The sci-fi movie Minority Report tells the story of a dystopian future where a special “Precrime” policing unit has been created in Washington D.C. to prevent crimes before they happen. Tapping into the psychic talents of “Precognitives” (Precogs) capable of predicting murders before they occurred, law enforcement would use those predictions to arrest murderers before they committed their crimes.
Unfortunately for gun owners and lovers of liberty, precrime policing isn’t just a sci-fi movie anymore.
In yesterday’s article, I shared with you how Republican leadership was preparing to cave to the Far-left gun control agenda. I based my conclusions on the past four-to-five years of anti-Second Amendment activity under the “leadership” of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
Included in that four-year span was a Republican proposal made during the 2016 primary season to create a “precrime” unit within the Department of Homeland Security. Known as the Homeland Safety and Security Act (HR-5611), the bill was intended “to prevent terrorists from launching attacks and obtaining passports, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES” (emphasis mine).
The phrase “for other purposes” was thrown in there to leave the door wide open as to how the law can be applied.
Two years later, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Republicans took another step in the direction of precrime when they proposed a bill I satirically called the Minority Report Act of 2018. This reintroduction of HR-5611 created the Office for Partnerships to Prevent Terrorism — now known as the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention.
#HR5611 allows govt to infringe your gun rights w/o charge, trial, or conviction—based merely on prediction you'll someday be a terrorist.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 5, 2016
The bill could quite literally have been lifted from the script of the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.
While Minority Report-inspired legislation has yet to be fully realized on the national level — just give it time — precrime policing has been going on at the state level for some time now, complete with all of the liberty-killing consequences that come whenever government assumes the role of the provider of our rights instead of the protector.
One example of what this looks like comes to us from J.D. Tuccille at Reason.com, where he tells us of a lawsuit against the Pasco County sheriff’s department.
Predictive policing—a concept seemingly pulled straight from the 2002 popcorn flick Minority Report—has become increasingly hot with law enforcement agencies over the past decade. The field tempts budget-minded officeholders and cops alike with its science-y promise to forecast where crimes will occur in the future and who will commit them, targeting risk while minimizing wasted resources. But it also holds the potential to justify hassling people based on what a computer program and biases entered as data say they might someday do. That’s the basis of a recent lawsuit charging that a Florida sheriff’s department has used predictive policing to harass the innocent.
“Predictive policing is the use of analytical techniques to identify promising targets for police intervention with the goal of preventing crime, solving past crimes, and identifying potential offenders and victims,” according to a 2013 RAND Corporation report. Even in those early days of the field, though, the report acknowledged that “[t]he very act of labeling areas and people as worthy of further law enforcement attention inherently raises concerns about civil liberties and privacy rights.” (emphasis mine)
In Pasco County, this type of precrime policing has proven that concerns about civil liberties and privacy rights are valid.
“How does the Pasco County program live up to everybody’s worst fears of acting on predictions of what people haven’t done but might do?
“First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts,” the newspaper’s report noted. “Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.”
“Make their lives miserable until they move or sue,” is how a former deputy described the department’s tactics to reporters. (emphasis mine)
The Institute for Justice, is suing the county on behalf of a group of county residents over the department’s conduct after years of harassing visits by cops who dropped by because the system identified them as potential offenders. If residents resisted the precrime policing, law enforcement would bombard them with the red tape of the endless regulatory state to “encourage” cooperation.
“Code enforcement is a common tactic to compel cooperation,” reports the Institute for Justice. “One deputy said they would ‘literally go out there and take a tape measure and measure the grass if somebody didn’t want to cooperate with us.’ In [one] case, deputies cited [a man] for tall grass, but failed to notify him of the citation. Then, when he failed to appear for a hearing that he was never told was happening, they arrested him for failure to appear.”
The citations didn’t have to stick to work as intended. The slow torture of tickets, arrests, and disrupted lives drove some to pick up and move out of Pasco County to avoid harassment—by that particular department, at least.
“Pasco [County] defends its program as a crime fighting tool,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Robert Johnson. “But in America, there is no such thing as ‘innocent until predicted guilty.’ The government cannot harass people at their homes just because it thinks they might commit some unspecified future crime.”
Precrime policing and its evil twin, red flag laws, aren’t only bad news for gun rights, they’re bad news for many of our God-given, constitutionally protected rights.
House Republicans are pushing a horrendous bill this week. The gun section alone infringes the 1st, 2nd, 5th & 6th Amendments. #StopHR5611
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 3, 2016
In addition to violating the Second Amendment, precrime policing violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of knowing who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence being brought against you.
Precrime policing and red flag laws also violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ guarantee of due-process and equal-protection rights that protect you against the arbitrary or irrational actions of government.
Precrime policing makes for a good story line in the Minority Report movie, but it’s a terrible idea in the real world because it will inevitably destroy our Republic . . . and that’s a crime that doesn’t require a Precog to predict.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.