It was an epic journey, pregnant with the promise of America. Driving up 880, Eric and I got to hear our story described on the radio: "A Bay Area carpenter is on his way up to Sacramento this morning to sue the state for ballot access in the race for Sheriff of Santa Clara County." Then I got to hear an excerpt of my own voice, recorded an hour earlier at 5:30 A.M.: "I am suing to strike down a law that says I must have law enforcement background to run for sheriff. The legislature has made it so that the only people who can run for leadership of this arm of government are current and recent members of this arm of government."
Hey, what did they do with the rest of the interview? I was on a roll! My house-mate Eric is an economist too and we were full of analyzed opinions that morning. Never have I loved my country more than on this drive up the central valley. Before the supreme law of the land, Secretary of State Bill Jones and I would be equals.
Passing the sign "Entering Sacramento County" was like entering Oz, with not quite an Emerald City on the horizon, but definitely a wizard, a "great and powerful," the Honorable James T. Ford.
My brief was airtight many times over. Not only was this law an unprecedented assault on the accountability of government to the people, setting up members of government itself as an exclusively privileged class in the election process, but it undercut accountability at a point of tremendous conflict between the interests of government (which are not supposed to count at all) and the interests of The People (which are all that is supposed to count).
State law devolves on police chiefs and county sheriffs the power to enforce gun rights. Throughout the bay area top law enforcement officers use this power, not to pursue the constitutionally stated desideratum of "a well regulated militia," but to annihilate gun rights entirely through blanket denial of gun permits to law abiding citizens. In the last eleven years the people of 24 states have gotten so fed up with the refusal of law enforcement to faithfully administer gun rights that they have stripped sheriff's and police chiefs of all discretionary power to deny gun permits to applicants who have no history of crime or mental illness.
If Ford were to rule in my favor I would the next day have the largest campaign organization in the race by a factor of twenty. Hundreds of gun rights advocates, dedicated as only the most upstanding freedom fighters can be, were ready to back me. What a wonderful issue to illuminate and ride to certain victory: the most misunderstood issue in America, but so easy to explicate.
No one has more reason to be in favor of gun rights than those who want nothing to do with guns. The criminals don't know who is armed so they are deterred from attacking anyone, reducing the reason that anyone has to be prepared to defend themselves, allowing those who want nothing to do with guns to be more secure in that decision.
What a strange idea, to think that the way to fight crime is to write "I'm disarmed" on everyone's back. To put 100,000 more cops on the streets nationwide, Clinton breaks the bank (and improperly federalizes local government). Hell, I could put 20,000 good Samaritans on the streets of Santa Clara County alone, armed and ready to defend themselves and others against crime, just by letting them! But our police are bent on a monopoly on power. It was the Sheriff's Association who got the legislature to pass the background requirement for office, banning their electoral competition!
Millions of people fight for justice everyday, trying to nudge sentiment just a bit, trying to be a part of the countervailing force against corruption and monopoly, trying to carrying some of the weight, hoping that others can stand on their shoulders and reach a lever, breach a parapet. Here I had the chance to scamper up those backs -- Godspeed -- and make it to the top, to catapult into the compound and raise the portcullis, if only the guardian of right would prove to be a guardian of right.
I saw so much on this journey, so much to love and so much fight. The news media were a revelation. For years I have watched them recycle every ten times debunked advocacy statistic from the anti-gun liars. "A gun in the home is 32 times more likely to kill a family member or an acquaintance than an intruder." Yeah, if you look at illegally owned guns in crack neighborhoods and define rival gang members as "acquaintances." The anti-gunners lie about everything because the truth is against them and every honest anti-gun researcher has long since defected to the gun-rights side.
The media have given the same prominent coverage to the anti-gunners that they have given to every phoney feminist statistic. It is like kindergarten: who could not be for women, or against murder? Yet every reporter who covered my case found it fascinating. They were interested. They were diligent, digging up all kinds of experts and history. They all let me get in some punchy quotes before letting the other side take a whack at me. I was totally impressed.
