Have we taken our last, free breath?

Published 10:45 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

We had an attempt in Congress this week to implement some commonsense gun laws to help ensure that only good guys could easily buy guns.

Republicans defeated all four proposed bills, so all you bad guys can take heart. Your right to buy guns is safe. As for all you good guys, the bad guys have everything they need to threaten your family’s safety.

But I spent last week’s column on crazy right-wing fear mongering as to why guns are to America what milk and honey was to early Christians.

So this week I thought I’d talk about a new decision from the US Supreme Court threatening democracy.

SCOTUS voted to make all searches legal in it’s ruling of Utah vs. Strieff.

In that case a police officer thought this fellow named Strieff was up to no good, but had no reason to search him because he had witnessed no wrongdoing. The Fourth Amendment forbids unwarranted searches and seizures.

The officer stopped the man and did a background search. Turns out Strieff had an old unpaid traffic ticket. This gave him the right to search the man. The officer found some prescription opiods the man wanted to illegally sell.

So the officer arrested him. Yeah, I agree that we want drug dealers off the street, but the officer illegally (Fourth Amendment) detained Strieff, so no further information about him is legally obtained…aka the old poison fruit argument.

Now that SCOTUS has voted this okay, the Fourth Amendment does not protect citizens from unlawful searches and seizures.

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in dissent of the ruling, This ruling “implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

In other words, we’re no longer citizens in a democracy, but citizen a prison state or a police state. We can be harassed by any law enforcement officer if they don’t like our look and arrested for any reason.

As she put it, “We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated,’” Sotomayor wrote. “They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.”

We “free citizens” are less free today than ever. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority decision.

He is the most right wing justice on the court. Funny how the right wing wants to gut the Fourth Amendment, yet expand the Second Amendment out of all proportion to what the nation’s founders wrote or intended.

Our democracy has the Constitution as its foundation. Our founders wrote it to protect citizens from oppressive government power, such as the British wielded against them. It was a lot more complex and multilayered than taxation without representation.

It’s up to us, now, to protect the people by bolstering the Constitution, not weakening it.


Keith Hoggard is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at keith.hoggard@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.