As of late, doubt about the government’s protection of us has seen an interesting resurgence.
First there was the Minutemen, and then came the passing of two new laws in Florida: one that is tougher on sex offenders and one that allows citizens to use deadly force no longer just in their homes, but also in public. Now there’s the new Real ID Act.
The Real ID Act is a federal act that, according to Scripps Howard News Service, “sets up a new national database of driver’s licenses and requires motorists to provide a birth certificate and prove citizenship or legal immigration status when they get driver’s licenses.”
The goal of the Minutemen was to patrol part of our border with Mexico — something the federal government has struggling to do — to prevent and report illegal crossings. They have since been ordered to stand down.
The Jessica Lunsford Act requires that convicted sex offenders in Florida be tracked via GPS.
The other law’s goal is to acknowledge that citizens have the right to defend themselves whenever they fear their life may be in danger.
The sentiment behind each of these moves seems to be that the government has been inadequate in two of its most important responsibilities: protecting its citizens and securing its borders.
What has led to such a feeling? Perhaps it’s the fact that millions of illegal aliens (often referred to with the euphemism “undocumented workers”) have been crossing over without repercussions. It may be the recent media storm surrounding child-abduction cases. Maybe it’s the fact that the law used to tell citizens to first run for their lives to avoid a confrontation with an assailant. Or, maybe it’s the report that global terrorist incidents have gone up. It could also be the fact that the government is spending more money per person on homeland security in states like Wyoming than they are in high-risk areas like New York City.
Whatever the reason, the feeling of confidence people had toward government’s efficacy in defending its citizens seemes to have dwindled.
USA Today quoted Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, defending the new Florida self-defense law claiming, “Law-abiding people only want to be able to protect themselves, and they are sick and tired of our court system saying they can’t.”
I remember a speech given by the same woman to USF students visiting Tallahassee last year. Hammer, who I thought was supposed to talk to us about lobbying, ended up speaking on the dangers of gun registration and how gun control was one of the first moves used by Hitler to leave Germans defenseless.
The speech, which had a little too much overkill, reflected a fear that government alone can’t be trusted to defend the lives of its citizens. Citizens have to take a certain responsibility for their own lives. That’s what we are seeing in these recent security moves.
Critics charge that the actions of the Minutemen are examples of vigilantism. Those leery of Big Brother have troubles with the Lunsford Act. Images of Wild West gunslingers are brought to mind to evoke aversion to the deadly-force law. Appeals to the livelihoods and the well being of immigrants are made to oppose the Real ID Act.
While certain criticisms may have credence, the feeling by many individuals that their government is not doing enough to protect them — the single most important job government has — should not be taken lightly.
Individuals, once completely dependent on government to protect them, are not only calling for stricter government security measures, but are also taking responsibility for their protection into their own hands by volunteering to protect the borders and themselves.
The world can be a scary and dangerous place, and the government can’t always be trusted to protect us from it. But at least I’m safe here at home with my only two modes of defense: my b.b. gun (I’m not exactly a gun nut) and my elderly cat (when he’s awake). Intruders beware.
Adam Fowler is a USF firstname.lastname@example.org