Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- A police officer in Gretna, Louisiana suggested on Facebook that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “needs a round…….and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve” in response to a satire article purporting to quote her as saying that soldiers are paid too much.
This comes at a time when law enforcement officers around the country are under scrutiny for a variety of bigoted remarks and advocacy of illegal violence made on social media. The officer who commented on Ocasio-Cortez and one other member of the Gretna police force who expressed approval of the post have since been fired.
There is a lot going on here. As a writer, I often call for broad freedom of expression, especially on social media, where so many of our political conversations are happening. And I understand the role of private gun ownership as a last resort for telling the government where the boundaries are. At the same time, law enforcement officers are armed agents of some level of that government, and it’s a good question to ask how we separate the public and private acts of the police.
If the reaction against what the officer said on Facebook seems excessive, recall that cops across the river murdered two and injured four on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Now I recognize that we are not currently in the condition of what YouTuber Nutnfancy calls WROL (without rule of law), but my roaming about social media has shown me a lot of people who do believe us to be on the verge of civil war, and when a law enforcement officer says that a sitting member of Congress should be shot, that at the least deserves some intense questioning of the officer as to what his intentions are.
This is consistent with respect for free speech. Threats of violence are not protected expressions since they declare an intention to violate the rights of another. But this one officer’s ill-considered comment does raise the question of when, if ever, Second Amendment solutions are appropriate.
Whatever a person may think about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s politics, she is one first-term member among 435 in the House of Representatives. She does not wield executive power, and any bills that she sponsors will have to go through the legislative procedures to become law—subject to all the limitations that presidential vetoes and federal court challenges bring to bear. She is participating in the system that the framers set up for us, and threats of violence against that are themselves an attack on our constitutional structure.
As an American, I do have to recognize that my nation is the result of revolution. Revolutionaries have some explaining to do when they seek to shut off revolt as an option for succeeding generations, but this can be done if we keep in mind the purpose of the period of unpleasantness leading to our independence. We declared that the combined principles of individual rights and citizen participation in how society is run are essential for good government. Two and a quarter centuries have demonstrated the validity of that claim. And as many challenges, as we have had since we forgot about the Constitution following 9/11, our system is still holding together, even if parts of it are getting by on Bondo and duct tape. Until we are without the rule of law, until the mechanisms of voting and lawsuits and political speech have failed—not just been unable to get everything we want but have ceased working altogether—threatening to kill a duly elected legislator is not the American way.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.