Skip to main content Skip to main content

Civil Liberties 101: No, They Can't Watch You

Civil Liberties 101: No, They Can't Watch You

Feds Consider Gun Show Spying," we detailed how an employee of the Phoenix office of the Drug Enforcement Agency proposed using license plate scanners to gather information on gun show attendees. Even the American Civil Liberties Union was alarmed about the idea, which government mouthpieces predictably minimized as the idle musings of a low-level bureaucrat.

That post got lots of responses, many of them properly defiant, but far too many, in my mind.

Those who expressed indifference took two tacks.

First were those who simply assume it has always happened and what can you do about that? What you can do about it is demand it stop. We have this thing called the 4th Amendment, and it reads as follows:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

There is nothing "reasonable" about using a machine that scans the license plates of every single car at a gun show and puts that information in a database for unknown future use. If the BATF wants to follow some known suspect into a show and keep him under surveillance, that's probably alright. But to turn everyone attending a show into a suspect? Unconstitutional.

The more worrying response was, "Well, if you aren't doing anything illegal, you don't have anything to be afraid of."

This is the rationale for every breach of civil liberties ever made. If you're law-abiding, the argument goes, you have nothing to fear. You may be law-abiding now, but what if the law changes? It's OK to buy an AR and a case of ammo today, but what happens if one day it is not? And the police have your license plate scanned and in a handy database?

Now, I like a Molon Labe T-shirt as much as the next man, but I'd like some options short of civil war if the wrong group gets elected. The best way to be sure Dianne Feinstein doesn't come around telling you to hand it in, Mr. & Mrs. America, is if she can't find you.

Here's a good public policy test. Anytime the government unveils a new capability, piece of equipment or policy in the name of "keeping us safe," ask how you'd have liked it in the hands of the Gestapo or the NKVD. If you wouldnít, maybe it shouldnít be in the hands of the BATF or the DEA or the FBI. Counting entirely on the state's good intentions is putting your head in a noose.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Firearms News App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Firearms News stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Firearms News subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now