expansion kits.”

PressTV explained,

“The PepperBall TAC-700 pepper spray launcher ‘features full auto, semi-auto, or 3 round burst providing up to 700 rounds per minute, and is accurate to 60 feet with area saturation up to 150 feet.’ According to a video demonstration, the TAC-700 has a ‘strong psychological influence’ on the people it is being used against because it is so loud and sounds like an automatic machine gun.”

The equipment was designed for use in riot control situations, although the contract on the website states that the purchases are being made for training purposes.

The recent controversy is only the latest in a string of far more alarming incidents involving what many see as paranoid behavior on the part of the federal agency.

In February a ruckus was caused when it came to light that the DHS was training officers with practice targets featuring photographs of children, young mothers, pregnant women, and disabled elderly people who were depicted as armed with handguns.

The No More Hesitation campaign was supposedly designed to break down stereotypes associated with generally non-threatening figures, for the purpose of saving officers’ lives. However, judging by the ensuing outcry, the American people seem to feel there are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable. Furthermore, they don’t want those constraints shot down by the domestic task force that has been constructed to protect them.

Last week, it was revealed that the DHS is set to spend $80 million dollars on hiring armed guards for use at “public demonstrations” and “civil disturbances” in upstate New York. The information was acquired via another posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

But it’s not just the policy-makers at the DHS who seem to be developing paranoid habits and an irrational fear of the American people. In recent months, local law enforcement personnel all over the country have drawn fire repeatedly for actions that many insist constitute severe violations of civil liberties.

In August, Sarah Boaz, a Texas resident of Richland Hills, was ticketed for running a stop sign. The New York Daily News reported Boaz lost the ticket and failed to pay it on time. She expected to receive a late fee, but was shocked when a city marshal handcuffed her outside of her house one morning and carted her off to jail, where she was unexpectedly subjected to a strip search that left her overwhelmed and confused – and not a little indignant.

In a similar story, accompanied by outrageous surveillance cam footage, Dana Holmes is suing officers who she claims illegally strip-searched her after jailing her for a DUI arrest. However, the only thing that isn’t entirely certain is whether the search was illegal, since video evidence shows it clearly occurred. In the seriously disturbing clip, three male officers and one female officer jerk Holmes off of wall and onto the ground, drag her into a padded cell and then proceed to remove all of her clothes.

“I just felt helpless and degraded… I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me,” Holmes told the local news station. “I just had all kinds of things going on in my head. I was scared and I lay there crying.”

Holmes’ experience is not the only instance of its kind. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that two Texas women are suing after they were subjected to cavity searches at traffic stops. The women were pulled over for speeding and considered the searches completely unwarranted and inexplicable. Thousands of Americans agreed, and Angela Dobbs, one of the plaintiffs, said she has received worldwide support.

Dobbs also said she’s heard from numerous other women who have experienced cavity searches after being stopped by state troopers, but who were too afraid to come forward. Clearly the outrage that Dobbs and Hamilton suffered was not simply a poor decision made by a rookie officer.

In an article for The Guardian earlier this month that raised questions about the 1033 program, an initiative that allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces, Michael Shank pointed to the mounting evidence that suggests the police force in America is looking more and more like the military. 

The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action,” he wrote, warning of, “the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”

Someone is training law enforcement officials in this heavy-handed behavior. The question is why? And what will become of civil liberties in a nation that tolerates these abuses at the hands of domestic officials?

(First published at the The Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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Why has the Mexico Permanent Commission voted to ask the US Senate for a registry of guns in border states?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 21, 2013)

— In the wake of a tense national clash regarding the issue of gun control, Mexico has taken an action sure to fan the flames of controversy. In January, the Mexico Permanent Commission reportedly voted to formally ask the United States Senate for a registry of all commercialized firearms in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

According to Informador, the proposition was introduced by Senator Marcela Guerra, who stated he introduced the resolution in hopes that it would make it easier to trace guns used in violent crimes. InsightCrime explains,

“Close to 60,000 people were killed during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December. The US Southwest is a significant source of weaponry for Mexico's criminal organizations, who typically purchase firearms from US gun stores via a middleman or ‘straw buyer.’ ”

Given these facts, it might not seem surprising that the Mexican government is interested in taking action to curb the acquisition of weapons by violent criminals on their side of the border. However, given the recent history of government-initiated gun trafficking on our side, neither is it surprising to hear the comments of enraged gun-owners who feel that the Mexican request is absurd.

“It’s an infringement, on its highest level,” said one Arizona gun-owner interviewed by KPHO TV.

“My first reaction is, I don’t like it,” said another. “In light of what happened, with, you know, all the weapons, the assault weapons, that went over there.”  

He was referring to the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) gun-walking scandal, Fast And Furious, in which US government agents allowed guns to pass into the possession of suspected gun smugglers in order to track them up to high-level Mexican crime rings.

Over 2,000 weapons unfortunately did end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members, but rather than leading to any arrests or information, the guns were somehow lost. They are in the process of being recovered, of course. Each time another innocent like US border agent Brian Terry or Mexican beauty queen Maria Gamez, is victimized, we discover the final landing place of another Fast and Furious weapon. The price, however, for the failed operation, has been high. With an estimated 150 deaths, some say too high.

Not surprisingly, law-abiding gun-owners are balking at the idea of being tracked as a potential threat to Mexican lives when their own government is responsible for causing so much of the problem. If there needs to be action taken on the issue of gun-smuggling, they say, start with the smugglers! They don’t feel that’s them.

