Gun rights advocates should empathize with stop/frisk fury (Feb. 19)

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

AmmoLand, a website devoted to gun rights and competitive shooting, stated the following last month:

“The march for more gun laws in New York continues with another assault on the right of the citizens. The latest bill would make it mandatory that every gun owner in the state of New York gets a mental health evaluation before they could purchase a firearm. This wouldn’t be a one-time thing, this would be for every gun, and, of course, these evaluations would have to be at the expense of the gun purchaser. Governor Andrew Cuomo is making it more than well-known that gun owners in New York are not only not wanted, they are on his list of targets, and the governor has said in the past if people don’t like his rules, then they are free to leave.”

The attitude attributed to Governor Cuomo comes from remarks the governor made in 2014 suggesting that extreme conservatives who were “right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, and anti-gay” had no place in the state of New York. As you can tell from AmmoLand’s commentary, they are still offended by Governor Cuomo’s statement. But in the governor’s defense, his remarks were taken out of context, but suppose the governor did tell conservatives, who didn’t like the state’s gun control policies, they could leave. Would he have been wrong? Of course not; most conservative political theorists will explain that it’s better that restrictive measures be imposed by the town, county, or state instead of the national government because, in theory, the citizen can move out the respective jurisdiction, but moving out of the country should not be required of the citizen.

It’s obvious New York’s latest requirement for mental health evaluations are in response to the wave of mass shootings, where the perpetrators of the atrocities displayed mental instability before they legally obtained a weapon. But the gun owner’s complaint is preventive measures taken by the state do not prevent atrocities. These preventive measures primarily burden law-abiding citizens that wish to exercise their constitutional rights. It’s an understandable complaint, but all law-abiding citizens have to deal with the unintended consequences of public policy designed to increase public safety or to prevent crime.

Now, in 2015, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, explained a controversial policy the NYPD enforced called stop and frisk. (The whole policy was called Stop, Question, and Frisk.) Bloomberg stated, 95 percent of murders and murder victims are young male minorities and to combat crime “we had to put a lot of cops where the crime was,” which meant in minority neighborhoods, and to get the guns out of the kids’ hands police must throw them against the wall and frisk them.

But the people in these high-crime neighborhoods can’t just move.

Bloomberg acknowledged that the “over presence” of police in minority neighborhoods meant minorities were disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession and he referred to the disproportional arrests as a “necessary consequence.” A lot of people are still offended by Bloomberg’s comments and have demanded a series of apologies. But I think Bloomberg needs to explain the difference between unintended and necessary consequences.

Right now, in New York, law-abiding gun owners feel they shouldn’t have to get a mental health evaluation to prove to the state they aren’t criminally inclined before they purchase a firearm, and during Bloomberg’s three mayoral terms law-abiding citizens in minority neighborhoods felt they shouldn’t have been thrown against the wall so the police could discover they weren’t criminals.

Gun rights advocates should empathize with the stop-and-frisk resentment because it’s no different than their own resentment toward unintended consequences to restrictive measures. But if they lack empathy, it’s because they believe restrictive measures in minority neighborhoods are necessary and they don’t have unintended consequences.

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