Pubdate: Thu, 01 Apr 2004
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2004 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Howard Troxler


There's a bill in the Legislature that would make it illegal for anybody, 
even police, to keep track of which citizens owned guns in Florida.

Here's the argument in favor of the bill. This is a free country. Owning a 
gun is a guaranteed right. It's none of the government's business if a 
law-abiding citizen owns a gun.

"Hitler, Stalin and Castro used lists, too, and it was lawful under their 
laws," argued state Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral. "The tyranny of 
government must be stopped."

Hitler, Stalin and Castro!

Who could be in favor of those guys? The tyranny of government must be 
stopped. So versions of House Bill 155 have zipped through the House and 

And yet, at exactly the same time . . .

There's also a bill in the Legislature that would let the state keep a 
computer file on you, if you're taking certain prescription drugs. Not just 
"bad" people. You.

When you went down to the Eckerd's or Walgreens to fill your prescription, 
that would go right into Uncle Jeb's big computer, so he could keep tabs on 
what you're taking.

I'm sure that the government and our politicians would never abuse that 
kind of information.

The justification for this bill (House Bill 397) is the War on Drugs, see.

If everybody's prescription drugs are in the state's computer, then it 
makes it easier for the state to catch patients who are "doctor shoppers" 
and to figure out which doctors are abusing their license. This is supposed 
to "maximize investigators' effectiveness." This bill, too, along with a 
Senate version (Senate Bill 580) have passed early committee tests. After 
all, who can be opposed to the War on Drugs?

By now, unless you are a member of the Florida Legislature, you can guess 
my all-too-obvious point.

The very arguments in favor of the first bill, protecting the privacy of 
law-abiding gun owners, are the arguments against the second bill, which 
invades the privacy of law-abiding medical patients.

If it's none of the state's business whether I own a gun, it most certainly 
is none of the state's business what I am buying down at Eckerd's.

I don't care in the slightest if keeping a file on me "maximizes 
investigators' effectiveness." It is none of the government's business. Let 
them go use some shoe leather. It is not the job of the citizens to give up 
their rights to make life easier for the government. And you know what? 
That's exactly how the gun-bill folks feel. Allow me to quote from the 
language of the gun bill:

"A list, record or registry of legally owned firearms or law-abiding 
firearm owners is not a law enforcement tool and can become an instrument 
for profiling, harassing or abusing law-abiding citizens . . .

"A list, record or registry of legally owned firearms or law-abiding 
firearm owners is not a tool for fighting terrorism, but rather is an 
instrument that can be used as a means to profile innocent citizens and to 
harass and abuse American citizens . . ."

Go back and read those sentences again, replacing "firearm" with 
"prescription drugs."

On the other hand, if you swallow the "convenience" argument for letting 
the state keep track of prescriptions, then you also have to accept that 
exact same argument for guns - even more so, because crime involving gun 
misuse is a much bigger problem than prescription fraud.

There is absolutely no question that a computer record of every single gun 
in our society would "maximize" the "effectiveness" of police.

Maybe you are trying to wriggle off the hook by thinking to yourself, gun 
ownership is a hallowed right in the Constitution, whereas there is no 
"right" to prescription drugs. Yet there is an ironclad right to privacy in 
the Florida Constitution, and the mere convenience of the government is not 
enough reason to overpower that right.

Forget the claim of the Republican Party to be "conservative." Just like 
Democrats, Republicans seek to use the power of government to ram their 
agenda down the throats of the citizens. A true conservative should love 
the first of these bills and hate the second.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart