One of the most significant arguments contained in Supreme Court’s recent decisions on campaign finance is the narrow definition of corruption. Chief Justice John Roberts writes that the Court can only concern itself with “quid pro quo” corruption. While he doesn’t define exactly what it is, he makes clear that their definition doesn’t include buying influence, access or ingratiation, and doesn’t consider the possibility of any privileged treatment or “return on investment” as a result. Last week’s cartoon was also on the recent Supreme Court decision.
Radley Balko, the author of “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” posted my cartoon the evolution of police at the Washington Post, which I was very excited about.
Over the past three decades, local police forces have seen a tremendous influx of military weaponry and technology. Investigative reporter Radley Balko writes that starting in 1997, the “1033 Program” has allowed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military-grade weaponry to be transferred to local civic police stations. This inventory includes tanks, grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine guns that are largely impractical for police work. The tactics have also become militarized. Criminologist Peter Kraska estimates that annual deployments of SWAT and paramilitary police have surged from 3,000 in 1980 to around 45,000 in present times. This increase appears to be a result of mission creep — while originally conceived to be used in the most extreme scenarios such as hostage situations and bank robberies, Kraska points out that the majority of SWAT raids are now centered on drug-related crimes, with authorities often breaking down doors during pre-dawn hours to serve warrants. While these forces have an important role in dealing with the most volatile situations, the huge surge in the use of SWAT teams and military-grade weapons for regular police work should raise concerns about the impact of militarization on the relationship between law enforcement and civilians.
The National Rifle Association’s opposition to the regulation of firearms isn’t only guided by the staunch position to protect the “constitutional rights” of gun owners. The NRA has received tens of millions of dollars from the firearms industry since 2005, which it in turn has used to lobby against even the most common-sense gun laws. GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support criminal background checks to qualify for purchasing a gun, yet the NRA continues to lobby against mandatory federal background checks, suggesting it has more than just its constituents’ interests in mind. The NRA has also been using campaign donations and lobbying to promote state legislation, such as Florida’s 2005 “shoot first” Stand Your Ground Law, which has now been adopted by half of the country. All of this contributes to a legal environment where both ownership and the size of the firearms economy are as widespread and large-scale as possible, and the ability to use deadly force is given to any citizen who purchases a gun.