Friday March 22, 2013

Is America turning into a police state with Gestapo-like tactics akin to Nazi Germany?

That’s what a lot of people are saying following the release of a story about child welfare officials, accompanied by police, who went to the home of a New Jersey family and asked to inspect the family’s guns. The visit was prompted by an anonymous call after the father posted a picture on Facebook of his 10-year-old son holding a gun.

According to the Associated Press story, the officials wanted to look in the father’s safe and see if his guns were registered. The father pointed out that in New Jersey guns don’t have to be registered with the state; it’s voluntary. The father then asked the investigators and police officers whether they had a warrant to search his home. When they said no, he asked them to leave. The agents and the police officers left, and nothing has happened since then.

However, the story doesn’t end there. It went viral, hitting every major news outlet across the country and generating a passionate online debate about Second and Fourth Amendment rights versus gun control in this age of mass shootings.

The gun in question was a gift for the boy’s upcoming 11th birthday, to use on hunting trips. However, it doesn’t look like a typical hunting rifle; it looks more like a military-style assault rifle with a pistol grip, a barrel shroud and a magazine clip. Add to that the image of the boy decked out in camouflage and he looks like a junior commando -- albeit one with a sweet smile and bright eyes that speak of youthful innocence.

At first glance it’s easy to see how the photo might alarm some people to think, "Here’s a future psycho in training." But then we learn that the gun is not an assault rifle, but a .22-caliber copy -- "only good for plinking," as one poster said, and certainly not enough to inflict the type of carnage reported in Newtown, Conn., and other mass shootings.

Still, why would gun manufacturers make, and why would a father buy his son, a rifle that looks more like a fully armored assault weapon than something used on a hunting trip? The answer, of course, is because "It’s cool," and it’s all part of the gun culture that some say is helping to raise future killers.

Consider this from one online poster: "You know what the shame is -- that this father is indoctrinating his young boy into thinking that assault weapons are good to have. Why would he mockup a rifle to look like one?! Who knows what this child will grow up to be ... all would be better if he didn’t have a weapon in his hands. There are too many weapons floating around in our society. Indeed we support a culture of guns. Slavery was a part of American culture for a couple of hundred years, but eventually we decided it had to go. It’s time for assault weapons and huge gun magazines to go. Instead of smiling and holding a gun, this boy should spend more time smiling and holding a book."

However, others say the father did nothing wrong and that the authorities clearly overstepped: "Can you say going too far? Since when has it become illegal to enjoy shooting with your son? Only in an ever increasing police state could this be happening. America is slowly becoming a socialist police state ruled by an ever increasing oppressive government. This just goes to show just how oppressive our government is becoming. Something as special as a father and son enjoying time together should not be infringed upon."

Here at the Reformer we have used this page to call for sensible gun laws that close the loopholes on background checks and ban certain assault weapons and magazine clips. However, we also have cautioned against the hysteria of zero tolerance policies that expel kindergartners from school for play-acting with pretend weapons.

The fact is, since the Newtown shootings this country has been walking a fine line between two points of view that are polar opposites -- Second Amendment rights versus gun control. And there has been quite a bit of hysteria from both sides of the issue whenever the subject is raised.

Given the heightened emotional response the gun topic elicits, perhaps people should thinking twice before posting such pictures online in the first place.

"Like everything else in this country, ‘happy medium’ takes a back seat to extreme," one poster notes. "While the reasons for having large capacity Heavy Duty Judy types of guns is whacked, what happened in this case is just as whacked on the other side of the spectrum. Whether the father here is a responsible gun owner or not is academic. The fact that he posted that picture in the present climate wasn’t real bright."