National Security

Is this pandemic health crisis crushing our constitutional rights?

Some governors, mayors, and county executives are already extending their shelter-in-place decrees and economic shutdowns beyond what President Trump has signaled he’ll do nationally.

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I’m a long-time libertarian, one who throughout my career always had to have the public’s constitutional rights in mind, because I dealt with them every day as a cop. I truly believe cops help people maintain their security and their liberty so they can pursue their happiness.

So, we must continually monitor the current government restrictions on Americans’ liberty, no matter how warranted. Even when necessary, we have to look at these restrictions on liberty as necessary evils and keep that notion uppermost in our thoughts. Even when government-enforced restrictions begin with a legitimate purpose, we should be very careful whenever the government does things that, for whatever reason, suspend our constitutional rights.

Under these current pandemic protocols, Americans don’t have a right to peaceably assemble, which ties into also restricting our right to freely practice our religions. The government has also infringed on our freedom of movement and labor—our pursuit of happiness. And in some locations, politicians threatened or even have suspended Americans’ self-defense and gun rights.

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As David Harsanyi wrote at the National Review, “The Constitution Isn’t Suspended Because of Coronavirus.” Even free speech is being attacked in places like New Jersey, which is no surprise as the gun-rights-hating, anti-liberty Governor Phil Murphy has been indicating long before the coronavirus outbreak.

Harsanyi wrote, “The city of Newark is cracking down on ‘coronavirus disinformation,’ warning that any ‘false reporting’ —which includes misleading ‘allegations’ on social media— will lead to criminal prosecution.” Where does Murphy get his authority to moderate and edit free speech? Is a difference in opinion now prosecutable? Who gets to decide what is disinformation or misleading allegations? I suppose Comrade Phil Murphy does, right?

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If I’m from New Jersey, and I write on social media something supporting what President Donald Trump endorses, and Governor Murphy endorses some contradictory views of, let’s say, fellow Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), will he try to prosecute me? Who do these people think they are that such a fascistic thought so easily enters their thinking?

Ken Matthews, a Pennsylvania radio host, recently guest-hosting for the Rush Limbaugh radio program, made a comment to the effect: It’s scary how easy it was to do all this (politicians suspending Americans’ constitutional rights).

Daniel Horowitz has a superb piece over at ConservativeReview.com, regarding how state legislators need to control their governors’ growing tyranny. Horowitz warns, “It’s become a game. Every day at a specific time, each governor, and now even county executive, announces a press conference where, with the flick of the pen, they issue edicts that violate more inalienable natural rights than at any time in this nation’s history.

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“What started out as a prudent move has now devolved into a free-for-all of tyranny against peaceful citizens, as authorities release criminals from prison [and suspend enforcing some crimes]. It’s time to demand that state legislatures reconvene and start setting parameters and guidelines. It’s time to return to self-governance.”

Horowitz is right. Leftist politicians across the country are exploiting this crisis to attempt to advance their social justice agendas. I’ve never before seen more evidence of just how slippery a slope never letting “a serious crisis go to waste” can be.

Some governors, mayors, and county executives are already extending their shelter-in-place decrees and economic shutdowns beyond what President Trump has signaled he’ll do nationally. The president has expressed his hope that the nation could start returning to “normal” by Easter.

It seems true, there are some critical aspects of this health crisis that seem unprecedented. But governments and scientists have had a difficult time convincing some very smart people that this pandemic is so much different from other outbreaks —Spanish flu, SARS, MERS, Swine flu, Ebola, etc.— for which we did not intentionally trash our economy.

Aren’t people right to wonder why we have to temporarily give up some constitutional rights and risk destroying our economic system because the infection and mortality numbers are either similar or relatively low compared with those other outbreaks?

I’m not saying the health concerns are not justified; they obviously are. But I have eyes and use reason with which to judge my government usurping my rights without a convincing motivation and without giving me an end date or at least a time at which reassessments of restoring our rights will be made. “Restoring our rights”: anyone else creeped out about that phrase in the U.S. of A?

And what about the precedents the federal, state, and local governments are setting? President Trump seems truly reluctant to use government power to shut our economy down for long. In fact, ironically, the Left seems to be criticizing the president’s unwillingness to become a tyrant.

We have to ask: Will a leftist state or future federal governments trot out the 2020 Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) precedents whenever any health crisis arises and provides an opening to not waste a crisis?

I think they have to keep in mind you can only keep a free people under these restrictions for so long before that American liberty-loving DNA propels them to reassert their responsibility to ensure a self-governed republic is maintained.

Look at what the Democrats tried to pull recently, adding that last-minute neo-socialist Christmas wish-list, after Nancy Pelosi flew back to D.C. from California. And there are other state and local leaders exploiting this crisis to try to toss the Second Amendment into the trashcan. How can we not be worried about our liberty?

Horowitz is right. Once this is over, state legislatures will need to work on strategies and policies that will wrangle in rogue political leaders who push too far during crises. We need for our political leaders to spell out more clearly why they need to take these drastic actions. They must present evidence and facts as they are available at the time. And legislatures should require of governors the establishing of emergency declaration expedient expiration dates where governors must re-evaluate and re-convince their legislatures there is a legitimate need to reissue the restrictions.

Let’s support President Trump in his efforts to address this health emergency with a balanced approach, an approach that takes advantage of why America is such an exceptional nation inhabited by exceptional people…a people who will not long tolerate political leaders restricting their God-given constitutional rights.

meet the author

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer. He's served as a field training officer and on the East Precinct Community Police Team. He's the author of four books, including "De-Policing America: A Street Cop's View of the Anti-Police State." He's also a contributor to the National Police Association.

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