“I was trying to protect my sister”, the email read. I received it from Change.org, as part of a mailing list I became a member of while signing petitions like this one which was requesting clemency for Jeff Mizanskey, a man with a lifelong prison sentence due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws regarding his inhalation of illicit plant smoke, or this one, requesting that county dollars go to payment for a $1 million medical bill that their officers made possible by scarring a baby for life with prolonged skin contact to a gas grenade thrown in at a botched no-knock raid. These issues matter to me, and they should matter to anyone and everyone; it could be you, reader, in need of similar help in the future.

Then this email came in. Inside was a heartfelt plea from a man who claims he was only trying to make sure his sister was safe from his sidearm, and might face criminal charges related to a small amount of indiscretion involved with that decision, including a petition asking for help getting him clemency. It read:

“My name is Steffon Josey-Davis. I am a 24-year-old from New Jersey. As an armored car driver, I am legally permitted to own a weapon.  On September 20th, 2013,  I was planning to go to the gun range with a friend, and was in the garage checking my firearm when my 6-year-old sister walked in and surprised me. I have always tried to keep my firearm away from my younger siblings as to not spark their curiosity, so I quickly shoved it into my glove compartment before picking her up and taking her back inside the house. Later that day, having been distracted by a chain of events, I got in my car, with my gun still in my glove compartment.  I was pulled over shortly after for a routine traffic stop. Immediately I realized my mistake; in NJ a loaded weapon must be carried in a locked trunk. I alerted the officers that I had a weapon in the car. They confiscated and told me I would be able to pick it up later that week, and I thought that was the end of it. When I arrived at the police department, I was informed that I had been charged with weapons possession,  a second-degree felony. Instantly my life changed. I was facing a ten year prison sentence for trying to keep a firearm away from a child. I was horrified by the thought of spending ten years in prison, away from my family, my girlfriend and the dreams that I hoped to one day achieve, so on my lawyer’s recommendation I took a plea of one year probation. But I am still a convicted felon. Now I can’t vote, am disqualified from most jobs, and my future has been derailed. I am a law abiding citizen, with hopes of one day becoming a law enforcement officer myself. Yet, because of my felony conviction I may never be able to become the person I had wanted to be. I am asking you, from the bottom of my heart, to please support me and ask Governor Christie to grant me a pardon so that I can continue to follow my dreams.”

Now, normally, this issue would be open-and-shut for me; of course, I’ll sign. If there is no victim, there can be no crime. The man had not harmed anyone, and was, in fact, simply trying to prevent harm by the commission of a completely safe and ethical action. The law shouldn’t exist in the first place! It’s none of their damn business how a man bears arms, and if the constitution means anything, the Bill of Rights should be the only carry permit one needs to display for any reason. The man was clearly doing no harm to anyone, and should therefore be free, not only of legal restriction, but of any restriction on continuing the act in question. Anything else applies a punishment that cannot fit the crime; it’s hard to make it fit if there was no crime to begin with.

So, what gives, you ask? Well, the snag comes with the man’s desired profession. He wants to be a police officer; even after everything he’s been through, and all of the legal chains placed on him, he still wants a job working for the very institution that’s responsible. He even bemoans his loss of that career as a potential line of work, and calls what he did an “honest mistake”, begging for clemency, so that he can lose the criminal record… and begin forcing one on other people for doing the same thing.

“But what if he ignored it when other people had guns in their glove compartment?” Call me cynical, but I doubt that this man’s plea for clemency will extend to a more lenient police response to his potential suspects. Police officers don’t have an obligation to protect or serve, but simply to enforce the law as it is written, and I doubt that someone so eager to be a police officer would even consider risking his career on ethical grounds, and I doubt he even considers this action unethical; if he did, I think he’d ask for clemency after promoting legislative action, and at least attempting to get the law changed. After all, if he was not in the wrong, then how can anyone else be? Don’t we all deserve clemency, so we can be just as responsible as he was, without facing legal action, and a life of added difficulty? What makes him so special?

Further, if this man gets into the police force, he’ll not only have the power (and likelihood) to lock people up, or brutalize them if they try to avoid that, for this, and other victimless crimes, but he will also be able to kill innocent people, and likely get away with it. Why should this man be allowed to walk free, when he plans yet to enter the very profession that would wrongly convict himself and so many others? Why should he not be made a felon, when he plans to make felons of many of his fellow men?

This problem does not end at this point either, as there are some well-known criminals with state authority. Eric Holder, for instance, who helped with an armed trespass protest in the seventies, and a gunrunning scandal more recently, somehow managed to keep and secure a seat as the USDOJ’s 82nd Attorney General, or Dick Cheney, a draft dodger, maintaining for four years a seat as Secretary of Defense, make prime examples of this. So does Barack Obama, who somehow finds it in his conscience to take nearly no action rescheduling marijuana, even though there’s evidence that he smoked and enjoyed it, and that he’s yet another ex-user who walked away undamaged by this “dangerous” substance. The fact that these people get such political power granted them even after a history of carelessness for state decrees implies that, whether I sign this petition or not, this man is unfortunately likely to walk away, and become part of the problem he now faces for many other people. Even if he doesn’t become a policeman, he’ll likely support the officers that do engage in this sort of behavior, and that alone is pretty harmful.

“Okay,” you ask, “well then what if he became an officer, and refused to enforce any and all unethical laws? What if he set a new standard, and changed the system from the inside? Stranger things have been known to happen.” Well then, to that, I would respond: why doesn’t he start his own protection system? Why wouldn’t he want to keep his neighborhood as safe as he would like his sister to be? Why is it that his sister deserves protection from guns, and he deserves societal acceptance, whether or not he chooses to use it, for pointing his gun at someone for doing something similar? Why would he even want to join an organization, knowing his coworkers could, and likely would, destroy someone’s life as easily as his was destroyed, and so much so that they need to beg a governor for mercy, so they can even seek such employment?

These questions leave an obvious answer, at least to me, and I’m willing to accept any sort of criticism in the comments, or in messages to my accounts.

He doesn’t disagree with the law as it is written, or if he does, it isn’t a strong enough disagreement to matter in his weighing potential employers. He wants his sister to be safer than he’d like us to be, and he’d like to have the power to do what he would never ask to be done to him. He wants clemency for himself so he can force others into a position that they would never get clemency for. If Chris Christie gives him clemency, nothing will change, and things will, in fact, get worse, with every other person targeted by such presumptive, invasive, and aggressive laws.

Here’s to my final point. While it may seem hypocritical for a libertarian such as myself to reject helping someone in their struggle for clemency, by helping ask the governor of their state to forego the consequences of sentencing for a victimless offence, when the person in question has not been aggressive enough to warrant it, or anything similar, consider the following. Everyone was once a civilian. Nobody is born as a military serviceperson, or state employee, or police officer. It is usually a good deal of consideration and deliberation away from becoming a person’s line of employment, and it takes a good part of a lifetime to finally get there. If this man has, for years, wanted to become an officer, and what stops him is finally seeing the violence and irrationality inherent in the assumption of that role, and being blocked from that action by the very apparatus that he’s spent awhile wanting to strengthen, then I say so be it. It’s one less cop on the street, and many more like him kept out of prison. My not signing this might help countless potential victims of state violence, so I don’t think I’ll be signing it at all.

What else could a libertarian do?


 

This article was originally published here on the Laissez-Faire Gazette. They’re looking for content creators, so if you’re interested, mail them by clicking here. Tell ’em Jeremiah sent you.