Jim Hoffman
Free Press Opinion Columnist

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April 24, 2013
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HOFFMAN: 'Knee-jerk' legislation creates dangerous laws

As you are aware, I try to keep this column local in scope. Sometimes I stray from that path and today shall be one of those days.

Locally, gun control laws are certainly a hot topic. When discussing proposed gun legislation we read lots of angry rants, observe protest rallies, and see a lot of Facebook postings. We read that we are being stripped of our rights. We hear that tyranny is upon us and the end of days at hand.

Efforts to curb gun violence are labeled as "knee-jerk" and "feel good" legislation. The unfortunate truth would appear to be that most legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to local, state and national events. Our legislators simply lack the wisdom to legislate in any other manner. Witness the creation of the Patriot Act as evidence of such.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, we see an avalanche of "knee-jerk" reactions and proposals. Most of these proposals seem hell-bent on further eroding our rights. I have not yet seen one outraged response to proposals to eliminate rights or further limit our privacy. While we seem compelled to demand the need for guns to protect ourselves, we seem content to allow an even bigger government to provide protection even if it means we lose even more civil liberties.

Specifically, it has been reported that the lesson to be learned from Boston is that we need even more surveillance cameras. Our "reasonable expectation of privacy" has become so eroded it would seem that the only place where it still exists is in our personal bathrooms and I am not sure of that.

If you use a cell phone you do not have a reasonable right to privacy as your conversations can be intercepted. If you use a cell phone you do not have a reasonable right to privacy because your movements may be monitored. If the government desires, it can tap your phone without a warrant, it can arrest and detain you without charge, and can even execute you without charge or trial. Drones are becoming almost commonplace even here in Mesa County; you have no reasonable expectation of privacy from drones if you are outside your home.

Now, why is it we are so vocal about our guns and yet so silent on all these other erosions of rights? When Rep. Peter King of New York proposes blanket surveillance of Muslims, why do we not cry out? The answer is simple, we agree Muslims should be watched and watched closely. After all, we are not Muslim. Wiretap our phones? No problem, I don't do anything criminal. Mount cameras so our every movement can be monitored? No problem, I don't do anything criminal. Place a GPS unit on my car or follow my movements by tracking my smartphone? No problem, I don't do anything criminal. Lock another up without charge or trial? No problem it won't happen to me.

Recall that essay from Germany (which I unfortunately deleted from my e-mail). It is paraphrased here. When they came for the Muslims it was OK, I was not Muslim. When they detained my neighbor on the suspicion he was a criminal, it was OK, I was not a criminal. When they wiretapped my brother's phone without warrant, it was OK; it was even OK when they killed that guy in Asia they thought may be plotting against us. When they came for me I was outraged, but no one spoke up for me.

The GJ Chamber of Commerce and a few others have come out in defense of Rick Brainard. They have decried the city council acting in the role of Judge, Jury and Executioner. They have warned of the end of due process. Their statements have been as similar in nature as to appear almost scripted. While they all are appropriately appalled by domestic violence they all feel that Mr. Brainard deserves his day in court at which time he may be proven innocent.

Either they have failed to read the police report, or they must think the admissions of guilt within that report are fabricated. True, Mr. Brainard deserves his day in court at which time events will "run their course." At what point in time will these folks say, "Oops, we erred in judgment" - probably never.

Since they are so concerned about due process, maybe they have some thoughts on detention without charge?

Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 24, 2013 03:32PM Published Apr 24, 2013 03:31PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.