One Simple Question

Nebraska State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, speaking about people who carry guns into the Legislature, said this:

“As much as the Second Amendment is a right, so is the right to live a free and fearless life.”

No matter where you stand on the gun issue, she is right about “the right to live a free and fearless life.”

We have one simple question for the senator and her colleagues in Nebraska, in Michigan and across the nation:

Why are you so willing to deprive registered people of their right to a “free and fearless life”?

Oh, the lazy and uninformed response is, “Well, you committed a sex offense.” The fact of a sex offense has been used for years as a pretext to deny one group of people rights that are clearly recognized for the rest of the population. But all of the pretexts are based on lies: Sex offenders do not as a rule commit new sex offenses. The reoffense rate in Nebraska is less than 1 percent, and similarly low numbers hold true across the nation.

Yes, we committed offenses. And all of us paid the price. Most of us have fulfilled each and every one of the terms of our sentences. For drunken drivers, violent abusive spouses, armed robbers, thieves, embezzlers — for everybody else who committed an offense, it is over when the offender has completed his or her sentence.

But not for sex offenders, who are vastly less dangerous than other offenders (and less dangerous, one might argue, than someone who totes a gun into the State Capitol).

The State of Nebraska decided in 2009 to add life sentences on the hate-mongering public-shaming sex-offender website (without due process). In many cases, people who were assessed at low risk after their cases were adjudicated and were to be on the registry for 10 years (with no public-shaming website presence) suddenly found themselves on the public-shaming website for life. This despite the fact that such a sentence was not part of their original sentencing order and there was no due judicial process involved in extending their punishment.

Don’t even try to argue that the hate-mongering public-shaming website is not punishment. The State of Nebraska, by listing people on the website, exposes them and their families to hatred, violence and vigilante actions. People listed on the site cannot find housing, cannot find jobs and their families are destroyed. The registry and public website are very much punishment. Courts across the nation have recognized this, notably in the recent Michigan decision.

Life on the registry is not free: There are innumerable living, travel, working and other restrictions that do not contribute at all to public safety.

Life on the registry is not fearless: Nebraskans Unafraid has reports of people on the registry who are stalked and harassed by neighbors and strangers alike; people on the registry are targeted by scammers; people on the registry are subject to unconstitutional home-invasive visits from law enforcement (which are for the sole purpose of capturing grant money, not public safety). The children of registered people are bullied at school. This list could go on.

Because we cannot trust politicians to recognize that we have as much right as they do to live “a free and fearless life,” we will use the courts if we must. That is what happened in Michigan.

Just know this: We will never stop. We will never, ever quietly submit to this systematic effort to punish and endlessly re-punish us and our families. We will use every legal means at our disposal to resist this injustice. That is because Sen. Cavanaugh is correct, everyone — EVERYONE — has a right to live a free and fearless life.

Photo credit: Petri Damstén on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Published by nufearless

Nebraskans Unafraid is committed to making our communities safer by ensuring that lawmakers and policymakers do not support laws that cause homelessness, joblessness and damage to families.

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