WARNING: This video contains disturbing images of interactions between law enforcement personnel and private citizens. VIEW DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Before I get into this discussion, I want to acknowledge my deep admiration and respect for the hard work that most law enforcement agencies do on behalf of all of us. Law enforcement personnel are often asked to do what seems to be an impossible job. This article is not about them, but an analysis of our rights in the presence of their activities.
As law abiding citizens of the United States of America, we have constitutional rights. These rights, unfortunately, have not only been infringed upon by governmental agencies (e.g., Chicago’s conceal and carry bans), but made ineffective by our own actions. We often choose, through our own inaction, to circumvent the power of the Constitution by “giving up our rights.”
Take for example, the case where an individual law abiding citizen is driving on a public highway and not visibly breaking any laws. They drive up to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) border patrol check point where the occupants of the car are stopped and asked if they are “citizens of the United States.” What would you do? You could say “yes” and be flagged on your way. Or, you could acknowledge your first, forth, and fifth amendment rights. Check out this video.
I felt very uncomfortable watching this video the first 2 times. My initial reaction was, “these drivers are jerks, just answer the fracking question an move on.” But about half way through the third time, the Constitutional light when on in my head. If I wasn’t doing anything wrong, why are they doing this? This is the same question many of us are asking regarding our second amendment rights as well. This is a war on all aspects of the constitution!
As background, unless an individual is suspected of a crime, law enforcement officials have limits to what they can do. For example, regardless of your state’s law, police can never compel you to identify yourself without reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in illegal activity (case in point for this video). But how can you tell if an officer asking you to identify yourself has reasonable suspicion?
Remember, police need reasonable suspicion to detain you (4th and 5th amendments). So the best way to tell if they have reasonable suspicion is to determine if you’re free to go (again, the video). You can do this by saying “Excuse me officer. Are you detaining me, or am I free to go?” We saw this technique in the video several times. If the officer says you’re free to go, leave immediately and don’t answer any more questions. If being detained, then ask, “Officer, what am I being detained for?”
So, why is all this 4th amendment stuff important, especially when we know law enforcement, like the great guys and gals at the border patrol, are working to protect all of us? Because all rights matter and when we willing give up one right, those that want to control try to take others away. I would argue that if more people lawfully exercised their 1st, 4th, and 5th amendment rights every day, the second amendment would not have the political pressure being put on it we see now.