After Newtown, Beware of Fear-Driven Policymaking

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News

Reflecting on laws enacted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Melissa Harris-Perry writes at the Nation that if we are not careful, we could repeat the same mistakes in responding to recent mass shootings if we allow the government to enact more laws that trample civil liberties.

… While I agree with the need for action, I also urge us to reflect before we act. Remember what we did after 9/11? We let government officials with their own agendas shape our ill-defined enemies into specific targets, some of which had no connection to the attacks. In our terror, far too many surrendered civil liberties by supporting the Patriot Act, ran our national economy aground by cheering the war in Afghanistan, and damaged our status in the world by pushing "pre-emptive" aggression in Iraq. 

If we're not careful, we could end up repeating these mistakes of trauma-laden, terror-driven policy-making.

Yes, we need common-sense gun legislation. No, we do not need a national registry of those with mental illnesses. Privacy and medical confidentiality must be protected, but that is unlikely to happen in an environment where the public becomes convinced there's a strong correlation between mental illness and gun violence, even if that link is tenuous or false. Yes, we need to address the pervasive violence in our communities. No, we do not need to limit or censor rap music, video games or violent films. We can certainly stop supporting violence with our consumer dollars, but the impulse toward censorship tends to have more deleterious effects than positive ones. I'm not suggesting we do nothing. I'm suggesting that we recognize our current state of emotional trauma and act with caution, lest we worsen the very problems we hope to ameliorate …


Read Melissa Harris-Perry's entire piece at the Nation.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff. 

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