My many thanks to Matt Bracken – an old friend with whom I only recently got in touch, and whose books I greatly enjoy – for this link.
In it, the author recounts his experiences in Kosovo as an UNMIK police officer, and his experiences are telling.
In postwar Kosovo, many tens of thousands of war refugees lived in the capital. Not enough jobs existed to support them all. Many of them became vendors in a sprawling, dirty bazaar. They supported their families by selling cheap Turkish and Pakistani housewares and trinkets. Under old Yugoslav law, which was still the legal standard, those vendors had to have permits. Few bothered to stand in line at a dilapidated government building to pay for a permit.
This officer – I’ll call him Joe – became infuriated every time he patrolled the bazaar. He’d find vendors without permits, then ticket and berate them. He’d make note of other illegal vendors so he could ticket them later. He’d even drive through the bazaar off-duty to spot illegal vendors for future targeting. He’d vent his anger about illegal vendors at us, which always made me laugh. I didn’t care the least bit about vendors without permits, and thought Joe would eventually get over it. I was wrong.
Joe got so mad at illegal vendors that he researched Yugoslav law. We had been advised not to do anything that violated the Bill of Rights, but officially Yugoslav law was still in effect. And Joe discovered he could use Yugoslav law to do something about those damn illegal vendors.
You can guess what happened next. The police went around and confiscated the goods from people who had just been through a nasty war, and who were trying to eek out a living by selling what few trinkets and goods they had available.
Because they didn’t have a permit.
Now, being a Kosovo vet, and having been deployed there just a few years after the author of this blog, I know about the corruption, the crime, etc. that goes on in Kosovo. I’ve seen smuggling of every good possible – from shoes, to tomatoes, to cattle, to firearms, to humans. I remember a chicken smuggling incident where some troops sat watching from atop of OP Thunder as chickens were offloaded from one truck to another – literally marched on a plank into the vehicle like some twisted chicken Bataan death march… So I understand.
However, what these petty tyrants did to people just trying to survive post-war was pretty repugnant.
I stayed back. Officer Joe, the illegal vendor hater, picked out an old man selling bananas. The old man, who looked about eighty but was probably younger, struggled to pick up boxes of bananas before the truck arrived. Officer Joe reached the old man’s stall, tore a box from the old man’s hands and threw it in the truck. The old man grabbed the next box. Joe fought it away.
I remember standing there in impotent frustration, thinking, So now we’re literally wrestling food away from old men. This is disgusting.
They did it, because they officially could.
But this was in a foreign land, right? It couldn’t happen here, right?
How many times do we hear about cops breaking up evil, dangerous lemonade stands, because the children didn’t have a permit to sell the drink? Illegal Children’s bake sales? Criminal Girl Scout cookie sales?
Given the ridiculous “we’re just following official orders” excuse, what makes you think that many of them won’t go around confiscating firearms?
Hence, the Second Amendment discussion.
The Founders didn’t include the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights because they wanted to ensure we could all hunt and plink. They included it as a means of common defense – both against outside aggression and government tyranny – the kind of tyranny that includes breaking up a Girl Scout cookie sale, because the kids didn’t have a peddler’s license.
Now, the above statement is not a call to armed action against the police, so before any of you get bent out of shape here, you need to understand that. I’m not calling for armed conflict between police and ordinary citizens, because some idiot cop shut down a yard sale. I am calling for a fundamental understanding that power corrupts. It corrupts even people whom you wouldn’t think in a million years to be evil.
And the Second Amendment is a check on that power. I’ll defer to the author once again:
Our founding fathers were incredibly intelligent, insightful men. They knew an external threat of invasion could exist. And more importantly, they knew an internal threat of tyranny would always exist. They knew that even basically good guys like Joe can let their personal hatreds control their official actions. They knew that even Officer Chris Hernandez might maybe, once or twice, have a little nagging thought like, There should be an automatic death penalty for anyone who drives through a quiet neighborhood at 3 a.m. blaring gangster rap. They knew I better have threats over my head, to keep me from carrying out that death sentence.
The founding fathers knew guys like me and Joe need to be controlled. They wrote the 4th Amendment so we would have to follow rules when we took people’s property. And they wrote the 2nd Amendment so that if we ever decided not to care about citizens’ rights, the citizens could forcibly change our minds.
This is why I say we need more cops like this guy. He gets it, and he has taken a long, hard look at himself and his actions in Kosovo. He’s honest.
I know there are a ton of good law enforcement officers out there, so if you come here to yell at me about how I’m a cop hater, and how I don’t understand what it’s like to serve and sacrifice, I invite you to kindly shut your ignorant yap.
But I would love to hear from law enforcement officers out there. My question to you is the following: Realistically, and having taken a good look at yourself, would you see yourself following orders to disarm ordinary, law abiding citizens, because a law was passed?
Be honest with yourselves. Please.