- Published: 15 February 2012
Canton City Council this week allocated $20,000 to a gun bounty program. This isn't a gun buy-back, the silly security-theater tactic local politicians often use to show they're "doing something" about crime. Canton's gun bounty plan descends to a new abyss of asininity: Most of the $20,000 will be paid as $100 rewards to anonymous informants whose tips enable police to confiscate illegally carried guns.
Every glimpse of a gun in Canton now could be worth $100. If an ambitious Canton resident happens to get a peek at your lawfully carried pistol, they'll have a $100 incentive to hit 9-1-1. And many will.
Every law-abiding, concealed-carry licensee in Canton will be the target of a city-financed snitch campaign. Every time a licensee's gun is accidentally exposed—a routine occurrence, particularly with lighter clothing in warm weather—an innocent citizen may face an interrogation by Canton Police. Remember: An Ohio concealed-carry licensee is under no obligation to ensure that their firearm remains perfectly concealed. Indeed, it's legal to carry entirely in the open!
In light of the Canton Police Department's epic debacle involving patrolman Dan Harless—the cop who threatened to execute an innocent concealed-carry licensee in one of the worst cases of police abuse in recent U.S. history—you'd think the city would have developed some respect for the state's 8-year-old concealed-handgun licensing program. But Canton's "gun bounty" initiative proves just the opposite. The city has painted a very real target on the back of every law-abiding citizen with a concealed-carry license.
Moreover, you don't have to be a Constitutional scholar to spot the gun bounty's violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Let's simply replace the word "gun" with "prescription drug." If possessed illegally, both carry felony charges, and both are deadly in the wrong hands (although deaths from prescription drugs far outnumber deaths from firearms). Now suppose that, in an effort to curtail the unlawful possession of prescription drugs, the City of Canton placed a cash bounty on sightings of people with more than three containers of medication in their purses or briefcases. Hundreds of decent, innocent people would be detained and harassed, and the city ultimately would be liable for an egregious violation of its citizens' Fourth Amendment rights and other civil rights. In such a scenario, it also might be possible for city officials to face criminal prosecution and serve prison time.
Canton's "gun bounty" program is a breathtakingly stupid idea that's ripe for the worst type of abuse. Canton City Council has ventured onto exceedingly thin ice. We hope they hear the cracks forming before they feel the icy water.
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Philip Mulivor is a coordinator for Ohioans for Concealed Carry and author of Proclaiming Liberty: What Patriots and Heroes Really Said about the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.