Townhall by Bob Barr
It did not take the gun control crowd long to find ways to piggy-back onto the COVID-19 pandemic scare and press their extremist agenda. A recently-published article by a college professor, suggesting that COVID-19 contact tracing should be studied seriously as a solution to the problem of gun violence in America, reveals the partisan political agenda underlying much of the ongoing debate about the pandemic.
To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious health issue. Addressing it requires that government agencies cooperate, act transparently, and focus their efforts on health and medical measures that actually are relevant to the problems presented by the virus. Key to the eventual success of efforts to rein in the pandemic, however, is one additional ingredient very often lacking in measures suggested or mandated by appointed and elected officials: consistency.
Whipsawing citizens by alternatively telling them medical masks are not really helpful, and then mandating them, hardly helped to develop the credibility needed to ensure public compliance with meaningful measures to slow the spread of the virus. This gulf was widened further when police began to ticket individuals for not wearing masks while engaged in isolated activities, such as sunning on an empty beach or jogging along an otherwise deserted trail.
Shuttering churches but not Black Lives Matter gatherings further illustrated the hypocrisy underlying actions by state and municipal authorities.
Any lingering doubt of the hypocrisy or subjectivity underlying many of these government edicts should have been dispelled with pictures of government officials grandstanding for the media, shoulder-to-shoulder with protestors, during the recent spate of riots engulfing many major metropolitan areas.
In the midst of all this, COVID contact tracing, using the power of ubiquitous “smart” phones to map patterns of contacts by individuals known to have or suspected of having contracted the virus, surfaced as a way to slow the spread of the virus.
The glaringly-obvious privacy problems inherent in contact tracing have to some extent tempered the rush to implement such programs (or perhaps simply caused officials to do so less publicly). Its emergence as a means of more broadly controlling people, however, has been seized by Nanny State advocates as a way to pursue government control of non-medical issues including, of course, gun control.
A recently-published article by Northwestern University sociology professor Andrew Papachristos is illustrative of this movement to employ invasive contact tracing to address other problems, such as gun violence. In this particular proposal, however, there is no substance whatsoever. Not once does the professor actually say how contact tracing data would solve gun violence, only that “research” of it – as some deus ex machina device – would magically solve the problem.
That nonsense, such as the kind promoted by Papachristos, would be taken seriously even to the extent of publication demonstrates the degree to which the Left will seize on virtually any occurrence, whether a viral pandemic, a police shooting, and especially the never-ending crusade to undermine the Second Amendment, as a vehicle with which to further their political agenda.
At its core, this proposal is a call for the comprehensive tracking and databasing of citizens’ daily lives. Once databased, the information can be easily extracted, then analyzed and finally (and easily) manipulated to identify and ultimately quash behavior deemed socially unacceptable, all under the guise of white knights protecting the public health.
Even if contact tracing could conceivably be managed by private third parties and completely anonymized (such as through encrypted cell phone technology), the mere existence of the data inevitably would prove too tempting for the government not to find some way to justify obtaining it for other uses — in the “public interest,” of course.
Government repeatedly has shown itself untrustworthy to maintain or have access to databases, such as those now being proposed for COVID-19 contact tracing. That door must remain closed, notwithstanding a call by a sociology professor to open it for gun control purposes.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7 District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.