So much for “Call the Police”

A reader on Medium recently pointed out something I was not aware of.

The Supreme Court has ruled, and subsequently upheld, that the state is not required to protect the lives of its citizens.

I posted somewhere that these court cases were “in the wake of” the Parkland shooting.  I was incorrect (that’s what I get for opening my mouth before I do the research).  They were revisited in the wake of Parkland, not by the court but in public discourse regarding the officer at Parkland that failed to actively engage the shooter.

Here is Scalia writing for the majority in CASTLE ROCK v. GONZALES (2005) wherein he refers to and upholds the decision the court made in an earlier case DeShaney v. Winnebago (1998):

“As the Court of Appeals recognized, we left a similar question unanswered in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Servs., 489 U. S. 189 (1989), another case with “undeniably tragic” facts: Local child-protection officials had failed to protect a young boy from beatings by his father that left him severely brain damaged. Id., at 191–193. We held that the so-called “substantive” component of the Due Process Clause does not “requir[e] the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors.” Id., at 195.” (Emphasis added.)

Reading the details of these cases is difficult.  The details are horrific, the emotional impulse to disagree with the court is almost overwhelming.  In both cases, I believe the state actions (and inactions) are unforgivable given the information the state was provided.

However, as a practical matter of law, I understand why the Supreme Court ruled as it did.  If the court had ruled that the state could be held accountable for failing to protect the lives and property of its citizens, conceivably every victim of every crime could come after the state for failing to protect them.

Who then is responsible for protecting the citizens?

How often are we admonished “Don’t take the law into your own hands” and “It is the responsibility of the police to enforce the law”?

To the first, I would respond “Were not taking the law into our own hands, were taking our personal security into our own hands.”

To the second, “The police have the responsibility but not the obligation?”

I think we’d all agree that if a police officer sees someone being attacked, they have a moral obligation to do something to stop it.  However, that moral obligation would apply to anyone else witnessing such a thing (and by “do something” I don’t mean stand there with your phone recording video).  But a moral obligation is quite different from a legal one.

In the last week or so I’ve heard our friends on the left say:

“Defund the police.”

“I don’t want our schools to be like a prison.”

“Remove the police from our schools.”

“The problem is guns.”

You don’t need a 9mm for self-defense (Paraphrasing Joe Biden).

“You don’t need a gun for self-defense.”

Taken together these are positions that are clearly against civilians owning firearms, while at the same time creating a need for civilians to own firearms.  We’re going to get rid of the police, ignore school security, and disarm citizens – have I got that right?  Because I can’t think of a worse set of responses to our current situation.

There is significant evidence to suggest that the above mentioned “policies” are driving firearm sales to new records in the last few years.

I made the case in a previous post that the “cause” of violence is not, and logically cannot be the weapon.  The United States does not have “too many guns.”  The United States has too many evil people with evil plans and a willingness to carry them out. 

Given the “solutions” provided by our friends on the left and the Supreme Court cases noted here, who or what will protect citizens from these evil people?  Perhaps our friends on the left would care to answer that question.  All Americans should demand an answer.  The simple fact is, as it stands right now, the only one you can rely on to protect your life is you.


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