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Three Cheers for "Lawless" Cops!

By Russ Howard

Leroy Pyle's "Just Following Orders" takes offense at criticism of cops who enforce unconstitutional gun controls, labeling many activists who engage in such criticism "extremists". Extolling the virtues of obedience to one's superiors, the article proclaims that our most respected citizens become heroes by following orders. Leroy's an old friend for whom I have enormous respect, but I think he's a bit off base here, even though most of the article is very well reasoned and makes many excellent points.

First, great heroes, men like Audie Murphy for example, don't just follow orders. To maintain that blind obedience was their source of greatness is to rob them of rightful glory. Was Lindbergh ordered to fly across the Atlantic? Were Doolittle's Raiders ordered to attack Japan? First on the scene of a fire, are the cops, off-duty firemen, and citizen bystanders we occasionally hear about ordered to rush in, without safety equipment, to save people? Was Leroy himself ordered to stand up for his beliefs as a loyal American, when he must've known his highly effective outspokenness could destroy his career, since his boss was a high-profile anti-self-defense police chief?

No. These men bless us with deeds of great courage, deeds that go far beyond orders, far "beyond the call of duty". Surely a large share of heroism results from volunteer duty, from exceeding one's orders, from ignoring orders in a way that was gladly overlooked in light of a great accomplishment, and from outright disobedience to immoral or illegal orders and oppressive laws.

Of course, I understand bad feelings about anyone who would take pleasure in raging on the web about killing cops, though I don't recall any such screeds. But I think the "just following orders" article ill serves the 2nd Amendment community by labeling "extremists" those who think unconstitutional orders should be disobeyed, by confusing them with blind cop haters, and by encouraging blind authority worship. In support of this, consider the following:

"…all men are...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… whenever…Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the is their Duty, to throw off such Government…" --Declaration of Independence

"Guard...the public liberty. ...Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." --Patrick Henry

"what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants". --Thomas Jefferson

"This Constitution...shall be the supreme Law of the Land; the Contrary notwithstanding...  Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers...shall be bound by support this Constitution…" --U.S. Constitution

"As civil rulers...may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces...might pervert their power...the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms." --Tenche Cox

"…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." --Amendment II

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States..." --Amendment XIV

"An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed." --Norton v. Shelby County, 118 US 425

"We just enforce the laws. If you don’t like the laws, lobby your representatives to change them." --Sheriff of Kern County, California, after local & federal cops shot gun dealer Darryl Howell to death in his store in a raid over "illegal" weapons.

"It was the law. We were just following orders." --War criminals on trial at Nuremberg

"Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God." --Thomas Jefferson

American citizens and law officers don't need an attorney or a Supreme Court Justice to tell them what all this means. We can read it with our own eyes, and the meaning is crystal clear. Law officers have a duty to disobey orders that infringe our right to keep and bear arms, and citizens have a right and a patriotic duty to resist if they dishonor it.

The issue, in a sense, is absurd. Why should we have to convince law enforcement officers that their primary duty, their Supreme Order if you will, is to protect the Supreme Law of the Land, which supercedes lesser laws and orders? Why should we have to tell them that whenever there's an apparent conflict, the benefit of the doubt should always go to the Constitution? Enforcing unconstitutional gun laws is wrong and illegal. Of all people, it should be obvious to law enforcement officers that they should not break the law. They should be on our side on this issue, leading the charge to encourage other cops to leave these gun laws unenforced. Instead, we're told that law enforcement officers should stand the rank of our laws on its head, ignoring our most important law when lesser laws conflict with it.

So who's the extremist; the citizen who says it's an officer's duty to ignore orders that violate the right to self-defense, the sine qua non of the right to life itself? Or the cop who willingly follows orders he knows or should know are illegal, disarms decent citizens, and even kills those who resist?

Or is the "extremist" Charlton Heston, ever fond of telling cops they'll have to take his flintlock from his "cold dead hands"? After all, what else could that be except a warning to anyone who attempts to enforce confiscation orders? (Would Heston follow through with his threat? Nah. It's a fundraising gimmick. Besides, Heston's elitist Hollywood friends, like Steven Speilberg, know that "gun control is for the little people". That's why they made sure Hollywood is exempt from the Roos-Roberti Assault Weapon Ban, and why Spielberg omitted the little bit about Schindler's guns; see below.)

