ANDREW MAHON: Dexter Taylor's trial shows that rights are vanishing at the courthouse door

On the 16th of April, Dexter Taylor was convicted by a New York court on multiple counts of “felony weapons possession”, relating to the construction of so-called "Ghost Guns." His sentencing is May 13th and he faces up to 18 years in prison. 

A software developer by profession, Dexter likes building things, including computer programs, recording studios, furniture, and firearms. His crime is being an amateur gunsmith, who legally bought parts online and assembled rifles and pistols in his home. By his  href="" target="_blank">own admission, he’s a nerd who thinks firearms are cool; he gave all his rifles names. He was a member in good standing of his local gun club, which required him to pass a criminal background check. A 53-year-old father and neighbor, with no history of violence, Dexter is currently on Rikers Island, facing years in prison as his legal team attempts to appeal this decision to the federal level.

Meanwhile, violent criminals who actually harm innocent people are routinely given lenient sentences. Those of us who value individual human beings as persons with inherent dignity, made in God’s image, have a hard time understanding this disparity. We know it’s politically motivated. But surely, we think, every decent person can see the injustice here.

Unfortunately, a large part of society views human beings differently. They see them as representatives of groups involved in a system shaped and governed by power dynamics. On this view, every bad thing that happens is a consequence of the oppression of one group over another, ultimately of the entire system that has oppression built into it. To them, society is a zero-sum game, where the success of one person, enabled by his membership in a privileged group, is always at the expense of another person, hindered by his membership in an oppressed group.

The thug who shoots innocent people with an illegal gun is primarily a victim of the system that oppresses him. More to the point, he’s merely an instance of the broader collective victimhood. He’s from a poor black neighborhood, or he’s an illegal immigrant from a poverty-stricken country, and he only commits acts of violence because he has no choice. If society were restructured to elevate his victim group, he’d probably be an academic, a doctor, or a business executive. In other words, it’s not his fault that he shoots people; it’s the system’s fault. The imperative must be to change the system.

Dexter Taylor, on the other hand, is reinforcing the system by attempting to exercise his Second Amendment rights. Although a black man himself, and therefore eligible to be an instance of that victim group, he is a scandal to the ideology by not acting his part. Instead he’s behaving as if the system founded upon the US Constitution is a positive thing by which he can benefit as an individual, whatever the color of his skin. This cannot be allowed, if one embraces the oppressor-victim paradigm. He must be crushed ruthlessly.

To rebalance the inequitable system of oppression, the state must be all-powerful, the individual powerless and dependent. Legally to bear arms is out of the question. On the other hand, illegal gun ownership and the resulting crime is proof of an inequitable system that must be remedied—with, among other measures, gun restrictions on upstanding citizens like Dexter. Real criminals can be treated leniently, while the system is rebalanced.

Underpinning all this is the erroneous and dangerous belief that criminals are not bad, but just oppressed. All crime is sickness. Criminals must be healed, and not punished. The only bad people are those, like Dexter, who disagree with this ambitious enterprise. They are an impediment to the utopia which will emerge once the system is rebalanced, the state all-powerful, and the individual nothing but a particle and pawn of the state.

The laws Dexter has been convicted of breaking are unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge at the federal level. But it will take years to get to the federal level, with no guarantee that his case will be heard. He couldn’t even introduce the argument of constitutionality in his trial. "Do not bring the Second Amendment into this courtroom,” the judge said. “It doesn’t exist here." The fact that any judge can say a constitutionally guaranteed right can vanish at the courthouse door should terrify everyone. But judging by what is happening to Dexter Taylor -- and what may happen to other Americans who fall afoul of the regime -- it appears that idea may be accurate. If so, the American system may be more of a ghost than even the ghost guns Dexter faces trial for creating.

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