Gang violence is certainly a major problem in the U.S., but so is the disrespect that our government and leaders have towards the precepts of free association. At what point does authority have the right to say who anyone is allowed to meet or associate with? That question is being asked today in California, as Fox News reports.
They confirm that “Los Angeles has been barred from enforcing the vast majority of its gang injunctions,” something that effects “gang restrictions” and which law enforcement claims reduces crime. It was “U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton” who took the side of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ruled that these injunctions are “unconstitutionally broad.”
The Los Angeles Times found that the “civil court orders that have applied to nearly 9,000 people and 79 gang sets since 2000.” These ideas are meant to prohibit “legally associating with people in gang-ridden neighborhoods or networks.”
The problem is, if the gangbangers are allowed to associate with gang members, they will likely act badly. By the same token, to deny them the right to mingle with whoever they wish goes against the rights that all Americans have. No one needs to be barred from meeting with someone and it is not illegal to meet with criminals (it is illegal to commit crimes).
“The court clearly recognizes the way the city of Los Angeles has been enforcing gang injunctions over decades violates due process in a way that makes it likely they will place people on gang injunctions who may not be gang members,” opined ACLU attorney Peter Bibring yesterday.
“This ruling marks the end of gang injunctions as they worked in the city of Los Angeles,” he also said.
The Los Angeles Police Department was less than happy about the ruling, as can be expected. “Appropriately applied, gang injunctions are a valuable law enforcement tool intended to improve the safety of Los Angeles neighborhoods and stem the tide of drug dealing, assaults, and other violent crimes associated with gangs,” stated the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
This is most certainly the case, but then again, where will such “give up freedom for safety” actions end? This is the very mindset that the founders warned about and it is the point of view that has led to things like the Patriot Act (which violated everyone’s rights). After all, if this can be done to make us safe from gangs, where else can this logic be applied?
“It’s unfortunate that a judge would eliminate this important crime-fighting tool instead of working to resolve any issues with its application,” the police union’s statement also read. “We urge the city to appeal this shortsighted ruling.”
This whole debate began when a person in Echo Park found the injunction to be unconstitutional.
There is no easy answer to this problem. Giving up rights for promises of safety is a road paved with misery when taken to its logical conclusion. Still, betting raped, beaten, robbed, or otherwise offended by gangs and street thugs is also rather miserable, so the debate is not one that is cut and dry.