Less well known, perhaps, than the Second Amendment are the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, efforts by the founders to chain down the national government “from mischief.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to need a refresher course in them, to wit:
The Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”; and
The Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
What Sessions appears to have forgotten is that law enforcement is to be left largely up to the states, closer to the people themselves, and thus easier to control. Communists, on the other hand, have been pointed in their attacks on local law enforcement, which keeps getting in the way of installing a national police force.
Speaking in Richmond, Virginia last week, Sessions addressed a gathering of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and expressed his concerns about the rising rate of violent crime in the US over the past two years. He doesn’t think it’s an anomaly:
The number of violent crimes in the first half of last year was more than 5 percent higher than the same period in 2015. The number of murders was also up 5 percent, and aggravated assaults rose as well.
Since 2014, the murder rate has gone up in 27 of our country’s 36 largest cities.
Sessions thinks he’s found the solution: Project Exile: “We need to enforce our gun laws; we will put bad people behind bars” adding that Project Exile is “a very discreet, effective policy” and that he will “promote it nationwide.”
Project Exile began in Richmond in 1997 following a breath-taking rise in the murder rate that year and the year before. In 1996, there were 112 murders, which put Richmond in the top five cities in the country for its murder rate per thousand of population. The next year the number jumped up to 140.
The guiding principle was to remove from the streets those who were most likely to commit gun violence: those possessing both a firearm and a criminal record. This included convicted felons caught with a gun as well as those who committed crimes using a gun. The idea behind it was that an individual caught would be tried in federal court rather than state or local court, as the federal penalties were much tougher: five years in jail minimum with no allowance for bail or early parole. Further, upon conviction the individual was moved to a federal prison to serve his sentence, often many miles away from Richmond, hence the name “Exile.”
In a rare confluence of agreement, both the NRA and the Brady Campaign supported the project, seeing it as a way, on paper at least, to reduce violent crime that appeared to be spiraling out of control. The fact that it would require that officials of the federal government, namely the DOJ and its enforcement arm the BATFE, to “coordinate” with local law enforcement didn’t bother either the Brady bunch or the NRA. Said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s Executive Vice President: “By prosecuting [criminals violating gun laws, it] prevent[s] the drug dealer, the gang member, and the felon from committing the next crime … leave the good people alone and lock up the bad people and dramatically cut crime.”
Initially Project Exile looked like it might work. In 1998, the first full year after its implementation in Richmond, murders dropped from 140 (1997) to 94. By 2001 murders had dropped to 69, an astonishing reduction of 50 percent.
But then something happened over which analysts and statisticians have puzzled ever since: in 2002 murders jumped to 83; in 2003 they clocked in at 94; the next year the rate was 95, followed by a jump in 2005 to 132. In 2006, the city backed away from the project, with the murder rate dropping inexplicably to 56 in 2007. Critics of the project said Project Exile was too harsh, that it was egregiously incarcerating individuals caught doing minor crimes, and that it removed local accountability.
It was also blatantly unconstitutional, as Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Aaron Zelman, then head of Jews For the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), noted by signing the “Project Exile Condemnation Petition.” The petition was clear:
The signers of this statement support any reasonable law-enforcement program that removes violent repeat-offender felons from our cities and neighborhoods, but only if the law utilized to convict and to punish such felons are constitutional.
We condemn any program that involves enforcing unconstitutional “laws,” even if such “laws” are enforced only against violent criminals. Unconstitutional “laws” are illegal, harmful to public safety, tyrannical, and are inevitably enforced against ordinary, non-criminal citizens….
Most – if not all – of these laws are unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment.
They also violated the Ninth and Tenth Amendments as well, and threatened the sacrosanct chasm put in place by the founders between federal enforcement and state and local enforcement. Project Exile required “cooperation” and “coordination” between these entities in order to determine just where a criminal might best be tried to maximize his sentence, thus “sending a message” to others running the same risk by carrying a firearm following a felonious conviction, or thinking of committing a crime with a firearm.
That’s why Sessions needs a lesson on the real reason behind the Bill of Rights, and why it had to be added to the Constitution in order for that precious document to be ratified by the states. The ends rarely if ever justify the means.
Oathkeepers.org: Sessions Embracing ‘Project Exile’ a Result of Exclusive NRA Influence with Trump on Guns
Background on Project Exile
The Wall Street Journal: Going After Crimes -- and Guns
The petition: We Condemn "Project Exile"
Newsy.com: Project Exile: What To Know About Jeff Sessions' Plan To Reduce Crime
BusinessInsider.com: Jeff Sessions was just confirmed as US Attorney General — here's why liberals are freaking out
FiveThirtyEight.com: In The Shadow Of Exile
Richmond.com: Regional killings soar past 100, reach highest level in decade