Dave Wellenbrock wasn’t representing the American Civil Liberties Union when he spoke at the meeting of the Manteca TEA Party Patriots Thursday night.
That’s primarily because the ACLU doesn’t send representatives to public meetings to advocate on their behalf. But Wellenbrock – a former chief deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County that now runs a private practice – has long been a supporter of the organization and serves as a director for the local San Joaquin County chapter.
So when he was asked for his take on a variety of civil and personal liberty issues, his position different somewhat from what somebody would expect to find a TEA Party meeting – even though the ACLU and the conservative organization tend to align when it comes to the rights of the individual over the rights of the state.
Speaking solely for himself – the panel that supposed to be there fell apart – Wellenbrock outlined how various facets of the constitution need to be taken into the proper context. He noted that it’s more often than not social policy that’s added after the fact that shapes the laws that most people recognize today.
“It’s an intellectually sophisticated document, and you really have to understand what they were thinking when they put it together,” he said. “There’s a difference between social policy and constitutional issues.”
And he didn’t stray from some of the more controversial issues that are making the rounds in American society today.
For starters, Wellenbrock – clutching a copy of the constitution in his hand – outlined how the document itself didn’t say anything about guaranteeing individuals the right to own a gun for personal protection, but that cases that have come before the courts in the last decade have established that as a standard.
As an example of social policy, Wellenbrock wondered whether it was just for somebody who had been convicted of a felony and had served their time – and gotten off of probation – to not be able to own a firearm after paying their debt to society. Nothing, he said, excludes them in the constitution, but a federal mandate makes it a crime.
He also railed against the NSA spying program – which he said clearly violated the Fourth Amendment as an attempt to get a “general” warrant for the public at large – and the concept of cameras strategically placed throughout communities in the name of safety and security.
But at the end of the day, he said, things still aren’t as bad as they once were.
“There always seems to be this idea that ‘The sky is falling’ but in reality we’ve had much worse times in this country,” he said. “I’d much rather live now than in 1858 knowing what was coming around the corner.”