Five of the six reporters were women, an unexpected statistic in itself, and given the media performance on women's issues, not what I would have thought propitious. Their fairness bolsters my long held suspicion that the worst excesses of the women's movement are the work of men (like Clinton) who suck up to women as hard as they can in hopes of getting laid. Pathetic.
On the dark side, I discovered a gigantic immoral force in the Sheriff's Association, an engine of corruption on the scale of the teacher's unions (socialized education, my God). I used to think that the reason for the war on drugs -- giving lighter sentences to violent criminals than to people who are not harming anyone but perhaps themselves -- was just because our society is a little bit flaky. Now I know that what obliterates "soft on drug" candidates is not The People but massive spending by the Sheriff's Association, by far the biggest spending lobby in the state.
The sheriffs, you see, run the jails, where deputies without high school diplomas bring down 80 to 90 thousand a year with overtime. Over half the people in the jails are there on drug charges. That's a lot of filthy lucre to protect, and protect it they do.
The only proper priority for law enforcement is protection of people and property. For law enforcement itself to lobby for laws that utterly pervert that priority is an absolute pinnacle of moral corruption. I have found the wicked witch of the west and if I had won my court case I would be soaking the bitch right now.
Yes, I lost. The wizard was a fraud. He asserted that, since there is diversity of opinion within law enforcement, no one's first amendment rights to political representation and participation are harmed in any way. That is like saying women's first amendment rights would not be injured in any way if they were not allowed to run for office because there is diversity of opinion amongst men. Hell, they can vote for Clinton, who will be far more extravagantly biased in their favor than they would ever think of being.
But what about those who would be leaders, who have found the solutions and would win the elections? That is the "diversity" that is excluded -- the diversity of individuals -- a woman with answers instead of a suck up like Clinton, a citizen who has been studying and writing on crime control for ten years instead of a law enforcement careerist who has worked up through the ranks and inculcated every bias and monopolistic tendency of the existing establishment.
"You are a very, very bad man," admonished Dorothy when the wizard was exposed as a fraud. "No," said the wizard, "I am a very, very good man. I am just a very bad wizard." Maybe. That is of little consolation when a judge is the instrument for the triumph of grievous constitutional wrong.
The only hope now is for us munchkins to rally and become a We The People. Unfortunately, munchkins usually shrink. They can't act in concert. Too few understand. That is why it is so critical that our constitutional protections be jealously guarded. We won the battle for the Constitution once so that we wouldn't have to keep winning it again. But those who swear oaths to the Constitution will betray us. Our entire scheme of government -- the separation of powers -- is premised on that belief. The citizenry must be vigilant.
That is perhaps the most fundamental reason why gun rights are so important. The power to do right or wrong is the incubator of vigilance and duty. Our police now instruct the citizenry not to answer the hue and cry, which used to be every citizens most sacred duty, failure of which was punished as cowardice. A disempowered people have no duty, no occasion to contemplate what right requires. They can't do anything anyway.
"No first amendment harm," belched the fire voice. "None?" I would have gotten 25% of the vote right off the bat and I could have convinced many more with my whole platform. That's hundreds of thousands of votes, and my leadership bid. "None." That was the gavel.
In contradiction to all Supreme Court precedent, a judge has declared that the indirect voice of the people, through the legislature, properly trumps the direct voice of the people in choosing who shall represent them. Where precedent asserts that election laws must be designed to facilitate accurate representation of the will of The People, this judge allows a law that is designed to limit the views that The People are allowed to express, and in the most audacious fashion. NO CIVILIAN VIEWPOINTS ALLOWED. What do you think about that?
(Alec Rawls is still running for Sheriff of Santa Clara County)
Next article in "Rawls for Sheriff" series: Self-defense is Now Illegal in San Jose
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Date Last Modified: 8/27/99
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