Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
August 5, 2004
WHAT HAPPENED IN OSHKOSH?
AND WHY SHOULD GUN OWNERS CARE?
On Saturday, July 17, an unknown shooter wounded an Oshkosh, Wisconsin, police officer, then faded into the night. Was the shot fired by a partying teenager? Was it an accidental discharge from another officer's gun? Was it a mistake or an intentional assault? No one knows.
What happened next is unclear; everyone gives a different version of the events.
According to the most credible reports, the Oshkosh PD evacuated a several block area. Without warrants in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, SWAT teams and police dogs descended on the neighborhood. Officers got consent to search homes. (It's logical to assume that "consent" in this case was given under heavy police pressure.) Once inside, police officers confiscated firearms -- without warrants, without consent, without probable cause. Residents returned to homes that appeared to have been "tossed" by burglars and found their guns missing.
Oshkosh police say they have since returned all firearms for which they had no warrants. Some media reports and individuals who cared enough to call say the Oshkosh police have "more or less" apologized to the abused victims.
Activist gun owners are up in arms -- as they should be. But few gun-rights groups (including JPFO, until now) have jumped into the fray, partly because it's so unclear what really happened that night. We have tried to contact our members in the area and have gotten no response.
Whatever happened, the Oshkosh police obviously behaved outrageously. Whether the unconstitutional confiscations were department policy, superior officers' orders, or screwups by incompetently dangerous cops who neither knew nor cared anything about the Fourth Amendment, those confiscations were unAmerican in the deepest sense. In fact, they were anti-American.
But frankly, it's hard to defend citizens who are so deeply in denial that -- in this day of anti-gun hysteria and ninjafication of American police forces -- they'd open their doors and willingly let police rifle through their possessions. Those victimized residents also have a responsibility as citizens, as Americans. And they failed in their responsibility as seriously as the police did.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Take the historical perspective. It's entirely possible that this police action was a trial balloon for larger-scale raids and confiscations. Even if it was only an isolated incident, it sets a dangerous precedent. It tells other police agencies -- and the federal agencies who are working to militarize them -- just what people in the American heartland will tolerate.
Why did the police chief authorize random gun seizures (if he did)? Why did officers conduct them? We need to understand the mentality behind such "all guns are bad, all people are guilty" attitudes. Remember, this is the attitude of men and women _who claim to be our protectors. Yet their hatred and suspicion of us runs deep -- and all too often, runs uncontrolled.
We strongly suggest that you read a small, slender book called _Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland_ by Christopher R. Browning (available at Amazon.com, among other places). This is the story of how a group of perfectly ordinary middle-aged German men, too old for the army, carried out a horrific mass slaughter of innocents ... simply because. They did it because they were asked (not ordered) to. They did it because they didn't want to let down their fellow police officers. They did it because they, like so many American police officers today put their security or their pension above their morality. A few probably even did it because they enjoyed it. If you want to see the mentality that's increasingly overtaking American police, read this book.
If citizens won't put limits on police, who will? The police will never police themselves. They'll never limit their own desire for more power, more authority, more control, more obedience.
Ask yourself: Am I going to cooperate with government, get stepped on, then complain afterward?
We believe -- we hope -- that the average JPFO member would know better than to consent to a random, warrantless search. But we also despair. We've seen well-informed people bend under the frightening force of the police. And we have to face the fact that the vast majority of Americans choose not to be informed. They choose to close their eyes to the incipient police state around them. They choose to go along to get along, rather than stand on their own knowledge and convictions.
Three years ago, we published The State vs. the People: The Rise of the American Police State. The residents of that Oshkosh neighborhood either didn't read it or chose not to believe the evidence.
How long have we been promoting the Bill of Rights? The residents of Oshkosh paid no attention.
Did the victims of the Oshkosh raids have any understanding of history, as expressed in the documentary film Innocents Betrayed? Or were they too busy watching TV shows in which nearly all cops -- including brutal ones -- are heroes?
The ultimate lesson of the Oshkosh gun confiscations is that "it CAN happen here."
Unfortunately, this is a lesson we've failed to learn over and over again. We should have learned it when the U.S. Army attacked the Bonus Marchers in Washington, DC, during the Depression. We should have learned it when the federal government rounded up peaceable Japanese-Americans and thrust them into barren camps. We should have learned it when young men with badges on their chests but no clue in their heads fired on protesting students at Kent State. We should have learned it at Ruby Ridge, at Waco.
The violence and violation of rights escalate. The majority of Americans -- even those like the residents of Oshkosh who stare brutality and injustice right in the face -- choose to let tyranny roll on.
Although we pity those foolish Americans and we fear for the country they're creating, there's only so much that JPFO or the Second Amendment Foundation, or the NRA, or Gun Owners of America, or KeepandBearArms.com or anybody else can do.
If people choose not to learn and defend their rights, then we'll all suffer the catastrophic consequences of their willful ignorance.
The Liberty Crew
* The target and book are free for individual, non- commercial use. They are not to be sold or used for any group or commercial purposes without express written permission from JPFO.
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