Friday, June 10, 2011
Earlier this year in Tucson, Arizona a shooting rampage targeting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made international news – and prompted a coordinated effort to demonize Tea Party supporters (and free speech itself).
Without knowing the details of the case, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik immediately blamed the shooting on “the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government.”
“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” Dupnik said, calling Arizona “mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
Obviously, the world quickly learned that Dupnik was flat out wrong in his assessment of the situation. The violence in Tucson was the product of a deranged madman – not a discernable ideology. But that didn’t stop Democratic leaders like U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn from saying that government should “rethink the parameters of free speech” in the wake of the shooting.
Five months after the Giffords’ tragedy, another fatal shooting took place in Tucson – only this one didn’t make international headlines. It has also failed to produce so much as a peep of disapproval from those who were so outraged earlier this year.
On May 5, 2011 – deputies and “operators” of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office raided the home of 26-year-old Jose Guerena, a U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. Having just fallen asleep after working the night shift at a local mine, Guerena was roused by his wife, Vanessa – who saw a man with a gun outside of the couple’s bedroom window. Thinking his home was being invaded, Guerena grabbed his rifle.
What happened next?
SWAT “operators” – executing a narcotics warrant – broke into Guerena’s home and fired 72 rounds within a matter of seconds, hitting him 22 times. Guerena’s five-year-old son, Joel, watched his father die. Initially, Pima County Sheriff’s investigators said that Guerena had fired his weapon at police officers. That report turned out to be patently false. In fact, Guerena never removed the safety from his rifle.
Also Guerena’s wife is adamant that the officers did not identify themselves as law enforcement agents until after the raid was completed. No drugs were found in the home – and it was later revealed that Guerena’s brother was the real target of the investigation.
Sadly, these fatal mistakes are occurring with increasing frequency. Last September in Utah, a SWAT team fatally shot Todd Blair three times in the head and chest during a hastily-planned raid – even though he wasn’t the person sought by the narcotics warrant. Last May in Detroit, 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was shot and killed while sleeping on the sofa during a raid filmed by reality TV cameras.
Part of the problem is obviously the vast expansion of the police state in America. According to Americans for SWAT Reform, more than 50,000 raids take place annually in the United States. Thirty years ago, there were less than 3,000 raids a year.
Another contributing factor is the steady militarization of local law enforcement.
“The war on drugs has done incalculable damage to the character of law enforcement by encouraging police officers to forget they are civilians,” writes David Rittgers, a legal analyst at the Cato Institute who served three tours in Afghanistan.
“When police officers refer to their fellow citizens as civilians and mean to exclude themselves from that category, they’ve mentally leapt from enforcing the law to destroying the enemies of the state,” Rittgers continued. “That’s incompatible with a free society.”
Also, the definition of what constitutes a “SWAT-worthy” offense has broadened considerably – as multiple federal agencies now reserve the right to knock down your door for virtually any reason.
For example, earlier this week a SWAT team raided a home in California – roughing up a man whose estranged wife had failed to pay back her student loans. What agency issued the warrant for this raid? The U.S. Department of Education – which recently purchased more than two dozen 12-guage shotguns to help prevent “waste, fraud, abuse and other criminal activity involving federal education funds, programs and operations.”
Government apologists can deny it all they want, but the fact is that we are witnessing a massive build-up of the American police state at all levels of government – with repercussions that diminish our liberties and threaten our very lives.
After all, the next door to be knocked down could very well be yours.
The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.
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