Last week the Austin American-Statesman asked RF to write an op/ed in the wake of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo’s recent comments regarding “gun enthusiasts.” Then they rejected it – without explanation. Here’s the piece as written.
Back in May of last year, a Twitter user reached out to Austin Police Chief Art Acevdeo. The Twitterer expressed his opposition to “universal background checks,” based on the belief that the Second Amendment prohibits government interference with private firearms sales. Acevedo Tweeted back “Oh, no the horror, gun profiteers can’t sell guns to criminals and nuts.” Gun profiteers? Nuts? Clearly Chief Acevedo has a dim view of the firearms industry, the idea of Americans legally selling legal products to each other and gun owners in general. His most recent remarks, following a shooting spree in downtown Austin, once again revealed the Chief’s disgust for gun rights . . .
“If you know somebody that’s acting with a lot of hatred towards a particular group especially if you know somebody who’s a gun enthusiast or they’re armed with this type of firearms and they’re showing any type of propensity for hatred, doesn’t mean that we’re going to go and take them to jail, but we might want to vet these people.”
Facing a firestorm of criticism from gun rights advocates, Acevedo said he considered gun ownership a secondary consideration for identifying potentially violent individuals. Alert citizens should look for hatred first, gun ownership second.
Acevedo’s anti-gun prejudice runs so deep that he still doesn’t understand why anyone would be upset about his warning. The long-time campaigner for gun control laws singularly fails to appreciate the fact that firearms ownership is not a marker for potential terrorism or other acts of violence.
Violent individuals have any number of potentially deadly weapons at their disposal: baseball bats, knives, cars, poison, explosives, gasoline, etc. By highlighting gun ownership as a potential threat indicator, the Chief drew the public’s attention away from a potentially dangerous person, towards weapons. “My neighbor’s a terrible racist who threatens to kill black people – but he doesn’t own any guns. So that’s OK.”
Despite his denials, Acevedo’s message implies that the converse is also true: “He doesn’t threaten anyone but he’s got a LOT of guns. I better call the police and warn them.”
A distinct whiff of a police state underlies Chief Acevedo’s public service message. His plea for public cooperation conjures up the image of a city where neighbors drop the dime on suspicious people – gun owners! – so that the police can “vet” them.
Gun owners want the police to treat them as they are legally: innocent until proven guilty. They value their Constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. And their First Amendment right to free speech. In short, they reject Acevedo’s half-baked plan to investigate law-abiding citizens based on hearsay and gun ownership, without any evidence that a crime has been committed.
Of course, it is illegal to make terroristic threats – regardless of what weapons or potential weapons a person may or may not legally possess. Texas statute § 22.07 makes it a crime to “place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury.” That’s a slightly more stringent standard than “acting with a lot of hatred towards a particular group” but close enough, yes?
Not for Chief Acevedo. Like so many gun control advocates, Chief Acevedo is not satisfied with existing laws against criminal behavior. In this case, he’d like to “vet” [allegedly] hate-filled gun owners to see if they might, what? Kill themselves? Shoot up downtown Austin? Take out a cop? How can he tell? And what then? Lock them up?
Do we really want to surrender that kind of inherently dangerous power in a Police Chief who has campaigned to restrict Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms? We do not. We do not want to live in a city where the Austin Police Department of Pre-Crime knocks on our door, asks about our guns and takes us away for questioning.
Oh sorry. The Chief says that kind of investigation wouldn’t involve his officer “going to go and take [armed suspects] to jail.” So why did he say it in the first place?