And under the administration of a President who persists in treating gun ownership like a malicious cancer in American public life, they’re not sure they feel comfortable having their names entered into a national registry of cancerous cells, which is periodically being delivered to foreign governments. Who can blame them?  

 
 
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Senator Rand Paul: "I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, & we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 18, 2013)



President Obama yesterday released a list of descriptions of the 23 executive orders he is planning to put into place following an extended national debate regarding gun control. While some of these descriptions are so vague and redundant that they add practically nothing to our understanding of the President’s plans, others are plainer and more alarming.

All are confirmation that an arrogant and authoritarian approach to guns on the part of our leadership is imminent. All demonstrate powerfully the presence of a deadly epidemic in our national consciousness. That epidemic is our population’s ill-founded and seemingly inexorable insistence on trusting in authority figures to fix everything, to always know what to do, to make everything better for us.

Fortunately for the American people, Senator Rand Paul is one legislator who doesn’t seem to be suffering from this malady. Consequently, he released a plan of his own yesterday.

“In the United States, we do not have a king. But we do have a Constitution. We also have a 2nd Amendment. I will fight tooth and nail to protect it,” he wrote on his facebook page. “There are several of the executive orders that appear as if the President is writing new law. That cannot happen. My bill will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation. No president should be allowed to overstep the bounds of the Constitution.”

Paul’s bill is called the Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act of 2013 and it has several purposes. The first purpose is to condemn the use of executive orders which undermine the powers reserved for Congress. The bill points to Article I of the Constitution, which states, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.”

The bill then declares that the President’s recent executive actions and impending executive orders “could be construed to describe an attempt by the executive to make laws in violation of the Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment.”

A Capitol Hill source reportedly told The Daily Caller that Paul’s legislation is “expected to do three things: nullify Obama’s executive orders, defund them and ask the Senate to file a court challenge to them.”

“I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Paul said in an interview with Hannity Wednesday night.

The Kentucky Senator didn’t limit his criticism of executive action to the current President, however. “It's been a long battle that we've been losing gradually and even Republican presidents have also usurped their executive privilege to exert more authority than the constitution gave them. But, you know, our founders looked to Montesquieu, and Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and legislative powers.”

Paul says his bill should be introduced early next week.

But Senator Rand Paul is not the only one to challenge the President, and there is reason to believe that his bill will receive widespread support from citizens all over the nation. State legislators, sheriffs, and other authority figures from a number of other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming and Oregon have offered negative responses to the President’s actions.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a letter to Mississippi House Speaker Phil Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves that the president's Executive Order "infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history. I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the President illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement,” he added.

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote, "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals no matter how heinous the crimes to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws." He added that he would not enforce any laws which “offended the constitutional rights” of residents in his district.

Early in the week, Texas State Rep. Steve Toth declared that he will be filing legislation to "assist the protection of the Second Amendment." The Firearms Protection Act would make "any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state's boundaries.”
He also explained that "anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal."

"We can no longer depend on the Federal Government and this Administration to uphold a Constitution that they no longer believe in," Toth said in a statement. "The liberties of the People of Texas and the sovereignty of our State are too important to just let the Federal Government take them away."


 
 
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Vice President Joe Biden says Obama may resort to another executive order to deal with the gun control debate

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 10, 2012)

If there’s one thing Vice President Joe Biden is not known for, it’s that rare combination of intelligence and eloquence so crucial to those who live in the fixed glare of the national spotlight. Biden’s mouth is not exactly a fountain of life from which wisdom and understanding pour forth abundantly. Indeed, his mouth seems to spend more time hosting his foot that it does emitting words of knowledge. Nevertheless, there has not yet been any suggestion that his particularly inflammatory statement of this morning was any kind of gaffe.   

"The president is going to act," Biden said Wednesday, regarding the touchy issue of gun control. "Executive order, executive action can be taken, we haven't decided what that is yet. But we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action, we believe, is required. [sic]"

This statement came as the Vice President was preparing to meet with groups representing survivors of mass shootings. Biden was appointed by President Obama in December to oversee a new task force assembled to provide "concrete proposals” for the reduction of gun violence.

In his statement he called the issue of gun control a “moral issue” and stated that "it's critically important that we act. As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking. But I'm convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly.

Politicians make mistakes. And that’s OK. We the people are – often unwisely – very forgiving. We will  forgive a leader’s embarrassing misstatements, his or her injudicious metaphors, slips of the tongue, and unexpected moments of public confusion.

Speaking in Ohio in 2008, Biden famously said, "Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs."

We can forgive the Vice President for forgetting how to count to four in a tense moment and before the prying eyes of millions of American people. Millions of American people can forgive this, have forgiven it, have ceased to think about it anymore. What we cannot forgive, what we must not forgive, is a statement like the one the Vice President made today.

We have pardoned little unintentional insults and innuendos and manifestations of human error and finite capabilities. What is unpardonable in a leader of our nation is the suggestion that at his whim he intends to throw out our history and our legislation and our hard-won liberty in order to replace it with a vision that violates our trust in him. What is unpardonable in a man who occupies such a position of trust over us is the glib arrogance that disregards the very oath of office which binds him where he stands and subordinates his visions to our particular set of laws. What is unpardonable in our executives is a vision which trespasses on the Constitution they have sworn to protect.

Article 1, Section 1 of this Constitutions states,

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

What is unpardonable in a leader of this great nation is the seizing of such powers as belong to other representatives and the forcing of his will upon an unwilling and divided citizenry. This is what is unpardonable in both Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama himself.


(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)

 

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