Wednesday, February 19, 2014

American Security Priorities Miss the Mark

What's with this?
The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.
The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
Think about this. As a nation, we want to spend billions to for Homeland Security to catch fugitives. We want a national database of auto license plates.

How about a national database of weapons? We talk about 300 million guns out there, and these guns kill tens of thousands of people a year, some through homicide, some through suicide, and some by accident. But if we tried to build a national database of gun owners, we'd get nowhere.

This is not about safety. We'd have to have four 9/11s or more per year to compete with gun deaths that happen just because. Just because what? Just because freedom?

And, by the way, we don't know that a national database of license plates would catch many fugitive illegal immigrants. Why? Because we have only so many law-enforcement dollars and so many jail cells, that's why. If the DHS thinks it can tell the sheriff departments all over America to start looking for these license plates and those license plates and apprehend the drivers without giving billions for more cops and more jail cells, then it's not thinking this through.

Update. Okay, maybe I didn't think this through. Immigration enforcement is handled now by ICE, which is now part of DHS. Ostensibly, ICE would pursue and detain violators. Still, I don't see how these individuals would be apprehended by ICE using a new database without first being located, arrested, and jailed by local law enforcement, so my original point stands.

I'm not saying that requiring registration, testing, and training of all gun owners would be an easy and cheap enterprise even if it were politically feasible. It would, however, make us tremendously more secure in our day-to-day lives. Tracking and arresting fugitives sounds nice, but it's a preposterous waste of money, just because it sounds like a nice, new crime TV series.

Remember: Guns kill people, license plates don't. And don't start in on "cars kill people." We've made cars a lot safer over the decades. Guns have become more lethal.

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