I watched the Bill of Rights dying last week

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted October 4, 1999

One recent morning I watched the Bill of Rights dying. I don't know if anyone else noticed; it's been on its deathbed so long that most folks don't even go visit anymore.

Following a speaking engagement in Marina del Rey the evening before, I found myself approaching the security checkpoint at Terminal 1 of LAX at 6:10 a.m. Sept. 21, preparing to catch the 7:56 to Vegas.

Approaching the baggage X-ray machine, I noted the now-familiar sign listing the facility's international red circle-and-slash prohibitions, warning passengers they'll be jailed if found in possession of a firearm or even a can of pepper spray -- this now thoroughly routine rape of the Second Amendment drawing not a single glance from the customers standing in line for their morning McDonald's coffee, despite the fact it was occurring in their full view.

In fact, after a successful evening selling and signing books, a combination of the absurd local firearms restriction of Los Angeles County and this anti-self-defense policy of the airlines and the FAA had left me wandering the streets of Los Angeles at midnight the night before, searching out an open Burger King, with $500 cash on my person. Had I been beaten and robbed of that sum, do you suppose the airline, or the FAA, or the County of Los Angeles would have made good my loss, since it was their unconstitutional conspiracy that deprived me of my right to safely and legally carry a firearm (or even a can of pepper-spray) for self-defense, as I otherwise would surely have done?

I don't think so.

Past the now-familiar notices of anti-gun tyranny, I pushed my carry-on bag through the X-ray machine, submitting to its scan of my personal effects despite the fact neither the airline nor the airport administration held any warrant to search them, nor even offered me any probable cause.

But was that enough? Not that day. As my bag came down the belt, a tall, sleepy-eyed young man with a shaved head and an ill-fitting blue blazer, standing on the other side of the conveyer belt, asked "Sir, do you mind if I search your bag?"

I replied: "Actually, I do mind. I do not consent to any search of my bag."

The young man acted as though I had not heard his question. "Sir, do you mind if I search your bag?"

"Yes, I do mind. I do not grant my consent for any search of my bag."

"Sir," he repeated, "do you mind if I search your bag?"

I still don't know how long this would have continued. Sensing that it was up to me to jog the needle on this trance-like broken record, I next asked, "Did you see something on the X-ray that looked like a weapon?"

"No sir," he admitted. "It's a random search."

"A random search?"

"A random search."

At this point, a bearded dwarf in a tweed jacket, looking for all the world like former Clinton cabinet secretary Robert Reich, appeared at my left shoulder, coming to the aid of my somnolent oppressor. "He can ask you to search the bag, and if you refuse, he doesn't have to let you continue," said this strange apparition, holding his own two suitcases and a plastic shopping bag.

"How is this any concern of yours?" I asked the dwarf. "Do you work for the airline?"

"No," he smiled proudly, like an enormously self-contented bridge-player laying down the last trump card. "I work for the FAA."

"And you're on duty here?"

"No, I'm not. But I know about this," he smiled even more broadly.

"Then you must know the security directive says they should ask to see our photo ID, but it specifically goes on to say that if we refuse, they can not bar us from boarding" I said quite firmly, drawing the attention of the sleepy-eyed fellow's lady supervisor, who now waddled over to join us. "So I assume it's the same with these 'random bag checks.' That's why they ask for our permission, right? If they don't need our consent, why keep asking for it?"

Astonishingly enough, at this point, the little dwarf's smile collapsed, and he turned and trundled away like a disturbed woodchuck. Given that he presumably took an oath before God to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, which still contains the Bill of Rights, it's unlikely the leering little geek's immortal soul will escape as easily.

Sir," asked the tall young man, clinging to the security of his minimal training, and apparently hoping to break the record set by Paul McCartney, who once managed to find more than a dozen different ways to sing the eight words "Why don't we do it in the road?" in the same recording ... "do you mind if I check your bag?"

"Listen," I said, "I do not grant my consent, and I'm not going to grant my consent. If you believe you don't need my consent, then do what you have to do."

At this point, with his supervisor looking on, the young man went through the motions of unzipping and re-zipping the two small side compartments on my bag, barely glancing at, in turn, a clean pair of white socks and a plastic bottle of Pepto-Bismol. He never undid the straps or unzipped the main body of the bag, at all. "Thank you," he said.

"I'm not going to thank you," I replied, "because we still have a Fourth Amendment in this country, which protects us from warrantless searches. You do know that, right?"

The bald young man looked right through me, focusing on the far wall, his heavy-lidded eyes blinking slowly. His companion, a grossly fat black woman in the ill-fitting rust-red jacket of a "supervisor," who had been puffing up to say something before the FAA troll butted in, looked disgusted but averted her eyes, refusing to meet my gaze.

These are the faces of tyranny, bored and uncaring. When instructed to load us political nonconformists onto cattle cars bound for the internment camps, they will do so in unquestioning, shuffling boredom, eyeing the clock to make sure they don't work a minute into their next scheduled break.

Thus are our precious constitutional rights daily rendered null and void by uncaring stooges, like dying rest-home patients clutching their bedframes in silent agony, writhing their death throes in their own excrement as the bored orderlies play cards in the break room down the hall, the sound turned up on the cheerful idiot morning TV calisthenics show, hoping their shifts will end before someone comes in and orders them to go change the sheets.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His new book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at $21.95 plus $3 shipping through Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las Vegas, Nev. 89127; or at 1-800-244-2224; or via web site http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.

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