Is the extremist the decent resistor who never committed an evil act in his life? Or the officer who kills him, dishonoring the memory of those who died to give us our rights? Isn't that officer not just an extremist but a traitor, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, "protected by mock trial for any murders he commits"? At the very birth of our nation, the Founding Fathers thought that such officers should be accountable for following immoral orders and that decent citizens should resist them.

If a cop follow orders and disarms decent citizens, then exactly what, other than the degree of wrongdoing, makes him different from the German policemen and soldiers who also "just followed orders"? If a cop were given the same orders that these Germans were given, should he follow them? If not, why not? Isn't it always good to follow orders, or must you only follow orders the herd supports? Exactly what in the authoritarian logic of the article would prevent cops from following orders and murdering Jews? When is it o.k. to disobey?

I don't ask these questions casually. Should the orders have been followed at Waco? At Ruby Ridge? Should a Lon Horiuchi take the shot on a Vicki Weaver if it so ordered by his superior? If not, why not?

The 2nd Amendment Police Department slogan is "To Protect & Serve the Individual Rights of All Citizens!" How does following orders and disarming citizens, even killing those who rightfully resist, honor that slogan, let alone the oath to defend the Constitution?

I ask such questions, and make such comparisons, only with great regret. It's unfortunate that a cop should have to weigh the constitutionality of an order. By far the biggest part of the crime is committed by the legitraitors who dishonor their own oaths by passing illegal gun laws in the first place. I have no sympathy for politicians who abolish rights and then expect decent police officers to do their dirty work. But we're not talking about legislators here.

Do I have sympathy for police officers forced to decide between honor and an order to enforce illegal gun laws? Yes, a great deal. But officers must be responsible for their actions. One could argue that many cops are brainwashed by the media to believe that these laws are legal. But how many times have we heard that "ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law"? If it's no excuse for a citizen breaking an obscure statutory law, why should it be an excuse for a police officer breaking the Supreme Law of the Land? Neither police officers nor the rest of us need spend lifetimes studying constitutional law to clearly understand the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Disobedience may be a tough choice, but no one said every choice has to be easy, particularly when one agrees to make that choice as a condition of employment, to honor an oath at all times and not just when it's easy to do so. Often it's tough choices, not blind obedience, that makes heroes -- not necessarily popular or successful heroes, but heroes nonetheless.

I stand by the comparison of cops who disarm decent people to German soldiers and law officers who "just followed orders" in WWII. It's only a question of the extent of the evil and the will of the herd. The analogy is not intended to liken all cops to Nazis. The point is to make people think and realize that encouraging the creed of excessive subservience to authority and deference to the herd can lead essentially good people to do extremely evil things. The moral of the story is that we should encourage those with life and death power over us to be able to ignore and if necessary stand up to orders they think are illegal or immoral. History tells us that a system that conditions officers to ignore the voice of their conscience can be extremely dangerous.

These Germans were not all vicious racists, nor did they all have easy choices to make. Many were otherwise decent people who were troubled by what they were ordered to do, and yet they did it anyway. They did it because their culture excessively glorified blind obedience to authority and because the herd went along with it. These officers followed orders, so why aren't they heroes? Because their orders were evil and should've been disobeyed, though it's easier for us to see that now than it was for most of them back then. Meanwhile, people like Oskar Schindler became true heroes not by following orders, but by breaking the law and arming Jews so they could defend themselves by shooting the same poor bastards who were just following orders. Spielberg censored this politically incorrect fact out of his movie.

No doubt 99% of today's cops would refuse an order to kill someone on account of race. Today's cops would refuse not only because they know it's wrong, but because the herd thinks it's wrong too -- an easy decision to make compared to what a German soldier could've expected for disobeying the same order. But 99% of today's herd are hardly opposed to confiscating guns. So what about an officer given a confiscation order which he himself deems illegal and immoral? I would submit that the reason the officer might tend to obey such an order is that the herd is divided or favors it -- essentially the same moral dilemma faced by German officers in WWII.

