Rob McKenna's Anti-Gang Bill Would Make People Criminals Before They Commit Crimes

Rob McKenna's recently proposed anti-gang bill, HB 1126, has an interesting provision relating to what to do with people who are in a street gang, but may have not committed any crimes yet. Effectively, it would make simply being part of a street gang a crime, and give law enforcement the power to obtain protection orders that would let them stop suspected gang members from talking with each other, possessing alcohol, or even wearing certain clothing.

According to the bill, any suspected gang member against whom law enforcement could obtain a protection order could be arrested if they:

1. Associate or communicate directly or indirectly with any other person found by the court to be a criminal street gang associate or member.

2. Engage in any intimidation of any person.

3. Possess firearms, imitation firearms, or dangerous weapons.

4. Trespass.

5. Engage in gang-related graffiti or possess graffiti tools.

6. Forcibly recruit any person into the criminal street gang or any criminal street gang associate or member from leaving the prevent criminal street gang.

7. Violate any law.

8. Violate any curfew set by the court.

9. Go on the grounds of any named public and private schools, not including home-based instruction, as defined in RCW 28A.225.010.

10. Go to any other designated locations.

11. Directly or indirectly contact minors going to and from schools.

12. Wear gang clothing in public.

13. Directly or indirectly contact specified individuals such as persons on probation or parole.

14. Possess or consume drugs or alcohol.

Several of the activities on the list, like trespassing and intimidation, are already covered under other criminal codes.

Plus, barring people from speaking to certain other people and from wearing certain clothes appears to be a slam-dunk violation of the First Amendment and could be easily challenged in court.

Banning the other activities sounds good on paper, but with prosecutors having to prove only that a person is involved with a gang and not that they've done anything wrong besides that, good kids in bad neighborhoods, ex-gang members, and relatives of members may soon find themselves classified as gangsters.

And that's on top of the inevitable racial profiling that the bill would promote.

As the AP reported Wednesday, a hearing yesterday of the House Public Safety Committee turned emotional when both supporters and opponents of the bill spoke about its repercussions.

PubliCola also writes about a tattoo-covered ex-gang member named Alex Sanchez, who talked about how the bill would only entrench gang members further into thug life:

"You should pass a bill that will help us, not push us deeper in," Sanchez told the committee..."

Obviously, McKenna has every reason to try and fatten up his base with some meaty anti-gang legislation before his inevitable run for governor. But there was a time when folks on the right also cared a lot about the First Amendment and due process, so while the social-justice fighters gear up over the bill, our future Republican nominee may find that he's bitten off more constitution than he can chew.

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