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One War, Many Names


Maybe one of my libertarian fantasies will come true. Maybe. I can only hope.

About 20 years ago, while having lunch with some friends, a casual acquaintance joined us at our table. My friends were members of the Delaware Libertarian Party, and the acquaintance was a self-described “Republican gun nut.”

The restaurant was on a college campus and filled with mostly liberal-leaning students. Marijuana was a campus staple. Glancing around during the ensuing conversation on the topics of guns and drugs, I realized that I really wanted to get the gun crowd and the drug crowd to acknowledge that they had the same enemy — an overbearing and intrusive government that refused to be governed by its own rules.

It was obvious to me that the government’s drug-war policy of violating the Fourth and Fifth Amendments (which guarantee due process and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure) would also be increasingly applied to government gun-control efforts. The Republican laughed at me. He had the Second Amendment on his side, he said. He didn’t — maybe he refused to — understand.

That was in the mid-1990s. Look at what’s been happening since.

On the drug side, in 2003, a 13-year-old girl in an Arizona middle school was strip-searched because another student told the vice-principal that she had drugs. She even showed him a pill that she claimed the other girl had given her. The pill was ibuprofen, legal but still against school policy.

Policy overrode reason. Instead of contacting the girl’s parents, school administrators searched her backpack. They found no drugs. Then they took her into a private room where the search got personal. Breasts and pelvic areas were exposed under the watchful eyes of a school secretary and nurse. Still no contraband found.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8–1 decision, later ruled the search to be illegal.

The girl’s attorney said at the time, “The misguided actions of these school officials must not become the status quo in our nation’s schools.”

But people rarely learn from history, and governments — including government schools — rely on that human fault.

On the weapons side, in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, the Palisades School Board recently authorized strip searches of students when “other students and the staff are believed to be in danger,” a newspaper report said.

(In many schools around the country, danger is a constant. Strip searches of students would become that warned-of “status quo.”)

But there is a possible bright side. The Lehigh Valley Morning Call is now reporting that the board might modify or even repeal the policy. The paper quoted one of the school board directors as saying, “It could be a liability to the district.”

One has to wonder why that wasn’t considered before. The 13-year-old Arizona student was so freaked out by her experience that she couldn’t return to school for months and later transferred to another school.

Notice, though, that the director in the Palisades district is more concerned about possible liability than about actually respecting individual students and their guaranteed natural rights. It’s not farfetched at all to believe that there would be no backing off had the Supreme Court ruled differently in the Arizona case.

Let’s not forget two other situations mentioned several weeks ago: A 5-year-old girl in a Pennsylvania kindergarten was suspended for talking about playing with a toy gun that shoots soap bubbles. And in Massachusetts, the parents of a 5-year-old boy received a letter threatening their son with suspension because he made a model gun out of Legos.

The assaults continue. Now a New York legislator wants people to take out an insurance policy of at least $1 million before they’re allowed to buy a weapon. This would turn a guaranteed right into an exclusive privilege for the wealthy. Only the rich would be allowed to defend themselves, because only they could afford the insurance.

One tactic in the statist grab bag long used in the failed drug war has been civil asset forfeiture. Police can take private property from people they believe to be engaged in drug activity even if no charges are ever filed. How long before civil asset forfeiture is used in the war on guns?

Think it can’t happen? How many people ever heard of asset forfeiture at all before Nixon declared drugs to be public enemy number one? Who ever thought a kindergartner would be suspended from school for talking about a toy? Who ever thought a 13-year-old would be forced to show what’s beneath her underwear because someone thought she might be hiding an aspirin?

And who ever thought federal agents would frisk a little girl in a wheelchair before allowing her to board an airplane to go to Disney World? Who ever thought that a sitting United States president would order the killing of an American citizen — or a citizen of any country for that matter — without due process? The list could go on indefinitely.

Let’s get it straight. The war on terror, the war on drugs, and the as yet to be formally declared war on guns are actually wars on the rights of man. Liberals and conservatives had better wake up to that fact soon, before federal and state governments — and local school boards — trample all our rights entirely.

The evidence is there to see if only the left and the right eye work together.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.