Seeking for Righteousness

The Personal Blog of Kaimi Wenger

Is “gun profiling” different than racial profiling?

A comment from a reader wonders if the recent case where police searched a car based on an NRA bumper sticker raises the same profiling problems as racial profiling, which was discussed a few days ago here.

I don’t think that “gun profiling” (for lack of a better term) raises all of the same issues as racial profiling. The reason would be that gun owners have not as a group been subjected to the same kinds of longstanding abuses by government as racial minorities, the very abuses which, in my mind, make racial profiling particularly suspect.

If gun owners were enslaved for a century, then subject to Jim Crow, lynching, and other abuses of the legal system for a century, and then the police wanted to innocently stop cars with NRA stickers, I would be suspicious. But that hasn’t been the case (and for many gun owners, one reason to own guns is precisely to keep the government from such acts).

That is not to say that “bumper sticker profiling” doesn’t raise a host of other issues. There are search-and-seizure issues, potential first-amendment issues, and (at least insofar as guns are concerned) potential second amendment issues. But the problems are not the same as those raised by racial profiling.

Categorization by race, gender, national origin, or other immutable characteristic is fundamentally different than categorization according to chosen decisions. We may wish to restrict certain chosen decisions (though the decisions restricted should be subject to other constitutional limitations). Meanwhile, a restriction or categorization based on an immutable characteristic should be used only where absolutely necessary. And, I have suggested below, in the case of race, where the state has been an active participant in creating race-based harm, profiling is almost certainly unacceptable.

October 23, 2002 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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