Leroy makes an analogy to "Magnum Force"-style lawlessness, claiming that that's what we'll get if we encourage cops to disobey confiscation orders. But the cops in that film acted on their own in order to violate rights, not to protect them as we would have them do. He also justifies following orders by noting that many police departments are run like unquestioning military organizations. But the way things are is not always the same as the way things should be. We shouldn't even want our soldiers -- whose job is to kill foreign enemies -- to be incapable of standing up to immoral orders, let alone our cops, whose primary duty is to protect our rights here at home! The militarization of the police is a problem that must be reversed, not a solution.

Anyway, what's the big deal about encouraging cops to work around or refuse orders that violate rights? Contrary to Leroy's article, cops have long intentionally left other laws unenforced. Fact is, Cops already engage in what might be called sensible lawlessness every day, all across America. Everyone knows it, and we're probably better off for it. For example, in many areas, you pretty much have to drive 10-15 miles over the speed limit before a cop will give you a ticket. Of course, if a cop wanted to, he could enforce the law as it's written. Instead, many opt for "sensible lawlessness", even though they've effectively been ordered by their superiors, the legislature, to enforce the speed limit. In a way, I applaud these cops.

The thousands of laws routinely ignored by these wantonly lawless law officers include laws against unconventional sex, against trying to make a living in small business without filling out 5,000 different permits & licenses, against spitting on the sidewalk, etc. If every cop actually tried to enforce every law on the books, America would be in a social straight jacket and the economy would grind to a halt. (On the bright side, that might lead to wholesale repealing of tens of thousands of unnecessary, unreasonable, and unconstitutional laws.)

Now, if it's generally seen as a good thing that cops routinely ignore such laws, many of which they have a legal right to enforce, then why should it be seen as such a disaster if we encourage them to ignore clearly unconstitutional gun laws, which they have no legal right to enforce?

Moreover, it has long been my understanding from former military officers that soldiers are only obliged to follow the legitimate orders of their superiors and thus are not obliged to follow unconstitutional orders. Of course, if you refuse such orders there's no guarantee anyone else will agree with you or you won't end up like Michael New. Chances are, you'll be fired or brought up on charges, but you will have done the honorable thing nonetheless.

One kind of lawlessness that does bother me and many other citizens is when certain cops hand out tickets like candy while they themselves keep a clean record, flashing the badge whenever they get pulled over. For example, I know one retired cop whose freeway speeds every weekend averaged 90 mph on the way to his cabin. Guess what? He never got a ticket. Not one. Ever. Cops who flash the badge to get out of tickets, and I'll wager that's most, shouldn't preach to the rest of us about such petty lawlessness as non-reckless speeding, or about such dead serious "lawlessness" as exercising our right to refuse to turn in guns.

Leroy states that "McNamara and HCI recognized the longtime affiliation with law enforcement as the firearms owner's Achilles Heel." This resonates with me, but not for the reason intended. I see the Achilles Heel from a different viewpoint: That the gun rights community has been so eager to please law enforcement that many of our leaders feel compelled to pander to the ill-advised whims of its anti-gun leaders, and groups like the NRA have become special interest lobbies for the expansion of the Police State and the Prison Industrial Complex. Project Exile is an example of the bad ideas this mindset produces.

I'm hardly a cop hater, I'm a life member of LEAA, and I appreciate much of the unpleasant work law enforcement does on our behalf (just as I appreciate the work of firefighters, who apparently have even far more dangerous jobs). But I've said before that the massive, secular move to professional policing was a tragic mistake. If America had never made that move, we'd be far safer than we are today (if you doubt this, read such works as "Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes" by Prof. Roger McGrath). And we wouldn't be worried about gun confiscation; with the relatively few professional police, politicians wouldn't even think about it.

The ever growing standing army of police and prison guards have become part of the select militia problem about which the Founders worried, an economic/political special interest which naturally seeks to grow, and which sees self-defense as economic competition and victimless criminals as resources, warm bodies and slave labor to keep the prison industry expanding & profitable. It's no accident that we have over 2 million people in prison today, and that most are there for things that were legal just 100 years ago or so. It's also no accident that the prison guard union was far and away the largest contributor to California's 3 Strikes law, which NRA helped misrepresent to the gun rights community as applying only to true violent felons when in fact it applies to victimless criminals as well, and so can ultimately be made to apply to decent gun owners.

The system is becoming a self-perpetuating police state and a grave threat to what's left of our liberty. We need to stop hiring professional police, stop building prisons, stop arresting victimless "criminals" (e.g., drug users and gun owners), and at least gradually return to taking responsibility for the defense of our selves and communities. Concealed carry should be an integral part of this move. Cops need not be laid off in such downsizing, which could be handled by attrition. I know it's a pipe dream, at least for now, but we should still try to move in that direction. We neither need, nor should we want, a prison in every town and a policeman on every corner.

Blind obedience to authority undermines the intent of the 2nd Amendment as a check against tyranny. How could we ever resist if everyone follows orders and enforces illegal gun laws, and if all who advocate otherwise are deemed "extremists", by pro-gun cops no less? Surely we're aware that the tyrant will ultimately be giving the orders, are we not? Leroy rightly urges us to get involved and change bad laws if we don't want them enforced. Amen. But if we're bound by authoritarian illogic, then what is our recourse if all our voting (in the face of massive voter fraud), all our letters to anti-gun newspapers (often unprinted), and all our campaigning, all fail and the government comes to take our guns?

I resent "extremist", probably as much as Leroy resents "just following orders". The difference is, "extremist" as used here is subjective, whereas Leroy's article does praise those who just follow orders and excuses those who enforce illegal gun laws. That's basically what the article is all about, so why should anyone be incensed if we don't pretend we don't notice? Why should anyone be able to just follow illegal orders, then expect us to look the other way as if he didn't do it, or expect us to call it by some obsequious euphemism lest we be labeled extremists?

Loyal Americans have a right and a duty to resist registration and confiscation. Had the Jews resisted gun control and armed themselves, many would still be alive and many Nazis would've died instead, and it's critical to note that any such suggestion would've been dismissed as "extremist" in 1920. I applaud those Americans who have the guts to resist, because many of them are going to die, wrongfully, at the hands of the real extremists: those who knuckle under to illegitimate authority and obey oppressive, illegal orders.

None of the patriots I know want to shoot anyone, let alone cops. It's a horrible thing to contemplate. But if it happens, it won't be the fault of citizens. It'll be the fault primarily of legislators who write tyrannical gun control laws, and to a lesser extent the officers who enforce them. These are the supreme lawbreakers, not decent citizens who refuse to turn in guns. The killings and murders at Waco and Ruby Ridge were not the fault of the Weavers or the Davidians. They were purely the fault of Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, their underlings, the judge who rubber stamped the death warrant, and the jackbooted thugs who carried out their orders.

Even if you don't care about the lives of decent, loyal, peace-loving American resistors, if all you worry about is keeping the oppressors from getting shot, then take every opportunity to urge law enforcement officers to honor their oath, to find a way to work around and if necessary disobey any and all orders that violate the 2nd Amendment. If police officers simply obey their Supreme Orders, there will be no violence. If they leave unconstitutional gun laws unenforced, then there will be no violent acts of aggression by criminal cops against decent citizens, and no violent acts of self-defense by decent citizens against criminal cops.

I've long had nothing but the greatest admiration for Leroy Pyle. His willingness to sacrifice for his country and his pathbreaking organizational work with the Paul Revere Network long before almost anyone heard of the web, with the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, and now with the 2nd Amendment Police Department, truly makes him an American hero. But I must respectfully differ on this issue. No one will get hurt if police officers follow their Supreme Orders -- to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Far as I'm concerned, cops who risk their careers to disobey unAmerican orders are also true American heroes. And we should recognize them. I propose that the 2nd Amendment community set up a prestigious award for such cops, to be given at least once a year. Like many good awards, it should come with a healthy amount of money, especially in cases where a cop loses his job or faces expenses as a result of his patriotic "lawlessness".

Three cheers for "lawless" cops!

Russ Howard


Printer Version

The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises, which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States....Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America — Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789.

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